The undefeated Wisconsin Badgers (16-0 overall) volleyball team is back in the Final Four for the second straight season. Awaiting them is one of volleyball perennial powers, the fourth-seeded Texas Longhorns (26-1 overall). This feels like it’s going to be another barn burner, just like UW’s Elite 8 five-set thriller against Florida.
This match will have all sorts of star power as UT’s five All-America performers join Wisconsin’s six on the same court. The Longhorns also boast the Big 12 Player of the Year and Setter of the Year and, as long as they aren’t playing freaking Rice, have looked pretty close to unbeatable this season.
Before the match against Florida on Monday, the Badgers hadn’t been particularly “battle tested” so far this year but senior OH Molly Haggerty said the team was still prepared. “We might’ve not this season faced a team that took us to five (sets) but everyday in practice we put ourselves in those situations. Being in that fifth set kind of felt like home and we were well prepared for that moment.”
Matched up evenly on paper, although Texas has a slight advantage in a number of offensive statistical categories and Wisconsin has a slight advantage in a couple of defensive statistical categories, this showdown seems destined to go five sets and, quite frankly, would be a worthy national title match as well.
How to watch/listen
TV: ESPN, (around) 8:30 p.m. CT; Paul Sunderland, Salima Rockwell and Holly Rowe
Radio/Satellite: 1310 AM, Jon Arias
Arena: CHI Health Center Convention Center, Omaha, Neb.
Fun facts (according to the media guides)
- The Badgers are 54-23 all time in the tournament, competing in back-to-back final four appearances for the first time in program history.
- While they have never won a national title the Badgers have also never lost a national semifinal game (3-0).
- Texas and Wisconsin have gone head-to-head eight times with each program collecting four wins.
- The programs last met on Sept. 1, 2018 in Wisconsin, with the Badgers registering a four-set victory. This will be the third NCAA Tournament matchup for the programs with Wisconsin winning the last contest 3-1 in the 2013 National Semifinal.
- Wisconsin’s 3-2 win over Florida in the Elite 8 was UW’s first five-set match since November of 2019.
- Senior Molly Haggerty is leading the Badgers with 3.55 kills per set while hitting .330 in NCAA Tournament play. She has led the team in kills the past two matches as well, tallying 14 against BYU and a season-high 17 against Florida.
- Senior Lauren Barnes is averaging 5.73 digs per set in NCAA Tournament play, tying her career-high with 28 digs vs. Florida on Monday.
- UW has a balanced offense in NCAA play with all five starting hitters averaging 2.1 or more kills per set. Haggerty (3.67), Devyn Robinson (3.00), Grace Loberg (2.83), Dana Rettke (2.50) and Danielle Hart (2.17) lead the team.
- Wisconsin is averaging an impressive 2.17 service aces per set in NCAA play while giving up only 0.50 aces per set. Transfer Giorgia Civita leads the team with four aces (0.67/set) while Izzy Ashburn (0.50/set) and Barnes (0.50/set) both add three aces.
- As a team, Texas is hitting .336, putting away 14.5 kills per set. Defensively, Texas is averaging 2.9 blocks per set and 13.1 digs per set.
- Junior Logan Eggleston, a 6-foot-2 outside hitter, was named the Big-12 Player of the Year, averaging 4.57 kills per set while hitting .323. Eggleston is also a threat behind the service line, leading the team with 48 total service aces (0.51/set) this season.
- The Longhorns also have the Big-12 Setter of the Year in Jhenna Gabriel, a 5-foot-8 junior, who is averaging 11.17 assists and 2.19 digs per set. Brionne Butler, a 6-foot-4 junior middle blocker, leads the team in blocks with 142, averaging 1.54 per set. Morgan O’Brien, a 5-foot-8 libero, leads the team with 3.12 digs per set as a graduate transfer from Illinois.
- Texas has zero seniors on their team and only one grad student, the aforementioned O’Brien. They, uh, have a real chance to put together quite a two-year run.