PITTSBURGH – Some teams might feel pressure in playing the No. 1 seed in the NCAA semifinals. Not Wisconsin, which took the opposite approach against Baylor on Thursday.
“The biggest thing was, we went out there, and we were trying to have so much fun,’’ said Badgers setter Sydney Hilley, of Brooklyn Park. “We did a good job staying loose. We’re at our best when we’re having fun.’’
That proved true again, as the Badgers defeated Baylor 3-1 to reach Saturday’s championship match against Stanford. Wisconsin (27-6) got 19 kills from Dana Rettke and 15 from Molly Haggerty, and they outblocked the Bears 14½-10 in the 25-27, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19 victory. The Badgers will play in the title match for the third time and are seeking their first NCAA championship.
Though Baylor got a match-high 25 kills from Yossiana Pressley, Wisconsin kept the Bears off-balance for much of the match at PPG Paints Arena. Baylor (29-2) lost for the first time since Oct. 23, ending a 13-match winning streak. The Bears, who were making their first appearance at the Final Four, hit only .183 and had 38 errors.
Hilley had 43 assists, seven digs, four blocks and three aces.
The Badgers had not lost a set in their first four NCAA tournament matches. Against Baylor they dropped a tightly-contested opening set in which neither team led by more than two points. The lead changed hands nine times.
The second set started much the same way, but the Badgers took control with a late 5-0 run. As Baylor began to have trouble with its serve reception and passing, Wisconsin took the set and kept the pressure on in the third.
Baylor led by as many as four points in the fourth set before Wisconsin closed the set — and the match — with an 11-2 run.
• Baylor coach Ryan McGuyre was named the national coach of the year. He led Baylor to the program’s first Final Four berth, the No. 1 ranking and the top seed in the NCAA tournament. The team also set a school record with 29 victories.
• Kerri Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist in beach volleyball, attended Thursday’s matches. She was a four-time All-America at Stanford and helped the Cardinal win NCAA titles in 1996 and ’97.