COLUMBUS, Ohio – Anna DeBeer recorded a season-high 20 kills, adding 10 digs as No. 1 University of Louisville volleyball fell in the Final Four semifinals 3-2 to No. 4 Wisconsin on Thursday night at Nationwide Arena.
"I'm proud of the way we battled tonight," Louisville head coach Dani Busboom Kelly said of her team's effort in the loss. "This is a team that you could be with forever. It's one of those really special groups that you just never want it to end."
Louisville ends its memorable season 32-1 after advancing to its first Final Four in program history. As a team, the Cardinals had 63 kills, hitting .230 with five aces, 69 digs and 11 blocks. Anna Stevenson was second on the team, recording 12 kills on 25 swings to hit .360 with one ace and two solo blocks. Claire Chaussee turned in 11 kills with Aiko Jones add nine and a team-high two aces and Amaya Tillman recording eight on 17 swings to hit a team-high .412. Tori Dilfer paced the offense with 49 assists and 10 digs.
Wisconsin improves to 30-3, advancing to the championship match after recording 71 kills and hitting .289 with four aces, 63 digs and 11 blocks. Anna Smrek led the Badgers' offense with 20 kills on 27 swings to hit a match-high .704.
A tight contest to start, the Cardinals and Badgers traded points back-and-forth to start. Anna Stevenson gave UofL a 7-5 lead after landing a kill and an ace on consecutive plays. Wisconsin evened the set 10-10 before the teams traded points, unable to find an advantage. With the match still in a deadlock, the Badgers took a small 15-14 lead into the media timeout. Wisconsin scored four of the six points following the break to push its lead to three at 19-16 as Louisville used its first timeout of the set. The Cardinals came out of the timeout on the attack, ripping off three straight points to overcome the Wisconsin lead and tie the set 19-19 and force the Badgers to call their first timeout of the set. Wisconsin's timeout paid off, leading to a 3-0 run of its own for a 22-20 as the Cardinals used their second and final timeout of the set. Anna Stevenson landed a big swing to get the cards back within one at 22-21, but a block from the Badgers put the Cards down 23-21 late. A service error from Wisconsin gave Louisville life but the Badgers would go on to score two of the next three points to take the first set 25-23.
Another tightly contested start, the second set went back-and-forth as the teams continued to battle. UofL put together three straight points, scored by kills from three different Cardinals, to pop out to an early 8-5 lead. After siding out, the Cards strung together another 3-0 run, led by Anna DeBeer with back-to-back kills, to extend their lead to five at 11-6. Wisconsin fought to stay within five, but Louisville continued to push the pace, feeding its hitters from all angles to rail off three more points, taking a 15-8 lead into the media timeout. Following the break, the Cardinals their aggressive play as Tori Dilfer set Aiko Jones for another big kill to force Wisconsin to call a quick timeout down 16-8. Louisville would take one more point of the timeout to cap off a huge five-point run for a 17-8. From there, the teams traded points as Louisville controlled the set. The Badgers would close the gap to six at 21-15 but it wouldn't be enough as UofL went on another run, scoring four straight points, to win the second set in convincing fashion 25-15 and even the match 1-1.
Wisconsin got off a to a quick start, putting together the first four points of the set to take and early 4-0 lead. Louisville rallied, putting together a three-point run of their own to get back within one at 5-4. The set was tightly contested from there as neither team could hold on to an advantage. The Cards evened the set at 7-7 and eventually took their first lead at 9-8 before the Badgers tied things again 9-9. Wisconsin scratched away and put together a three-point run to go up 12-10, but the lead wouldn't last long as the Cardinals offense heated up, putting together a 5-1 run to erase the Badgers' lead and take a 15-13 lead of their own heading into the media timeout. Wisconsin took three of the first four points following the break to even the score 16-16 but UofL jumped right back in front 18-16 after Anna Stevenson and Tori Dilfer combined for a block and force the Badgers to use their first timeout of the set. Wisconsin's timeout paid off as the Badgers rallied for four of the five points following the break to take a one-point lead at 20-19 as Louisville called its first timeout of the set. The Badgers scored the first point out of the timeout, but a massive block from Amaya Tillman put the Cards right back within one at 21-20. The teams traded points to get to 22-21 but back-to-back points from the Badgers saw the Cardinals down 24-21 late as they used their final timeout of the set. Wisconsin would take the first point after the timeout to win the third set 25-21.
UofL got off to a quick start, popping out to an early 3-1 lead. Wisconsin turned in a three-point run to take a 4-3 lead before a kill from Anna DeBeer tied the set 4-4 and gave the serve back to the Cardinals. Both teams continued to battle as the set went back-and-forth. The Cardinals finally broke the stalemate after back-to-back kills from Claire Chaussee and Anna DeBeer gave them a 10-8 lead. Another pair of kills from Aiko Jones and Anna DeBeer gave UofL a three-point lead at 12-9 with Anna Stevenson joining the action a point later followed by and ace from Aiko Jones to give the Cards a 14-10 lead. Another kill from Anna Stevenson put Louisville up 15-11 heading into the media timeout. The Badgers took the four of the first points out of the break to get back within one at 16-15, but back-to-back points from the Cardinals forced Wisconsin to call its first timeout of the set down 18-15. The Badgers rallied again following the timeout, taking the first two points to get back within one at 18-17. Louisville went up two at 20-18, but another rally from Wisconsin saw the Badgers take a 21-20 lead as the Cardinals used their first timeout of the set. UofL came out of the timeout on the attack, scoring off a big swing from Anna DeBeer and a block by Anna Stevenson to take a 22-21 lead and force the Badgers to use their final timeout of the set. The hard-fought set continued as the teams traded points with the score locked 23-23. Louisville used its final timeout late and come out of the break hungry, getting a big swing from Claire Chaussee to land followed by an ace from Ceci Rush to take the fourth set 25-23 and force a fifth set.
Much like fourth set, UofL got off to a quick start, using a three-point run to jump out to a 3-1 lead, forcing Wisconsin to use its first timeout early in the set. The Badgers' timeout paid off as they scored the first two points after the break to even the score 3-3. Both teams continued to fight, trading points back-and-forth. With the Cardinals up one at 6-5, Wisconsin put together a three-point run to take an 8-6 lead as Louisville called its first timeout of the set. The Badgers took two of the first three points out of the break to extend their lead to three at 10-7. UofL scored one to get back within two at 10-8 but called its final timeout of the set after Wisconsin took two more points to go up 12-8 late. The Cards would rally for one more point, but the Badgers lead would prove too much to overcome as they would go on to win the set 15-9 and take the match 3-2.