Florida wins it in five, takes down Wisconsin in front of record-breaking crowd
No better way to break an NCAA regular season attendance record than with a five-set absolute nail-biter. Florida came out on top of the five-set battle with a 15-13 win in final five. They withstood an incredible comeback effort from Wisconsin and in front of almost 17,000 Badgers fans. Really gutsy performance for the Gators.
Merritt Beason had a phenomenal night with 21 kills and eight digs. Gabbi Essix stepped up as well with 10 kills as the Badgers had Marina Markova's number, holding her to eight kills on .057 hitting. To show you just how even this match ended up being, both teams finished with a .115 hitting percentage. The Gators dominated the first two and a half sets before the Badgers came storming back in the third and fourth. Wisconsin did outblock the Gators 20-16, with eight blocks in the third set alone. But the Gators were able to side out more and get it done late in the fifth.
Every point matters in the fifth set. Despite the big start for Wisconsin, Florida went on a 4-0 run to take a 9-8 lead. Danielle Hart tied it up at 9 in a big way, then again to tie it up at 10 off the slide. Sarah Franklin again tied it up at 11 as Florida kept taking the lead, and then a Wisconsin service error gave the Gators a 12-11 advantage. Sofia Victoria came up with a big solo block to put the Gators within two. Bre Kelly smashed one over the net to give the Gators match point, and then they picked up the five-set win on a block.
We are headed to five!
The Badgers are going for the reverse sweep. They answered with a huge 25-13 set four win to force a fifth set.
What happened in this match? Well Wisconsin completely turned around its game. The first two and a half sets they looked off-balance, the connection was off, they were on their heels, and high in errors. All of a sudden they got a spark, got the crowd involved and started clicking on all cylinders. They put up eight blocks in the third set alone, and just when you thought they might have been swept in front of a 16,833-person Badger crowd, they completely turned it around with their backs against the wall. Wisconsin held Florida to -.086 hitting percentage in the fourth set.
Danielle Hart has been big-time for the Badgers, with eight kills and seven blocks.
Wisconsin leads in fourth
The Badger roll has continued into the fourth set, with pretty much everything going their way early on. They came out the gates with a 6-1 lead, and got up by as much as eight, up 10-2. The Badgers are hitting over .380 in the fourth and the Gators are hitting in the negatives. Quite the difference from the first two sets.
Also, check out this crowd after set point in the third ⬇️
Wisconsin stays alive! Takes set 3 28-26
We are headed to four sets at the Kohl Center. The Badgers trailed by as much as six in this set before putting together a late rally to come back, get the crowd into the game and stay alive. The Badgers improved their hitting .162 in the third set, and had the huge spark of Anna Smrek off the bench. Smrek is a COMPETITOR, as we might have already known from her national championship performance last season. She is up to five kills with seven blocks after little to no court time in the first two sets.
Devyn Robinson smashed two monster kills back-to-back to finally give the crowd something to get on their feet about. Mary Wise called a timeout to slow the roll, with the Gators still ahead 19-16. The defense, passing and hitting for Wisconsin increased drastically for the Badgers in the third set, and Anna Smrek came off the bench and put up a HUGE stuff block to continue the momentum shift in Wisconsin's favor. The Badgers got it within one, down 20-19 when yet another error ended the run. Smrek again, just begging for the ball, hammered one down and then went up with Caroline Crawford for a stuff-block to get within one again, and then two more gave the Badgers a 23-22 lead. Finally, we saw some big-time emotion from the Wisconsin team. Smrek gave the Badgers set point, but the Gators fought off back-to-back set points to tie it up at 24. The set tied up at 25 again and then 26-all with another Smrek rip. The Badgers picked up set point no. 3, and then took the set with a service ace. Quite the battle against an efficient Florida team to stay alive.
Match breaks regular-season attendance record
The attendance has been announced — 16,833 fans filled the seats at the Kohl Center for this match, breaking the regular-season NCAA attendance record.
Records are meant to be broken. pic.twitter.com/MBYaAtHTxi— Wisconsin Volleyball (@BadgerVB) September 17, 2022
The Badgers took a promising 5-2 lead in the third set before the Gators responded with a 6-0 run before the Badgers called a timeout. Florida looking calm and composed, now up 12-7 in the third set. The last time the Badgers were swept was against Texas in the 2021 NCAA volleyball semifinals.
Florida up two sets to none
The Gators went up two sets with a 25-18 win in set two over Wisconsin. The story of the match so far is Wisconsin's 17 attacking errors and Florida's massive block. The Gators are now hitting .227 to Wisconsin's .059 on the match. Merritt Beason is up to seven kills for the Gators on an impressive .467 clip, and Bre Kelley and Gabbi Essix chipped in five kills apiece.
