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Volleyball: Buckeyes drop five-set heartbreaker to Wisconsin in NCAA regional semifinal

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Sophomore setter Taylor Hughes (6) sets the ball during a match with Wisconsin on Nov. 2 at St. John Arena. She had 45 assists and 11 kills on Friday. Credit: Jenna Leinasars | Assistant News Director

Sophomore setter Taylor Hughes (6) sets the ball during a match with Wisconsin on Nov. 2 at St. John Arena. She had 45 assists and 11 kills on Friday. Credit: Jenna Leinasars | Assistant News Director

A 2-1 set lead wasn’t enough for the Ohio State Buckeyes to withstand a comeback from No. 3 Wisconsin in the NCAA tournament Sweet 16. OSU dropped the final two sets to lose 3-2 in the regional semifinal.

Wisconsin freshman outside hitter Molly Hagerty and senior setter Lauren Carlini sent the Buckeyes home with their third five-set loss in the Sweet 16 in three consecutive seasons. Hagerty ended with 22 kills and Carlini totaled 62 assists.

Junior outside hitter Luisa Schrimer led the Buckeye effort with a double-double, 19 kills and 18 digs. Senior middle blocker Taylor Sandbothe also posted 13 kills.

The momentum was with the Badgers from the first serve of the set. A poor starting performance put the Buckeyes out of system, and the team was quickly down 6-1.

OSU found themselves trying to climb out of the hole throughout the opening set. Even after showing signs of life near the set’s conclusion, the Buckeyes were still down by a ten-plus point deficit. OSU ended the set hitting negative-0.026 as a team.

The Buckeyes came out in the second set with a much more commanding presence. They held onto a steady lead into the set, forcing Wisconsin to take its first timeout at 13-8 after a sneaky setter dump by sophomore Taylor Hughes.

Wisconsin creeped back into contention at 23-21, and the home Badger crowd erupted. Sophomore outside hitter Audra Appold wrangled in a kill for the first Buckeye set point, followed by an error by the Badgers for the OSU set win.

The strength of the Big Ten conference was evident to start the third set, as both teams went point-for-point to gain the set advantage. A crucial four-point run by the Buckeyes put them up 14-9 before a Badger stop.

Wisconsin’s Tionna Williams guided the team on their own run, and the Badgers quickly took back the lead.

The tension in University Fieldhouse grew as the final points of the set dropped. Badger fans were on their feet as the score was tied at 24, 25, 26, 27, 28 and 29. Finally, a Wisconsin service error followed by a block by Hughes ended the set and put the Buckeyes up 2-1.

OSU had control of both sides of the ball as they increased an opening fourth-set lead over the Badgers, 12-8. Wisconsin’s composure was tested when two balls that went in OSU’s favor steadily increased the Buckeyes’ lead.

The Badgers quickly battled back with a six-point run to seat the Buckeyes on an edge. Wisconsin prevailed and yet another five-set match ensued for OSU.

Wisconsin’s Haleigh Nelson gave the Badgers a two-point advantage (5-3) to start the fifth and final set. At the mid-set side change, Wisconsin led OSU by only one point.

The Badgers earned the first set point from an OSU service error and Nelson secured the final point for her team to advance to the regional final against the winner of Florida State and No. 6 Stanford. The Buckeyes finished 22-13 on the year.

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