Top seed Wisconsin outlasts eight seed Florida at NCAA volleyball

Special to Gatorsports.com
Elli McKissock makes a dig for Florida while teammate T'ara Ceaser looks on.

Top-seeded Wisconsin was stretched to the max by eighth-seeded Florida in the NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship Quarterfinals on Monday in the CHI Health Center at Omaha, Neb., before prevailing 3-2.

Wisconsin (16-0) won 30-28, 18-25, 25-22, 18-25, 15-12 in its first five-set match of the year. The Badgers face fourth-seeded Texas (26-1), a 3-1 winner over five seed Nebraska (16-3) in Monday's other quarterfinal, in Thursday's 9:30 p.m. national semifinals (ESPN). The other semifinal pits No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Washington at 7 p.m.

The national championship match is Saturday.

UF (21-4) was seeking its ninth all-time NCAA semifinals appearance, looking to make it back for the first time since 2017. The Gators finish the campaign 2-2 in five-set matches.

"This was a heavy-weight match between two great teams from two great conferences," UF coach Mary Wise said. "Awfully proud of this team and the growth they embraced starting way back in August. We asked more from this team for a longer period of time than any team in our history.”

More:Florida advances to regional final with a 3-1 win over Ohio State

More:Florida rolls past Morehead State in NCAA volleyball tourney

Back-and-forth region final

Wisconsin had an 18-12 lead in the first set before the Gators switched it into another gear to force OT and actually had two set points before falling 30-28. Florida strung together an impressive 8-2 run to pull ahead 24-23. The squads continued to trade points through extras, but Wisconsin put together a 3-0 run to take the first set. 

Florida evened the match with the second-set win by holding Wisconsin to its fewest point total of the season. T'ara Ceaser turned it up for UF by collecting eight kills in the set. The Gators were in the lead from the start.

After a back-and-forth third set, the Badgers took charge after a 17-all tie.

The Gators went up 17-14 in the fourth set and didn't give up that lead the rest of the way behind the play of Thayer Hall, who posted a staggering nine kills, while Marlie Monserez added 10 assists and seven digs to force a deciding fifth set.

Florida led 9-6 in the fifth when Molly Haggerty hammered down a kill to shift the momentum and spark a 4-0 run for the Badgers. After the set was tied at 10-10, Wisconsin settled it with a 5-2 spurt.

Hall led the Gators with 23 kills and 24 points, Lauren Forte was the hitting leader at .588, Elli McKissock had 23 digs, Marlie Monserez with 46 assists and Forte and Holly Carlton with seven blocks each. Ceaser posted 17 kills.

As a team, the Gators recorded 12.0 blocks and held the Badgers to a .153 clip in the match.

“What I will remember most is no matter what role anyone had today – whether it was on the court or on the bench – everyone put everything out there that they had," Hall said. "Today was really good volleyball on both sides and that is what we are going to take away.”

NCAA match notables

•Marlie Monserez posted a career-high 22 digs in the match. Monserez recorded her 10th double-double of the season with 46 assists and 22 digs

•T’ara Ceasar tied her career-high in digs with 19. Ceasar registered her team-high 11th double-double of the season with 17 kills and 19 digs

•Thayer Hall notched her fourth double-double with 23 kills and 16 digs

•Lauren Forte recorded seven blocks, tying her season-best mark 

•Florida falls to 8-9 in the Regional Final round of the NCAA Tournament

•UF moves to 77-31 (.713) in the NCAA Tournament, including a 76-30 (.717) record under Mary Wise

•As a 10-seed or better, Florida is now 51-17 (.750) in program history

•The Gators fall to 5-1 against Wisconsin in the all-time series and 2-1 in the NCAA Tournament

•UF’s 77 NCAA Tournament wins are eighth all-time

•Mary Wise’s 76 NCAA Tournament wins are sixth all-time in Division I history