This season did not end how anyone wanted it to end. Hell, it didn’t happen how anyone wanted it to happen either, but there the Wisconsin Badgers were in a convention center in Omaha, Neb. battling with the best teams in college volleyball until the final serve on Thursday night.
The road comes to an end in Omaha— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) April 23, 2021
Proud of how this team battled through adversity not just this season, but this whole year
Thank you fans for your unending support through it all#OnWisconsin pic.twitter.com/KI5YIPyvoO
The Texas Longhorns swept the Badgers (26-24, 25-19, 25-23) late on Thursday night and will play the Kentucky Wildcats in the finals on Saturday. The Badgers gave up an opponent season-high .301 hitting percentage and UT put away 15 more kills than the Badgers on the evening.
“I’m trying not to hang my head too much. I thought what we did this season was pretty incredible. A lot of challenges, facing a lot of adversity. I thought this group of girls put everything into this year and that’s what makes it really hard when you’re all in and you’re putting your heart and soul into it and making a lot of sacrifices and then you just come up a little bit short. There’s no group I’d rather be going through a year like this with and I’m really proud of the way we handled everything and I love everyone on the Wisconsin volleyball program. I can’t explain that enough,” senior setter Sydney Hilley said after the match.
“That’s what makes it really hard. When you’re all in and you’re putting your heart & soul into it and you’re making a lot of sacrifices and you come up just a little bit short.” - @sydhil_— Wisconsin On BTN (@WisconsinOnBTN) April 23, 2021
What a run for @BadgerVB. pic.twitter.com/F03kaY9hrR
In the first set, the Badgers came back from an early deficit and got to 20 first but then Texas went on a run and won, 26-24. When the score was 20-16, and the Badgers were rolling, Lauren Barnes hit a service error that sparked a three point run for the Longhorns and, if we are applying a turning point retroactively, may have actually decided the match.
Texas, using the momentum from winning the first set, came out hot in the second set and were up 9-4. My notes from this point in the math read “Badgers in trouble. Texas defense really good.” UW went on a couple of mini runs in the second set but Texas kept them at arm’s length the entire time.
Per tradition, UT jumped out to an early 7-2 lead in the third set but the Badgers got it back to 11-9 and seemed to have momentum shifting in their direction, but another Barnes service error made it 12-9. Wisconsin took the lead in the third set, 18-17, on a Molly Haggerty kill and even led 23-22 at one point too, but the effort of making such a big comeback seemed to take it out of them and they couldn’t quite get over the finish like to win the set.
Freshman Devyn Robinson led the Badgers with 14 kills but was the only UW player to hit double figures. The right-side hitter hit .571 (14-2-21) and led the team with four blocks. Three other Badgers put away six kills apiece with Molly Haggerty, Grace Loberg and Dana Rettke all contributing to UW’s offense. Sydney Hilley put up 34 assists at setter and shared match-high honors with 14 digs for her third double-double of the season.
“Truthfully I couldn’t be more proud of our team and our fighting spirit. I thought it was an epic match. l thought that both teams were doing a lot of things that were a really high level. We showed our heart there to come back in the third (set) and I’m certainly proud of this team. It’s been a long year and a half,” said head coach Kelly Sheffield after the match.