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Wisconsin, Stanford reach NCAA volleyball final

PITTSBURGH -- Dana Rettke had 19 kills, Molly Haggerty added 15 and Wisconsin beat Baylor 25-27, 25-21, 25-17, 25-19 on Thursday night to advance to the NCAA women's volleyball championship match.

Seeking their first title, the Badgers will face defending champion Stanford in the final Saturday night. The Cardinal swept Minnesota 25-19, 25-22, 25-22 in the second semifinal behind Katherine Plummer's 26 kills.

Wisconsin is 3-0 in national semifinals, winning in 2000 and 2013 before falling in the final both times.

Rettke also had eight blocks and Tiffany Clark added 18 digs for Wisconsin (27-6). Defense was key for the Badgers, as they held the Bears to a .183 hitting percentage.

Yossiana Pressley, the unanimous Big 12 Player of the Year, led No. 1 Baylor (29-2) with 25 kills and 16 digs in the school's first trip to the NCAA semifinals.

"She gets up there and she cranks," Rettke said. "Definitely a great attacker. I think our blocking was really good."

In the fourth set, Wisconsin was finally able to neutralize Pressley, blocking her twice as the Badgers took the lead for good at 18-17. The match-winning kill from Rettke went off Pressley's outstretched fist. Pressley finished with 12 errors.

"To hold that team under .200 and to hold an elite player like Pressley under .200, it was just a great defensive effort," Badgers head coach Kelly Sheffield said.

Wisconsin avenged a 3-1 loss to Baylor on Sept. 6. The first-set loss was the first time the Badgers dropped a set in their NCAA tournament run, but the momentary hitch in momentum didn't seem to bother them.

"We didn't really panic or anything," setter Sydney Hilley said. "We knew there was a lot of volleyball left and we knew the match wasn't going to be decided by just one set."

Wisconsin will face a Stanford (29-4) team seeking its third title in four years and ninth overall. The Cardinal also beat the Gophers (27-6) in the 2016 semifinals.

Plummer, the reigning AVCA Player of the Year, hit .353% on 51 total touches and also had nine digs and five blocks. Her final kill was a back-row strike that just snuck inside the end line for the match point.

Even when Plummer wasn't killing the Gophers, she drew the Minnesota defensive focus.

"There was lots of spaces that got created because you had to look for her in the front row, the back row, and even if she was on the bench, I'm sure she could probably kill it from over there." Minnesota coach Hugh McCutcheon said.

Defensively, Stanford was just as dominant. The Cardinal set the tone with eight blocks in the first set. Morgan Hentz had 23 digs, Meghan McClure added 15 and the Cardinal held Minnesota to a .164 hitting percentage.

"I thought our block did a good job early of getting low and over really fast," Hentz said. "As time went on, I think we were able to see the hitters and their arm swings a little bit better and we were able to scrap with them more."

Stanford has been to the title game 16 times, going 8-8. It won back-to-back titles in 1996 and 1997. The appearance in the final four was the fourth straight for the Cardinal seniors, including Plummer.

"Because we've been here four times, we can kind of hand down our experience to the players that haven't done that," Plummer said. "Our freshmen and sophomores haven't been here as much as we have. I think we can give them some wisdom."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.