LOUISVILLE, Ky., — After advancing into the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, the Ohio State women’s volleyball team’s came to a sour end.
The No. 18 Buckeyes (23-12) lost to Big Ten foe No. 2 Wisconsin for the third time this year.
Despite the loss, the Buckeyes’ still managed to do something they couldn’t in two matches against the Badgers during the regular season by winning two sets. Wisconsin swept OSU on Sept. 28 and then again on Nov. 21 before the Buckeyes took its 3-2 (20-25, 25-21, 25-22, 24-26, 12-15) loss in Louisville, Ky.
After the loss, OSU coach Geoff Carlston said the match was sloppy as neither team had better than a .130 attacking percentage.
“It was an old school (match), tons of digs,” Carlston said. “It wasn’t the cleanest match in the world, but it was definitely a drag out, punch for punch type of a match.”
The two teams combined for 172 digs, which included five players in double digits for OSU, led by sophomore libero Valeria León with 22. Three Badgers had double-digit digs as well, with junior libero Taylor Morey’s 21 leading the way.
After losing the first set, the Buckeyes won two in a row before dropping the fourth and fifth. The winner of each set was the team with the highest attacking percentage in each individual frame.
Wisconsin finished the night with 52 kills and 28 errors, while OSU led the way with 64 kills but tallied 40 attacking errors.
The Buckeyes showed throughout the five-set match that they were able to hang with the Badgers, despite their opponent recovering from being down, two sets to one.
“We’re used to those five-set games,” senior outside hitter Erin Sekinger said. “But in tournament time, it’s so different. What kept us punching, especially for me, was looking at all my teammates and seeing in their eyes and everyone believing that we could do it.”
Sekinger and sophomore middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe tied for the match high with 17 kills, followed by junior outside hitters Elizabeth Campbell and Katie Mitchell, who each had 11. Campbell also had 17 digs. Her double-double was the one of two for the Buckeyes, as senior setter Taylor Sherwin had 57 assists and 12 digs.
Badger coach Kelly Sheffield said the energy senior defensive specialist Kt Kvas provided for his team in the three sets she played was like “a shot of caffeine.”
Kvas had three service errors, but also tallied three aces and a pair of digs.
After losing a lead in the fourth set and losing the fifth set, Carlston said Badger senior outside hitter Courtney Thomas was the difference maker in the match.
“(She) made some amazingly big plays in amazingly big moments,” he said. “She’s a gritty competitor, and I thought she was the difference tonight.”
Thomas tallied 13 kills and nine digs while contributing to seven blocks. She also had one service ace.
Three Buckeyes — Sekinger, Sherwin and senior defensive specialist Alyssa Winner — played their final collegiate matches Friday night. Senior middle blocker Anna Faul was out all season four OSU and served as a student assistant for the team.
The Badgers are scheduled to take on another Big Ten opponent in the quarterfinals. Wisconsin and fifth-seeded Penn State are set to play on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Louisville, Ky.