Wisconsin sweeps California in the second round, advance to Sweet 16
MADISON – For the first time since 2006, the Wisconsin volleyball team has advanced to play in the NCAA Sweet 16. The 12th-seeded Badgers moved on with a 25-19, 25-18, 25-21 sweep of California on Saturday night in the UW Field House.
Wisconsin (25-9) will play Florida State in the Champaign, Ill., Regional on Dec. 13 at either 4 p.m. or 6 p.m. in the State Farm Center.
"It's cool. I don't know if there's a better way of saying it," head coach Kelly Sheffield said on his team advancing to regional play. "I'm happy for our team. I'm happy Annemarie (Hickey) gets to play some more volleyball. We're going to go (to Champaign), we're going to give it our best shot."
Much like Friday's match against Milwaukee, a high-powered offense and relentless defense were what led Wisconsin to victory.
For the second straight match and just the second time this season, the Badger offense hit better than .400 as a team. Wisconsin recorded a .404 attack percentage (53 kills - 9 errors - 109 attempts), compared to .205 (43-19-117) from the Bears. Even more impressive was that each Wisconsin player hit better than .300 on the night.
"Today was a good offensive night," said Sheffield. "We talked about going into the match and throughout the match, our defense has to lead to our offense. And I thought defensively we were really good. Annemarie with 18 digs, she had half the digs for the team tonight. (She) just was really, really tough."
Juniors Ellen Chapman and Deme Morales were once again the dynamic duo on offense for Wisconsin, each recording double-figure kills. Chapman led all players with 14 kills while Morales followed with 10. Fellow juniors Dominique Thompson and Courtney Thomas added nine and eight kills, respectively.
Defensively, the Badgers got a stellar performance from their lone senior Annemarie Hickey, who led all players with 18 digs. Wisconsin out-dug Cal 45-38 on the night.
Blocks were again key for UW, as it out-blocked Cal 9-5. Thompson put up four stuffs to grab match-high honors as the freshman duo of Haleigh Nelson and Lauren Carlini each contributed three blocks.
Despite not recording a single ace, Wisconsin was extremely accurate at the service line. The Badgers recorded a season-low three service errors.
Cal (18-13) was led offensively by junior Christina Higgins, who recorded 12 kills. Defensively, freshman Maddy Kerr led the Bears with nine digs and sophomore Lillian Schonewise recorded a team-high three blocks. Schonewise and sophomore Lara Vukasovic both added nine kills for California.
Wisconsin and the Bears battled through the first nine points with ties at each points. The Badgers led 13-12 before going on a 7-1 run to extend their lead to 20-13. Wisconsin hit .548 (19-2-31) as a team and put up four blocks on the period to help lead them to victory.
The Badgers took the initial lead in the second set and did not look back, maintaining the advantage throughout the entire period. Wisconsin saw its largest lead at 18-13 and went into the break up 2-0 in the match. UW was once again impressive on offense, hitting .474 (19-1-38) in the set.
Cal gave Wisconsin a scare in the third set, as the Bears shot out to a 10-4 lead. Wisconsin countered with a 12-5 run, however, and grabbed its first lead of the set at 21-20. The Badgers led 23-21 on a kill by Morales before a Bear hitting error and a kill by Chapman completed the sweep. The California offense hit just .065 (12-9-46) in the set.
"Florida State is a really good team, they're really well coached," said Sheffield of the Badgers' next opponent. "That team was in the final four a couple years ago, so they've got some experienced players. We get to come back and practice, and when you're with a team that you really enjoy being around, you want the season to go for a while because you get to go back in the gym."
Wisconsin improves to 31-16 in 17 years of NCAA tournament play and will compete in the Sweet 16 for the 11th time in program history.
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