Wisconsin downs defending champion Texas to advance to title game
SEATTLE — The top-seeded and defending national champion Texas (27-3) saw its 10-match postseason winning streak snapped Thursday night at KeyArena with a 3-1 (19-25, 18-25, 28-26, 23-25) loss to 12th-seeded Wisconsin (28-9) in the national semifinals.
Texas totaled a season-high 19 blocks, but couldn’t overcome a 2-0 deficit as the Badgers advanced to their first national championship in program history.
The Badgers led by as much as seven points in the first set. Texas came within one, trimming the Wisconsin lead to 20-19 at one point, but surrendered five consecutive points to close out the set 25-19. In set two, Wisconsin started with a 3-0 lead and eventually jumped ahead 13-5. The Longhorns pulled within six, but dropped the game 25-18.
Texas took an early lead in the third set, its first since the opening moments of the match. Wisconsin had five hitting errors in the early stages, but still rallied to take a 9-8 lead. Texas came back with seven of the next 10 points to go ahead 15-12 and pushed ahead 23-22 on a Bailey Webster kill. The set eventually ended up tied at 24. After a Haley Eckerman hitting error, the Badgers had match point, but Webster came through with another crucial kill. Texas went ahead 27-26 on an Eckerman kill and on its third set point got a hitting error from Wisconsin to force a fourth game with a 28-26 set win.
The two teams played evenly in the fourth set with a 14-14 tie before Texas pushed ahead 18-16 following a kill by Chiaka Ogbogu and block by Khat Bell. An Eckerman kill pushed the Longhorns lead to three, but the Badgers came back to tie the score at 21. After two more ties (22-22 and 23-23), Wisconsin used back-to-back kills to close out the final set and the match.
Texas was trying to become the sixth school to win consecutive national titles and had won 23 consecutive matches since losing to Arizona State in early September. The 23 consecutive wins was the second longest streak in program history.
The Badgers are the lowest seeded team to reach the championship.