No. 1 overall seed Wisconsin rode an outstanding serve and pass game to sweep BYU in the regional semifinals of the NCAA women’s volleyball championship in Omaha, Nebraska, on Saturday.
Wisconsin won in dominating fashion 3-0 (25-20, 25-17 and 25-12), keeping BYU’s offense off balance the entire match with pinpoint serves and outstanding hitting from 6-foot-8 All-American Dana Rettke.
The win advanced the undefeated Badgers (15-0) to the regional championship against Sunday’s winner of Ohio State and Florida. BYU ends the season with a 17-2 record, with Wisconsin snapping the Cougars’ 10-game match win streak.
BYU coach Heather Olmstead said her team went from one of the season’s highs after beating UCLA in the regional to one of the lows after the Wisconsin loss, “but I’m really proud of what this team has accomplished and how they’ve grown and loved each other.”
“I’m really proud of what this team has accomplished and how they’ve grown and loved each other.” — BYU head coach Heather Olmstead
Olmstead said BYU’s best chances to upset the top seed banked on producing with serves and forcing Wisconsin to play outside their system, but that service pressure didn’t happen and the Badgers were playing in their system the entire match, which made it very difficult.
“We knew that we needed to serve way tougher than we did and then we needed to pass,” said Olmstead. “We knew they are a good serving team and we needed to pass, so offensively we needed to attack better and then defensively, hold them back. I mean, they hit over .300 and that’s their M.O.
“We had to do a lot of stuff, to serve tough, to try to hold them offensively. I think we did that early. I thought we got some good block touches. I thought we’d got in their face early and disrupted them a little bit early in that first set. We were doing our job and we knew our assignments and we had some decent touches, slowing them down.”
BYU had a chance to put pressure in the first set, which was close, but service errors killed a late rally.
Wisconsin kept alive throughout the night with timely digs that Cougar hitters should have chalked up kills. Olmstead said she will have to look at film to see exactly what happened on sets that her team should have scored but didn’t as Wisconsin frequently attacked BYU’s second line and accurately put pressure on her defense.
“I don’t know if we were trying to avoid their block or go around their block or not hit in their block, but yeah, offensively, when we did get around their block defensively, they were there. They were getting some good touches. We were trying to take courageous swings and get kills. It’s just they weren’t going down.
“A lot of it was because we were out of the system and it’s really hard to score out of system, and then you put a big block in front of you and really good defenders behind it and you are going to struggle. Kudos to them. I thought they played well.”
Olmstead returns all her players next season and will add more to the roster.
“Our goal is to win the conference championship and win the NCAAs,” she said.
Olmstead asked her squad to take time and let the season soak in. They hadn’t lost a match since March in a one-of-a-kind spring season because of COVID-19 suspending the regular fall schedule.
“We just took a moment to appreciate the year. It’s never fun feeling this way. I’m super proud of this group. I’ve seen a lot, a lot, a lot of growth from just the whole year 2020 through 2021 through this season, a lot of growth from this group, and more love, so much love, lots of love developed on 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 has been and just appreciating all those moments, and letting them feel you know what it feels like.”