MADISON, Wis. — The three-seeded Wisconsin Badgers swept the Washington State Cougars on Friday night to send them to the Sweet 16 for the fourth year in a row.
The Cougars took the lead quickly, though Wisconsin came back and tied the game at 5-5. Wisconsin took the lead and built a solid lead 11-7. Wisconsin controlled the set the rest of the way. Wisconsin won the set 25-18 on a kill from Tionna Williams. Wisconsin capitalized on the Cougars’ six errors, adding 14 kills at .306 percent.
Wisconsin dominated the second set. The Badgers built a solid lead after leading 11-7. Wisconsin went on a 6-2 run to have a seven-point lead. The Badgers won the set 25-18. The Wisconsin defense held the Cougars to a .000 hitting percentage, aided by its five blocks.
The two teams swapped leads and ties in the beginning of the third set, but Wisconsin took a solid lead, 7-4, after a four-point run. Wisconsin lead 7-5 when the Badgers went on a 7-0 run to lead by nine. Wisconsin won the set 25-17 on an attack error from Kyra Holt. Wisconsin had 15 kills at .290 percent, compared to Washington State’s seven kills at .000 percent.
Washington State was the 25 seed in the tournament, and ranked third in the country for blocking. However, the Badgers out-block the Cougars 13-6 in the match.
“Going into this match, we knew that they were the third-best blocking team in the country,” Wisconsin’s Haleigh Nelson said, via UW Athletics. “That really fired us up as front row players and that really gave us some motivation. We talked before the match that we wanted to make it a goal of ours to try and beat them in team blocks over the course of the match. …When you go up against a team that has a strength like that, it kind of gives you a little extra motivation to see if you can outdo them on that front and I think we definitely performed.”
The Badgers had 43 digs, 3 service aces and 38 assists.
“I think our team just keeps getting better and better,” UW Coach Kelly Sheffield said. “I thought that was a really good win against a team with a coaching staff that I’ve got a lot of respect for and the year that they’ve had and that direction that they’re heading.”
“You hold them to hitting zero those last two sets and under .100 for the match, I think you have to feel good about how our defense is playing, how our serving is doing,” Sheffield said.
Wisconsin will play the winner of the Ohio State/Kansas State game that will be determined Saturday night.
Wisconsin swept the Buckeyes in both of the regular season matches this year. Wisconsin held Ohio State to .200 percent or below in both of the matches. The Badgers out-blocked the Buckeyes 21-9 in their matches.
Wisconsin and Kansas State met in August at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational, where the Badgers swept the Wildcats. Wisconsin went 3-0 on the weekend at the Invitational, and Kansas State went 2-1 on the weekend. Both Wisconsin and Kansas State beat Arizona and Hawaii at the tournament. Wisconsin beat Hawaii 3-1 and Arizona 3-0. Kansas State beat Hawaii 3-1 and Arizona 3-1.
“I think Wisconsin is a fabulous team,” Washington State Coach Jen Greeny said. “I’ll just say right now that they are going to win it all.”
Photo courtesy of uwbadgers.com