No. 4 Wisconsin is headed to the Sweet Sixteen.
The Badgers (27-3, 17-3 Big Ten) downed Florida Gulf Coast (27-6, 15-1 ASUN) in three sets, sweeping the Eagles 25-17, 25-20, 25-15 Saturday night at the UW Field House in Madison.
"That was a tough match against a very tough opponent," FGCU coach Matt Botsford said. "And I thought our girls competed their tails off. Of course we would've liked to have executed at a higher level, and apply some pressure a little more consistently. There were spurts in that match where I thought we did extremely well.
"It is a disappointing way to end, but it isn't a reflection of our season by any stretch, and we're going to learn from it. We're going to leave this press room and we're going to celebrate the season we had, and not the last match we played."
FGCU had problems early when it came to defending Grace Loberg. The 6-foot-3 outside hitter had 10 kills midway through the second set with zero hitting errors. At the time, she was hitting at a .714 clip.
The height in the middle for Wisconsin also gave FGCU fits. Anna Smrek, who is 6-9, and 6-8 Dana Rettke combined for 14 kills in the middle. Sydney Hilley had 40 assists for the Badgers, while Chelsey Lockey had 26 for FGCU.
As a team, Wisconsin hit .455 against the Eagles, while FGCU hit .184.
"Well, I think that's a reflection of Wisconsin, that's for sure," Botsford said. "I think we have a really good defensive team, a really good blocking team. What they did on the offensive end of the ball was pretty special. There's a reason they're the No. 4 team in the country, and that's a difficult matchup for anybody.
"We couldn't find any answers there. There were some stretches there where I thought we did some good things defensively, but the difference is the consistency that they play at. We might've played three or four points really good, and then they would go on runs."
Barron Collier graduate Skylar English showed flashes of leading the Eagles in future years, finishing with eight kills, which included a team-high .412 hitting percentage. Erin Shomaker ended the match with 10 kills, just ahead of English.
The Eagles will fly back to Fort Myers with 27 wins, which is tied for the second most in program history. FGCU notched 29 wins in 2006 as a Division II program.
This article originally appeared on Fort Myers News-Press: No. 4 Wisconsin ends FGCU's Sweet Sixteen bid in second round of NCAA Tournament