Home Madison Badgers sweep Jackson State, Miami in NCAA tourney to advance to Sweet...

Badgers sweep Jackson State, Miami in NCAA tourney to advance to Sweet 16 match-up with Big 10 rival Penn State

Temi Thomas-Ailara finished with 10 kills as the Wisconsin volleyball team swept Miami, 25-23, 25-15, 25-17, in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the UW Field House on Friday night. (Photo by Dexter Patterson)

The Badgers women’s volleyball team (28-3) will get a rematch against Big Ten rival Penn State (23-8) on Thursday at the UW Field House in the NCAA volleyball tournament Sweet 16 after sweeping its first and second-round opponents this weekend in the opening rounds of the NCAA tournament.

The No. 1 seed Badgers swept Jackson State (25-18, 25-9, 25-18) and the Miami Hurricanes (25-23, 25-15, 25-17) in front of standing-room-only crowds at the Field House.

Devyn Robinson (left) and Carte Booth set up the defense for the Badgers vs. Miami. (Photo by Dexter Patterson)

The Badgers set the tone in the first round, delivering a decisive 3-0 sweep of a scrappy Jackson State team. Big Ten Player of the Year Sarah Franklin led the charge with a remarkable 12 kills, contributing to a season-best hitting percentage of .488. Six-foot-seven middle blocker Carter Booth’s imposing presence at the net, exemplified by eight blocks in the second set, played a crucial role in securing the victory. Devyn Robinson hit well, particularly in Set 3, adding to the Badgers’ stellar performance.

Big Ten Player of the Year Sarah Franklin
(Photo by Dexter Patterson)

Badger head coach Kelly Sheffield acknowledged early jitters but lauded the team’s rhythm and positive trajectory throughout the match.  

“We were expecting balls to come to us rather than us going and getting the ball, whether from a server’s standpoint or defensively in the back row. Then we got a better feel for their pace,” Sheffield said.

On Friday night, the Badgers faced a talented Hurricane team featuring star freshman Grace Lopez, who led her team with 15 kills. Miami got some early momentum, but the Badgers battled back, securing a 22-21 lead and eventually claiming the set.

Star freshman Grace Lopez (right) led the Miami Hurricanes with 15 kills.
(Photo by Dexter Patterson)

The Badgers strategically countered Miami’s efforts in a thrilling Set 2, characterized by eight ties and two lead changes. Devyn Robinson’s forceful kill sparked a pivotal 5-0 run, propelling Wisconsin to an 18-13 lead and ultimately securing the set.

Set 3 witnessed heightened emotions as the Badgers asserted dominance, clinching a convincing 25-17 victory. The power trio of Smrek, Franklin, and Thomas-Ailara led the charge with a combined 38 kills. Anna Smrek, a 6-foot-9 right-side hitter, stood out with 15 kills and an impressive .542 hitting percentage.

“I think we practice for big moments,” Smrek said. “We’re coming out confident and taking courageous swings, it’s how we train, and the mentality we bring into the match. We’re confident in ourselves and what happens when we stick together. It carries us through and that’s what’s giving us another opportunity in this tournament.”

Wisconsin Badgers middle blocker Carter Booth
(Photo by Dexter Patterson)

With these back-to-back triumphs, the No. 1 seeded Badgers now will face off against No. 5 Penn State, who knocked off Wisconsin 3-1 (23-25, 29-27, 25-23, 25-18) in a Big Ten match at Rec Hall on Nov. 11. The Badgers played that game without Smrek.

The Badgers will play Penn State in the Round of 16 at the Field House on Thursday night.