These two teams met on the same stage in the NCAA semifinals in the 2020-21 season, and Texas swept the No. 1 Badgers to advance to the championship. They now meet again for the 10th time in series history on the biggest stage yet for volleyball. Check out a preview below:
Wisconsin has weapons pretty much everywhere in sight. AVCA First Team All-American hitter Sarah Franklin is close to notching 500 kills this season, while Julia Orzol and Gulce Guctekin do the dirty work in the back court as premiere defenders. Then you have 6-foot-9 Anna Smrek in the middle on offense and defense duty, while Carter Booth is blocking an average of 1.93 balls per set in the tournament. For the record, the Badgers are coming off a 16-block performance in a four-setter over Oregon. This team has the capacity to succeed in this year’s tournament, and gauging how the Badgers fare against the swings of a loaded Texas roster will be the ultimate test.
If there’s a pattern to notice about any of these final four teams, it’s the cliché: Defense wins championships. While Wisconsin is ranked No. 1 in the block, Texas is ranked No. 3, right behind Pitt at No. 2. AVCA First Team All-American Asjia O’Neal has spearheaded this effort for the Badgers, and seeing her and Bella Bergmark play across the net from Carter Booth and CC Crawford will be quite the show. Madisen Skinner, also a First Team All-America selection, is averaging a whopping 5.69 K/S in this tournament and will be searching for her third national championship (winning with Texas in 2022 and Kentucky in 2020-21). As the only No. 2 seed to make it to the semifinals, the Longhorns have had a lot to prove in this tournament, with the pressure of a two-peat weighing heavy. Downing No. 3 Tennessee in five sets was Texas’ biggest test this tournament, which almost made its takedown of No. 1 Stanford in the quarterfinals look like a breeze.