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No. 1 Badgers volleyball advances to Elite Eight as Molly Haggerty, Devyn Robinson lead sweep of BYU
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No. 1 Badgers volleyball advances to Elite Eight as Molly Haggerty, Devyn Robinson lead sweep of BYU

The BYU Cougars apparently were determined to not let Dana Rettke beat them.

That was OK with the University of Wisconsin volleyball team as Molly Haggerty and friends were more than up to that task in their NCAA tournament regional semifinal match Saturday night in Omaha, Nebraska.

Haggerty, a redshirt senior, had 14 kills, and freshman Devyn Robinson added 11 as the No. 1 seed Badgers swept the No. 16 Cougars 25-20, 25-17, 25-12 to advance to the Elite Eight for the 11th time in program history.

The Badgers (17-0) will face the winner of Sunday’s match between No. 8 Florida and No. 9 Ohio State on Monday at 5:30 p.m.

And while there were contributions from all around the court, no one had a bigger impact on the match than Haggerty, who hit .500 with no hitting errors.

“I thought that was one of Molly Haggerty’s best matches of her career,” UW coach Kelly Sheffield said. “Not just with the numbers, but with the presence she had. She was in absolute beast mode. She was working the entire court. I thought it was just a big-time night for her.”

Haggerty has been having big-time matches in the biggest matches throughout her career, dating back to when she led her club team to four consecutive national championships and her high school team to four straight Illinois state titles.

“I’ve watched her for a lot of years,” Sheffield said. “When the moments get bigger she gets so much better. You’re around a player long enough, you know what you’re going to get from them in these types of moments. She was great tonight.”

One of the keys for Haggerty was being able to use her full range of shots to all parts of the court.

“I think throughout the match I was just trying to see different shots that were open and just moving it around,” Haggerty said. “I think as a hitter if you become too predictable and hitting in the same area it’s pretty easy to stop me. That’s something I’ve really gotten better at in my years here, expanding my range with my hitting.”

BYU (17-2) recorded 16 blocks in its second-round match against UCLA, but the Cougars had just five blocks Saturday, compared to nine for UW.

BYU’s top priority clearly was to limit the damage from Rettke, the three-time first-team All-American. And the Cougars succeeded to a degree, holding her to just six kills, matching her season low, and a season-low .095 hitting percentage.

“They did a really good job,” Sheffield said. “She and (Kennedy) Eschenberg were up against each other and it was a heck of a match. She’s an All-American middle for them and an exceptional blocker. She was up there quite a bit and they neutralized each other.

“Dana’s offensive numbers weren’t very Dana-like but when she was in the match the opponent hit .000. That’s one thing we discussed, if one part of your game isn’t there being able to make a difference in other areas and I thought she did that.”

The match pitted two of the most efficient offenses in the nation. The Badgers came in ranked third nationally, hitting .347, while the Cougars were fifth at .309.

But the Badgers, who trailed just once in the entire match — on the first point of the third set — hit a solid .333 for the night with just 10 hitting errors. The Cougars hit just .152 with 17 errors. BYU’s leading attacker, senior Taylen Ballard-Nixon, who came in averaging 3.92 kills per set and hitting .270, was held to just four kills and hit -.133.

One of the keys was the Badgers’ serving, which kept the Cougars out of system much of the night. And after some tentative moments early, UW’s backcourt defense made it tough for BYU’s hitters to find the floor, led by senior Lauren Barnes’ 16 digs.

“It was a great defensive effort on a really talented senior in Ballard-Nixon,” Sheffield said. “A lot of it was set up by our serve. They were out of system all night long.”

Rettke had a match-high six blocks and Robinson had five to go along with her big night offensively.

“I love playing with Devyn,” Haggerty said. “You can’t even tell she’s a freshman. Honestly, she kind of reminds me of myself when I was a freshman. She’s just going out there and doing her job, just balling and not acting like a freshman, not scared of making mistakes and having that presence with her in the big moments.”

BYU 20 17 12

Wisconsin 25 25 25

BYU (kills-digs-blocks) — Grimmer 9-1-2, Livingston 7-1-0, Ballard-Nixon 4-7-3, Dodson 4-2-1, Eschenberg 4-0-4, W. Bower 3-11-0, Allen 1-14-0, M. Bower 0-2-0, Tausinga 0-0-0, Dayton 0-5-0, Wee 0-4-0, Llarenas 0-0-0. Totals 32-47-5.

WISCONSIN (kills-digs-blocks) — Haggerty 14-2-0, Robinson 11-0-5, Loberg 8-8-2, Rettke 6-0-6, Hilley 4-8-2, Hart 4-1-3, Barnes 0-16-0, Civita 0-6-0, Ashburn 0-2-0, Kraft 0-4-0. Totals 47-47-9.

Hitting percentage — B .152, W .333. Aces — B 1 (Allen), W 6 (Loberg, Civita 2). Assists — B 29 (W. Bower 22), W 44 (Hilley 33).

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