Early on, it looked like Florida would cruise to victory in its NCAA regional volleyball semifinal.
It ended up taking longer than expected.
After blowing a 2-0 set lead, the 11th-seeded Gators fought back to take set five and eliminated No. 6 Wisconsin on Friday at Gregory Gymnasium.
Florida, which prevailed 25-17, 25-23, 19-25, 22-25, 15-12, is now 4-0 at Texas’ home gym the past two seasons. The Gators will face the winner of Friday’s late matchup between No. 3 Texas and No. 14 UCLA. First serve is set for 8 p.m. Saturday.
For Florida, Rhamat Alhassan and Alex Holston recorded 24 and 20 kills, respectively. The frontcourt duo dominated the net early and then again in set five. Holston had kills to tie the score at 11-11 and 12-12, and she and the 6-feet, 4-inch Alhassan combined on a block for a 14-12 edge. Florida (25-6) scored the final point of the night on an attack error by Wisconsin’s Kelli Bates.
Long and athletic, Florida figures to be a tough out for any team it comes across in the tournament. If its next opponent happens to be Texas, there will be concerns; the Gators have beaten Texas at Gregory in each of the past two seasons. This year, it was a four-set win on Sept. 5.
Credit Wisconsin (26-6) with continuing to battle. The Badgers hit .355 to take set three, much to the pleasure of the school’s athletic director, Barry Alvarez, who was sitting courtside.
In set four, Big Ten setter of the year Lauren Carlini caught Florida flat-footed with a quick strike to the back row for a 14-9 lead. That was followed by a service ace by Haleigh Nelson.
Florida contributed to its own collapse with three service errors, giving Wisconsin its 21st, 22nd and 23rd points of the fourth set.