CHAMPAIGN, Ill.-- The Wisconsin volleyball team is making history. For the first time since 2000 and the second time in program history, the 12th-seeded Badgers advance to the NCAA Final Four with a 3-1 victory over Purdue in the regional final Saturday night. Wisconsin grabbed a 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 25-21 decision at the State Farm Center to improve to 27-9 on the season.
Wisconsin will face No. 1 Texas at the Key Arena in Seattle on Thursday, Dec. 19 at 6:30 p.m. CT.
In their toughest tournament matchup so far, the Badgers showed their true colors in a hard-fought battle against the Big Ten Conference rival. Wisconsin once again finished with a large advantage in kills, putting up 66 compared to just 50 from Purdue (23-12). The Badgers out-hit the Boilermakers .244 (66 kills - 24 errors - 172 attempts) to .167 (50-23-162) on the night.
For the second straight night, a Badger outside hitter recorded 20 kills. This time, it was junior Deme Morales powering the offense as she tallied a career-high 20 kills. Fellow juniors Ellen Chapman (19) and Dominique Thompson (15) also added double-figure kills and hit over .400 to round out Wisconsin's attack. The trio were all named to the regional all-tournament team.
On the defensive end, senior Annemarie Hickey left it all on the floor, recording a match-high 23 digs. Morales put up 13 digs for her 18th season double-double, sophomore Taylor Morey added 11 saves and Carlini chipped in 10 digs.
Carlini, who was named the regional MVP, was once again the driving force behind Wisconsin's offensive fire, recording 55 assists. Coupled with her 10 digs, the freshman picked up her 21st career double-double.
For the second straight match, Wisconsin was out-blocked at the net as Purdue put up 14 blocks compared to just eight from the Badgers. Thompson led the team with four blocks for the second night in a row, and freshmen Haleigh Nelson and Carlini each added three stuffs apiece.
The Boilermakers were led offensively by juniors Val Nichol and Kierra Jones, who put up 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Freshman Faye Adelaja put up a match-high six blocks, while Jones and senior Catherine Rebarchak each added five stuffs.
Wisconsin started the match strong and jumped out to a 9-4 lead in the first set. Purdue countered with a 9-3 run to tie up the score at 17-17 and stuck with the Badgers to the end. Even with four team blocks, the Boilermakers could not overcome a Wisconsin offense that hit .310 (19-6-42) on the period. Two late kills by Nelson and a Purdue blocking error gave the Badgers a final push in their 25-22 set win.
The Badgers grabbed an early 9-6 lead in the second set, but the Boilermakers battled back and pulled ahead to gain a 19-14 advantage. Wisconsin did not give up the fight, however, and took back the lead at 20-19 after going on a 6-0 run. After nine ties and five lead changes, Purdue emerged the victor in the second period battle, winning 25-23. Neither team impressed offensively this set, as Wisconsin hit .100 (13-9-40), while Purdue hit .162 (12-6-37). Four blocks from the Boilermakers keyed the win.
Wisconsin once again took the lead early on in the third set and this time held on for the entire set, leading by as many as nine points. Four team blocks and six kills by Morales helped the Badgers to a 25-18 third set victory in which they hit .271 (17-4-48) as a team.
The Badgers broke open the fourth set with a 5-0 run to put them ahead 6-4 and made one last push to advance to Seattle, taking a 17-10 lead. The Boilermakers continued to battle, going on a 7-1 run to pull within three at 21-18. Purdue cut it to one at 23-21 but back-to-back kills by Nelson and Morales sent the Badgers on to Seattle.
Wisconsin improves to 33-16 in 17 years of NCAA tournament play.