Texas closes the book on UW Volleyball team

For the second time this season, the Wisconsin volleyball squad has fallen victim to the Longhorns of Texas. In fact, one loss opened the UW season while the second loss ended it.

AUSTIN, Texas – The season for the 10th-ranked Wisconsin volleyball team came to an end with a 30-19, 30-22, 30-12 loss at eighth-ranked Texas in the NCAA Regional semifinals. The Badgers end their season 26-7 while Texas improves to 24-6 and will take on the Stanford in the regional final on Saturday.

"Texas was one very hot team tonight," said UW coach Pete Waite. "After a very good start on our part, they just kept coming back and never slowed down at all. I wish we would have competed better, giving them a better match tonight, but sometimes that happens."

Wisconsin hit a season low .000 in the match and failed to have a player in double-digit kills. Senior Amy Bladow led the Badgers with eight kills while junior Taylor Reineke added seven kills and a team-best .333 hitting percentage.

"Another thing they do is they serve tough; they keep you on your heels offensively," said Waite. "When you can't run your own offense, it's very hard to attack that big block and that defense. That's one thing I wish we would have done better is serve receive. Had we done that it might have kept us in system and it might have been a better match."

Texas hit .398 in the match, with two players in double-digits. Freshman Ashley Engle led all players with 12 kills while sophomore Lauren Paolini chipped in 12 kills. Freshman Destinee Hooker added eight kills and a .615 attack percentage while Jennifer Todd led all hitters at .714.

"They are a very offensive team so once they're swinging well and feeling good about things, they're really making spray balls and having trouble setting up (our block) on all of the options they have," explained Waite.

The Badgers totaled 7.5 blocks in the match, led by three each from Bladow and Reineke, but the Longhorns had nearly double the blocks with 14. The 6-5 Paolini led all blockers with six stuffs while 6-3 Engle added five block assists. "It's great that they're a tall team but they're also very physical and they were also very defensive tonight in their blocking and their digging," said Reineke. "They outdug us and outblocked us by a lot. I think they played really well tonight and we didn't perform."

Texas also nearly doubled up Wisconsin is digs, tallying 44 while the Badgers had just 25 saves. Junior Jocelyn Wack led the UW with six digs.

"What's lost sometimes in the size of their team and their height and everything, is their defense," said Waite. "I thought they played very good defense around the block, which kept them in system, running their offense, going back to those very athletic, offensive players."

Despite a quick start in game one, the Badgers couldn't hold on to their momentum, losing the first period 30-19. Wisconsin jumped out to a 5-0 lead behind the front-row play of Bladow and Carlini. Both had a kill and combined on a block to put the UW up 5-0. The Badgers biggest lead of the period came at 8-2, off a Longhorn error but Texas outscored Wisconsin 12-3 to take a 14-11 lead. Paolini had three of her game-high five kills during the stretch to lead the Longhorns. The Badgers stayed within five points of the Horns, through 25-19. Texas scored the last eight points of the game, including three off its block, to win the first matchup. The Longhorns' defense held the Badgers to a negative .152 hitting percentage as the UW had only seven kills in the game.

Wisconsin changed its rotation in the second period, but still couldn't matchup with the much taller Longhorns. The score was tied five times early in the game, including a 9-9 before Texas had three straight blocks to take a 12-9 lead. The Longhorns led by nine (20-11) before the Badgers rallied, scoring four straight to pull within five at 20-15. Bladow had a kill and combined with Jeffers on a block to lead the rally. Texas controlled the rest of the game as it hit .484 for the period, tallying 18 kills. Wisconsin improved to .152 in the game but totaled just 12 kills.

Game three featured four early ties and Wisconsin trailed by one at 7-6 before Texas rattled off six straight points to take a 13-6 lead. The Badgers had four errors during that stretch, allowing the Longhorns to take control of the game. The UW couldn't stop Texas' strong and balanced offense as the Longhorns hit .583 for the period, totaling 15 kills and only one error. Wisconsin managed just 10 kills and 10 errors for a .000 hitting percentage in the period.

The Badgers started and ended their season with losses to Texas and failed to advance to a regional final for the first time in three years.

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