The Badgers hit a low .030 on the second set, and will need to clean up a large portion of their game if they are looking for the reverse sweep in front of this big Badger crowd. Danielle Hart has been a spark for Wisconsin with five kills on .250 hitting.
Gators lead by seven, 14-7 in set 2
The Badgers went from hitting .086 in the first set to negative hitting in the second as the Gators stay in control. Florida went on a 5-0 run to take a 12-5 lead in the first set. Danielle Hart is leading the way, but only on .143 hitting. The Badger offense will need to get something going if they want to turn this match around.
Florida, on the other hand, has three players with four kills and two players hitting .500 or above. Alexis Stucky is currently hitting .800 on the match.
Florida takes set 1 25-21
The Gators have taken a 1-0 advantage after a 25-21 win in set one. Gabbi Essix led with four kills on .500 hitting followed by Marina Markova who posted three of her own. The Gators outhit the Badgers .257 to .086 — Wisconsin ultimately hit too high error to come out on top.
Florida went on a 5-1 run to take a 20-15 lead when Jade Demps and Danielle Hart went back-to-back to get the Badgers going. Florida rattled off two points of their own to take a 22-17 lead, with their feet clearly on the gas pedal despite a hostile crowd. Hart got things going for the Badgers — with a huge block, a cross-court kill to put the Badgers hitting percentage over .100 for the first time in a while, and then another block. But Florida kept pushing. A Wisconsin service error gave the Gators set point, and then a Florida block sealed the deal.
Florida up 15-13 in set one
The Gators have a two-point advantage over the Badgers in set one. The Kohl Center is packed and we are awaiting news on the attendance record!
The Gators are currently outhitting the Badgers .333 to .203. Gabbi Essix leads the Gators with four kills as of right now. The Badgers are leading in the blocking game, with four in that category.
The NCAA volleyball all-time attendance records
These are the top five most attended women's DI college volleyball games, per the NCAA.org record book:
- 18,755: Wisconsin def. Nebraska 3-2 | Dec. 18, 2021 | Nationwide Arena, Columbus, Ohio | NCAA final
- 18,516: Nebraska def. Florida 3-1 | Dec. 16, 2017 | Sprint Center Kansas City, Mo. | NCAA final
- 18,374: Florida def. Stanford 3-2 and Nebraska def. Penn St. 3-2 | Dec. 14, 2017 | Sprint Center Kansas City, Mo. | NCAA semifinals
- 18,113: Stanford def. Nebraska 3-2 | Dec. 15, 2018 | Target Center Minneapolis, Minn. | NCAA final
- 17,808 Stanford def. BYU 3-0 and Nebraska def. Illinois 3-2 | Dec. 13, 2018 | Target Center Minneapolis, Minn. | NCAA semifinals
You can see the entire list of women's DI college volleyball attendance records here, which includes regular-season and tournament games. The Nebraska vs. Creighton game from Sept. 7, 2022 is, as of this writing, No. 16 on the all-time list.
Wisconsin vs. Florida, previewed
No. 4 Wisconsin will host No. 16 Florida at the Kohl Center in Madison looking to beat the regular-season NCAA women's volleyball attendance record of 15,797. That was set at the CHI Health Center in Omaha last week when Nebraska beat Creighton, 3-2. The Kohl Center seats more than 17,000 fans for men’s and women’s basketball, so it is certainly possible the bar will move again.
I know you may be thinking Florida is ranked outside of the top 15. But, you might want to think back to the thrilling five-set matchup between Wisconsin and Florida in the quarterfinals of the NCAA tournament in 2020. That was an electric matchup, and this one has the potential to be as well. The Gators are 6-2 with those losses to highly ranked teams Stanford and Minnesota. They pushed the Cardinal to five and could have easily come out on top of that one. To give that even more meaning, the Cardinal just took down the No. 2 team in the nation, Nebraska, in four sets. That is an incredible team the Gators pushed to five.
Wisconsin is not bullet-proof, either, given that they dropped an early match to Baylor at the beginning of this season. They are however on a four-match winning streak, including a sweep over Kentucky. The last time a volleyball match was played in the Kohl Center was the 1998 NCAA championship match on Dec. 12. Long Beach State defeated Penn State, 3-2, in the title match in front of 13,194 fans, a then-NCAA attendance record.
The big stage and history between these two teams should make for a good one Friday night.
The AVCA top 25 teams this week