The University of Wisconsin volleyball team (27–7, 18-2 Big Ten) fell to the Stanford Cardinal (30–4, 18-2 Pac-12) in the NCAA National Championship Game in Pittsburgh Saturday night.
The Badgers started off ice cold in the first set, falling behind 10–4 and digging themselves into a hole they would be unable to get themselves out of. The Badgers were marred by mistakes throughout the first set, ranging from service errors to attack errors en route to a 25–16 set loss.
The second set was much of the same for Wisconsin, as they fell behind quickly and couldn’t get back into it despite a late rally after falling behind 20–11. The Badgers would end up losing the second set 25–17, facing elimination with just one more set loss.
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The Badgers finally found some rhythm in the third set, pulling out to a 4–3 run for their first lead of the match. After several back-and-forth rallies, the Cardinal led 14–11 and looked poised to reclaim their national title. But the Badgers found renewed life, going on a 5–1 run to take a 16–15 lead, forcing a Stanford timeout.
Tied up at 19–19, Stanford went on a run to put things away, winning 25–20 and capturing their third national title in just four years.
The Badgers — who have now lost in all three of their national title game appearances — looked worn down from start to finish and were clearly outmatched by the Pac-12 powerhouse. In a season that saw Wisconsin start 4–4 before rattling off a 23–3 record to close the season, the outcome comes as a disappointment to players and fans alike.
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In a matchup of two top-five players between Kathryn Plummer of Stanford and Dana Rettke of Wisconsin, Plummer clearly got the best of Rettke. Plummer finished with a .459 hitting percentage, totaling 22 kills. Rettke finished with just seven kills, tallying a measly .158 hitting percentage.
As a team, Stanford got the best of the Badgers, finishing with a .358 hitting percentage compared to Wisconsin’s .152 hitting percentage. The Cardinal outplayed Wisconsin in nearly every other statistical category as well, including blocks and digs.
While the result is clearly a disappointment, the Badgers will still have a solid core for the 2020 season. Led by Dana Rettke, who will be a senior seeking her fourth consecutive first-team All-America selection, the Badgers will likely be favorites to repeat as Big Ten Champions.