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With convincing 3-1 win over Oregon, Badgers punch ticket to NCAA Final Four in Tampa Bay

Wisconsin clinched a berth in the Final Four with a 3-1 win over the Oregon Ducks (25-22, 25-22, 25-27, 25-18). (Photo by Dexter Patterson)

In a tension-filled battle at the UW Field House on Saturday night, the Wisconsin Badgers volleyball team overcame a spirited Oregon Ducks squad to secure a 3-1 win (25-22, 25-22, 25-27, 25-18) and a coveted spot in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four in Tampa, Florida, on Thursday night at 8:30 p.m.

The Badgers faced early challenges in Set 1, plagued by uncharacteristic attack and service errors. However, the players displayed remarkable resilience, refusing to let mistakes derail their championship aspirations. Despite the Ducks’ formidable serves, Wisconsin found timely points throughout the match, showcasing their championship pedigree. 

Devyn Robinson serves versus the Oregon Ducks.
(Photo by Dexter Patterson)

In Set 2, the Ducks came out strong, taking a commanding lead before the Badgers mounted a comeback with a 5-0 run. The intensity remained high as both teams traded blows, but Wisconsin clinched the set 25-22 after a hard-fought battle.

Set 3 saw the Ducks regaining momentum, aided by aces that kept them in the match despite hitting only .207 on the night. The Badgers, however, fell short, losing 27-25 due to more unforced errors.

As the match reached a critical juncture in Set 4, the Badgers knew they had to clean up their play to close out the Ducks. A crucial ace by Izzy Ashburn gave Wisconsin a 10-8 lead, sparking a decisive run that led to a 12-8 advantage and forced an Oregon timeout. The momentum swung back and forth throughout the night, with thirty ties and eight lead changes, but the Badgers out-blocked the Ducks 16-4, showcasing their defensive prowess—a common theme for the team in the Regional Finals. 

The Badgers earned match point at 24-16 on a block from Devyn Robinson and Carter Booth, but Oregon held off two set points before missing a serve that sent Wisconsin to Tampa. 

Carter Booth
(Photo by Dexter Patterson)

Star player Sarah Franklin, who had a team-high 20 kills, once again played a pivotal role in the Badgers’ victory, but this was a team victory. Franklin, Devyn Robinson, Carter Booth, and Julia Orzol earned All-Tournament Team honors, while Franklin was named MVP. The win was especially poignant for Franklin, who faced a challenging offseason with surgery due to a rare shoulder injury that threatened her season.

 “I’m grateful, there’s no other words to put it,” Franklin said. “I’m very grateful to all the staff here and everyone at the UW Hospital was able to get me back fully for the season. It makes it a little sweeter, not being here would have torn me apart and I think putting all that work in is making it a little bit sweeter every time.”

Reflecting on the victory, Coach Kelly Sheffield acknowledged the challenging nature of the match, stating, “Our opponent demanded that’s how we played. We would not have won this match had we not played like that.

Wisconsin clinched a berth in the Final Four with a 3-1 win over the Oregon Ducks (25-22, 25-22, 25-27, 25-18).
(Photo by Dexter Patterson)

“Congrats to Oregon on a great year, a great match. This was a total team effort from us. We had no give up tonight, and the amount of fight to keep the ball off the floor, and give ourselves a chance to stay in the rally, was the best I have ever seen,” he added.

This triumph marked redemption for the Badgers after falling short in the Regional Final last year against the Pittsburgh Panthers at the UW Field House. Wisconsin takes on defending national champion Texas in the NCAA National Semifinals on Thursday from Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida. Nebraska, 32-1 and the No. 1 overall seed, will play Pitt in the first semifinal. The national championship match will be held on Sunday, Dec. 17 at 2 p.m. live on ABC.