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Wisconsin volleyball: Badgers lose national title match to Stanford

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The Badgers had a wonderful run to the finals but ran out of gas and were swept by the Cardinal.

2019 NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship Photo by Jamie Schwaberow/NCAA Photos via Getty Images

The run ended. Not how any of us wanted it to end, but it’s over now. The Wisconsin Badgers were swept by the Stanford Cardinal in the NCAA Championship match, 25-16, 25-17, 25-20 on Saturday evening in Pittsburgh. It was the Cardinal’s third national title in four seasons.

We know turn to Rock’s live blog notes, which have been lightly edited, to see how the match went:

Wisconsin made the first early mistake, as an overpass on a Cardinal serve led to an easy kill, getting them to an early 3-1 lead. Stanford pushed that lead on aggressive serving and some Grace Loberg errors. Wisconsin challenges Stanford’s ninth point, and takes a real timeout at 10-4. It turns into a bit of momentum, as the Cardinal commit their first attack error and service error in short order.

Wisconsin can’t capitalize though, as Stanford continues to build a lead to 16-11. The Badgers can’t get any momentum going, and they take their second timeout of the set at 19-13 Stanford. It doesn’t work and Stanford goes up 23-14. Two Rettke and Duello kills follow to build a touch of momentum, but it goes the way of the eight-time champs, 25-15.

Just label the first set ‘How To Play Perfect In Transition’ and sell it for $40 to coaches.

Kathryn Plummer may be retroactively awarded the Player of the Year the way she’s killing it tonight. She gets four of the first six points herself in the second set. At 9-3 Cardinal, Wisconsin takes a timeout – for once, the break works as the Badgers look composed for the first time. Danielle Hart gets a pair of kills, but Stanford gets the next two to regain a six point lead.

That juice goes away, as a three-point run gives Stanford a 16-9 lead and timeout Wisconsin (again) as the Badgers try to come up with some way to get through this stellar Stanford defense.

It takes a while, but a Sydney Hilley ace, followed by the first Badgers block (at 20-14!) and a Plummer error leads to the first Stanford timeout of the match. It comes after the first four point run for the Badgers. Heck, that was the first three point run for Wisconsin – it’s that kind of night so far. Stanford limits Wisconsin to two serves for the rest of the set and seals it at 25-17.

Wisconsin gets the first two ties, since 1-1 in the first, at 2-2 and 3-3. AND THEN IZZY ASHBURN ACE FOR A LEAD AT 4-3! It’s short lived as two errors put Stanford back up. It’s a heck of a seesaw now as Wisconsin finds a bit of life after shuffling the lineup. Wisconsin gets to an 8-6 lead on a Stanford attack error, but Dana Rettke serves out of bounds to start a Stanford run to take the lead back.

After five straight, Wisconsin takes time. They get the score back to a 12-11 deficit, but Stanford counters with the next two points quickly. Service errors have really muted anything going Wisconsin’s way, but that’s been their strategy all season – serve difficult. It’s their best chance, and for once it works, as Plummer attacks out of bounds on a bad set and the Badger block comes alive to make it 16-15.

Stanford takes their own timeout to see Clark serve it into the net. It was back and forth until Stanford breaks the 19-all score with two straight points. Wisconsin takes a timeout with the game on the line, but to no avail. Even the slightest hope at a Plummer mistake is overturned after a lengthy review. 25-20 Stanford.

Cardinal are the 2019 champions.

In the end, Wisconsin’s offense couldn’t get anything going, while Stanford could just toss it up in Kathryn Plummer’s general vicinity and get the point. She finished with 22 kills, one less than Haggerty, Danielle Hart, and Rettke put together.

It was rough watching Wisconsin be reminded just why that core of Stanford seniors had already won two titles over and over again, but you hope that with the Badgers returning they’ll use whatever they learned to have a different outcome in Omaha next year.

That ends Rock’s notes and now here are some depressing stats.

Two time defending national player of the year and current Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four Plummer was dominant for Stanford hitting .459 (22-5-37) on the match and snuffing out any potential rally that the Badgers tried to start. Morgan Hentz was all over the court digging the ball 17 times and keeping balls alive when nobody else could. Jenna Gray had a match-high 39 assists. Madeleine Gates set a record for hitting efficiency in an NCAA Tournament.

The Cardinal were a juggernaut.

Haggerty, who had an amazing tournament, led the way for the Badgers attack with a 10-2-26 (.308) line. Sydney Hilley had 25 assists and 11 digs while Tiffany Clark added 10 digs of her own.

At least, as if things could get any worse, the announcers on a national broadcast didn’t call Wisconsin the “Gophers” right? Hooooo boy that would be might embarrassing for everyone.

...my God. What an awful night.