Thursday, December 16, 2021

Live-Blogging NCAA Women's Final Four (December 2021)

The B1G sweeps the ACC, sending Wisconsin and Nebraska to Saturday's final... Badgers won both regular-season matches, 26-24, 25-19, 25-23 in Lincoln on October 27, and 14-25, 25-23, 26-24, 25-18 in Madison on November 26. A lot of deuce-games there!

Nebraska-Pittsburgh: Pitt leading 12-8 in Game 1... Panthers crushing the ball like they did against Purdue in the regional final, hitting .467 thus far (8-1-15). Statistics from NCAA website... Now 15-8... 17-13 Pitt... Game 1 to Panthers 25-16...

Game 2:  Huskers faring better in Game 2, leading 14-9, having upped their hitting percentage from .167 in Game 1 to .615 (9-1-13) thus far in Game 2... Nebraska evens it at a game apiece, 25-17... Game 2 hitting percentages: Nebraska .440, Pitt .161.

Game 3: 7-5 Nebraska... Pitt with a mini-rally to lead 10-9... Panthers' Serena Gray, one of the stars of their win over Purdue, currently hitting .600 (7-1-10) on the night (cumulatively)... 12-11 Pitt... 14-all... Mini-rally for Nebraska, as it leads 17-15... Now 17-all... Blocking count to this point: Huskers 7, Panthers 4. NU pulls ahead 20-18... Now 23-18... Huskers take it 25-20... Their highest percentage hitters thus far (cumulatively) have been Kayla Caffey (.417, 6-1-12) and Lauren Stivrins (.455, 5-0-11), although neither has that many attempts...

Game 4: Quick 3-0 lead for Nebraska... 8-5 Huskers... 13-10 Huskers... With a few kills in Games 3 and 4, Lindsay Krause, one of Nebraska's super-frosh in the regional final win over Texas, has raised her hitting percentage tonight to .357 (7-2-14)... Now 15-11 NU... Pitt hanging in, down 16-14... 18-14... Pitt won't go away, cuts deficit to 18-16... Big Pitt block cuts it further, 18-17... Now 19-18 Nebraska... 20-19 Nebraska... 20-all... Big Nebraska block for 21-20 lead... 22-20 Huskers as Pitt spike attempt apparently deemed to have hit antenna... 22-21... Stivrins off-speed attack ups NU lead to 23-21... Stivrins again, 24-21... Nebraska puts away overpass, but swing's follow through hits net, 24-22... Another Nebraska block ends it, 25-22.

Wisconsin-Louisville: I wasn't expecting the Final Four telecast to come on until 7:00 pm Central, but it began at 7:00 Eastern. Hence, I've caught very little of the first two games, which Wisconsin and Louisville have split (Badgers 25-23 in the opener and Cardinals 25-15 in the second). Per the ESPN announcers, the Game-2 loss ends Wisconsin's streak of winning 19 straight games.. Louisville coach Dani  Busboom Kelly, interviewed during the break, attributed the Cards' comeback to improved digging in Game 2... Louisville has been the steadier hitting team, recording percentages of .400 and .393 in the two games. Wisconsin: .412 and .167...

Game 3: Badgers off to a quick 4-0 lead... Cards to within 6-5... Wisconsin wins long rally to break 7-7 tie... Now tied 8-8... Cards with first lead of Game 2, 9-8... Badgers' 6-foot-9 middle Anna Smrek having a dominant hitting night (.857, 12-0-14). Cards lead 14-12, however... 15-13 Louisville at media time-out... Teams trading mini-rallies, with Badgers tying game 16-all... Wisc serves into net, putting Louisville up 17-16... Now 18-16, T/O Wisc... Cardinal hitting paced by Anna Stevenson (.667, 8-0-12) and Amaya Tillman (.600, 7-1-10), cumulative to this point...  We're tied again, 19-all... Badgers go up 20-19, T/O Louisville... Not hearing much from Badgers' 6-foot-8 middle Dana Rettke (.167, 8-5-18)... Now 21-19 Badgers, but Tillman block keeps things close, 21-20... Another Smrek kill for 22-20... Now 24-21 Badgers on an 8-3 run... Smrek now hitting .850 (17-0-20)... Rettke block closes it out, 25-21...

Game 4: Smrek with first hitting error (long, no touch) on first point... 2-0 Louisville... Badger mini-rally to lead 4-3... 7-up... 11-9 Cards, with a couple of recent kills by Anna DeBeer on high outside sets over Wisc double-block... Card mini-rally for 14-10 lead... Now, 14-11... 15-11 at media T/O... Solid night for DeBeer, hitting .257 on match-leading 35 swings (16-7-35)... Badgers within 15-13... Now 16-14 Cards... Now 17-15... Cards' serve-receipt passes getting very close to the net, but setter improvising... 18-15 Louisville, T/O Wisc... Block and kill bring UW within 18-17... 19-17 UL... 20-18 on Wisc service error... 20-all... 21-20 Badgers in this game of mini-rallies... 21-all on another DeBeer kill on high-outside set... UL block for 22-21 lead... 22-all after long rally... Louisville challenge on whether Rettke netted... Call stands... Louisville outblocking Wisconsin 11-8 at this point... Badger service error for 23-22 lead... Possibly the point of the match on long rally (lots of balls blocked but kept in play by hitting team), but Louisville called for reaching over the net to attack ball... 23-all... Cards take next point for 24-23 lead... Ace (25-23), we're going five!

Game 5: Will it be Smrek/Rettke duo for Badgers or DeBeer for Cardinals (or other players entirely) stepping up in the decider? 1-all start... 2-1 Cards on DeBeer off-speed shot... Wisc hits it out for 3-1 UL lead... Rettke block to close to 3-2... 3-3... Rettke hits it out for 4-3 Card lead... 4-all... DeBeer for 5-4... 5-all... DeBeer again... UL serve-receipt solid again... 6-all... Badgers into the net. 7-6 UL, but UW challenging... (You learn something every day: If a player's hair touches the net, it's not a violation.)... Challenge affirmed, but because ball was still in play, a replay is called at 6-6... 7-6 Badgers... 8-6 Wisc, T/O Louisville... Badgers on 7-3 run (from down 1-3)... 9-6... Claire Chaussee with kill off the block, 9-7... Now 10-7 UW... Wisc hits long for 10-8, challenging on possible touch (denied)... Badger block for 11-8... UL hits it out for 12-8 Wisc lead... As per ESPN, Badgers even up the block count, 11-11... UL having trouble getting kills, UW isn't, 13-8... 14-8... 14-9... Badger kill to end it, 15-9...

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