No. 1 overall seed Wisconsin drove an excellent serve and pass race to beat BYU in the regional semifinals of the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Championship in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday.
Wisconsin dominantly won 3-0 (25-20, 25-17 and 25-12), putting BYU’s offense off balance throughout the game with pinpoint serve and excellent 6-foot hitting, the All-American Dana Rettke.
The win brought the unbeaten Badgers (15-0) to the regional championship against Sunday’s winner in Ohio State and Florida. BYU closed the season with a 17-2 record, with Wisconsin hitting the Cougars’ 10-game win streak.
BYU coach Heather Olmstead said her team went from one of the highlights of the season after beating UCLA in the region to one of the lows after losing in Wisconsin, “but I’m really proud of what this team has accomplished and how they’ve grown and loved each other. “
Olmstead said BYU’s best chances are to disrupt the best seed serving on production with and forcing Wisconsin to play outside of their system, but that service pressure didn’t happen and the Badgers played in their system the entire game, making it very difficult .
“We knew we had to serve much harder than we did, and then we had to succeed,” said Olmstead. “We knew they were a good team and we had to pass, so we had to attack better offensively and then hold back defensively. I mean they hit over .300 and that’s their MO
“We had to do a lot of things, serve hard, try to stop them offensively. I think we did that early. I thought we had some good block touches. I thought we got in their face early and disrupted them a little early on that first set. We were doing our jobs and we knew our assignments and we had some decent stuff that slowed them down. “
BYU had a chance to apply pressure in the first set, which was close, but service errors led to a late rally.
Wisconsin stayed alive all night with timely digs that should have killed Cougar hitters. Olmstead said she will have to watch film to see exactly what happened on sets her team should have scored, but didn’t, as Wisconsin often attacked BYU’s second line and meticulously pressurized her defense.
“I don’t know if we tried to dodge their block or go around their block or not hit their block, but yes, offensively, when we got around their block defensively, they were there. They got some good details. We tried brave swings and murder. It’s just that they didn’t go down.
“A lot of it was because we were out of the system and it’s really hard to score outside of the system, and then you put a big block in front of you and really good defenders behind it, and you’re going to have a hard time. Kudos to them. I thought they played well. “
Olmstead will return all of its players next season and will add more to its roster.
“Our goal is to win the conference championship and win the NCAAs,” she said.
Olmstead asked her team to take their time and let the season sink in. They hadn’t lost a game in a unique spring season since March as COVID-19 suspended the regular fall schedule.
‘We took a moment to appreciate the year. It’s never nice to feel like this. I am very proud of this group. I’ve seen a lot, a lot, a lot of growth from just the whole year 2020 to 2021 through this season, a lot of growth from this group and more love, so much love, a lot of love developed in this team for each other, for BYU, for volleyball , for so many different things.
“So we talked about the year and what a wild ride it was and we just appreciated all those moments and they let you feel what it feels like.”