OMAHA, Neb. - The eighth-seeded Florida volleyball team left it all on the court, but fell to the top-ranked Wisconsin Badgers in a thrilling five-set match in the Regional Final of the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament.
This season was once of great success for a Gator squad that continued its staggering streak of 30-straight trips to the NCAA Tournament - the third-longest active streak in the nation.
Florida also made its 17th Regional Final in program history and garnered 21 wins in this unprecedented split season.
Wisconsin took the tightly-contested first set by a score of 30-28, but the Gators responded with a 25-18 victory in the second to even up the match at 1-1. The Badgers took the third set 25-22, but Florida answered right back with a 25-18 win in the fourth to force a deciding fifth set. Wisconsin clinched the match with a 15-12 victory in the final frame.
Florida's offensive attack was led by Thayer Hall, who posted 23 kills on the evening - just two shy of her career-best. T'ara Ceasar followed with 17 kills in the five-setter, while Lauren Forte added 10.
Marlie Monserez anchored Florida's offense, dishing out 46 assists on the night.
As a team, the Gators recorded 12.0 blocks and held the Badgers to a .153 clip in the match. Holly Carlton and Forte each notched seven blocks on the night to lead the way for Florida.
The backcourt defense was led by Elli McKissock, who posted 23 digs in the match. Monserez added 22 of her own - a new career-high for the junior - while Ceasar added 19 of her own, tying her career-best. Hall rounded out the Gators in double-digit digs, posting 16 in the five-setter.
Florida recorded seven service aces in the match, led by four from Ceasar.
8-Seed Florida (21-4, 19-3 SEC)
1-Seed Wisconsin (16-0, 13-0 BIG TEN)
How It Happened
- The first set was nothing short of entertaining, with the teams needing extra points to declare a victor. The start of the frame was close, with neither team holding more than a two-point lead until Wisconsin pulled ahead 13-9. The Badgers kept Florida at a distance throughout the middle of the set, but Florida strung together an impressive 8-2 run to pull ahead 24-23. The two squads continued to trade points through extras, but Wisconsin put together a 3-0 run of its own to take the first set 30-28.
- The Gators recorded five blocks in the frame, led by three apiece from Forte and Carlton. Hall led all scorers with four kills, while Forte added three kills of her own.
- The second set was all Gators from the start, with Florida never trailing after the 0-1 mark. Florida pulled ahead six points at the 14-8 mark and again at the 18-12 mark before the Badgers battled back to within three at 19-16. That would be the closest the Badgers would get as Florida closed out the frame on a 6-2 run to tie the match at 1-1.
- Ceasar posted eight kills in the second set alone, followed by three from Hall. Forte posted three blocks in the set to go along with one kill.
- The third set was once again a back-and-forth battle between the two squads, with neither holding more than a three-point lead until the Badgers took the 22-18 late. Florida pulled back to within two at 24-22, but a service error secured the frame for Wisconsin and gave the Badgers the 2-1 match lead.
- Hall registered five kills in the third frame, while Ceasar posted two of her own.
- The Gators held the four-point lead over the Badgers early in the fourth frame, but Wisconsin fought back to tie the set at 14-14. With the game tied, Florida closed out the set on an impressive 11-4 run behind the serves of Ceasar, Monserez and Hall.
- Hall posted a staggering nine kills in the fourth set, while Monserez added 10 assists and seven digs to force a deciding fifth set.
- Florida jumped out to the early 7-4 lead in the final frame, but the Badgers dug themselves out of the three-point hole to tie the set at 9-9. Wisconsin got the edge, taking the 13-11 lead before the Gators were able to cut the deficit to one at 13-12. The Badgers closed out the frame on 2-0 run to secure the match and move on to the National Semifinals.
- Forte and Hall each notched two kills in the final frame, while four different Gators each registered a block in the set.
- Marlie Monserez posted a career-high 22 digs in the match
- T'ara Ceasar tied her career-high in digs with 19
- Marlie Monserez recorded her 10th double-double of the season with 46 assists and 22 digs
- T'ara Ceasar registered her team-high 11th double-double of the season with 17 kills and 19 digs
- Thayer Hall notched her fourth double-double with 23 kills and 16 digs
- Lauren Forte recorded seven blocks, tying her season-best mark
- The last time the Gators had four players in double-digit digs was 3/12/21 against Missouri
- Florida falls to 8-9 in the Regional Final round of the NCAA Tournament
- UF moves to 77-31 (.713) in the NCAA Tournament, including a 76-30 (.717) record under Mary Wise
- As a 10-seed or better, Florida is now 51-17 (.750) in program history
- The Gators fall to 5-1 against Wisconsin in the all-time series and 2-1 in the NCAA Tournament
- UF's 77 NCAA Tournament wins are eighth all-time
- Mary Wise's 76 NCAA Tournament wins are sixth all-time in Division I history
- The Gators finish the 2020-21 campaign 2-2 in five-set matches
Thoughts from Coach Wise
- "This was a heavy-weight match between two great teams from two great conferences. Awfully proud of this team and the growth they embraced starting way back in August. We asked more from this team for a longer period of time than any team in our history."
Player's Corner - Thayer Hall
On what she will remember most from the season
- "What I will remember most is no matter what role anyone had today - whether it was on the court or on the bench - everyone put everything out there that they had. Today was really good volleyball on both sides and that is what we are going to take away."