Badgers volleyball sweeps way to Sweet 16

Two years in to the Kelly Sheffield era at Wisconsin, two years of the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. After a 3-1 victory over Western Michigan on Thursday night, the Badgers closed out the season at the UW Field House with a 3-0 sweep (25-17, 25-19, 25-19).

Wisconsin’s win marks the 12th Sweet 16 appearance in program history, and the sweep marked the 22nd for the Badgers this season.

Star setting Lauren Carlini had herself a great all-around game, producing 33 of Wisconsin’s 36 assists to go along with 13 digs and one of the five aces for the Badgers. Wisconsin also got a balanced offensive effort, with freshman Kelsi Bates leading the attack with 10 kills.

Bates was the only one in double figures for UW, but three Badgers had seven kills and senior Dominique Thompson was second with nine kills of her own.

It was a big defensive battle between the Badgers and Redbirds, with UW hitting just .240 on the night and ISU hitting .131. UW outblocked the Redbirds 12.0 to 3.0 on the way to victory tonight.

However, it was the serve that mattered most as Wisconsin recorded five service aces to none for Illinois State. The Redbirds also shot themselves in the foot with eight services errors to just five for UW.

Wisconsin had it pretty easy in the first set of the night, going up 3-0 to start and 8-3 quickly in the match. Illinois State tied up the set twice at 10-10 and then again at 15-15, but each time the Badgers responded. After the 15-15 tie, the Badgers regrouped and scored 10 of the next 14 points to kill off the set.

It wouldn’t be quite as easy in the 2nd set, as the Redbirds took a 6-3 lead and would also take an 8-5 lead. However, UW buckled down and powered through the rest of the set. After the score hit 12-12 in the set, the Badgers rattled of six unanswered points to make it 18-12, and UW was firmly in control from then on. UW needed two set points to get the job done, but the job was done on a Lauren Carlini serve that forced an attacking error on the Redbirds.

The Redbirds fought hard for most of the 3rd set, keeping the match within a point or two either way until it reached 17-17. Wisconsin scored the the next three points to make it 20-17 and were able to push it to 22-18 on a block by Kelli Bates and Haleigh Nelson. From there UW scored three of the next four points to close out the set and the match.

Wisconsin now moves on to the Sweet 16 round in the Louisville Regional, and will take on the winner of No. 13 seed Kentucky vs. Ohio State that will be played tomorrow night. That game will take place on Dec. 12 and will be televised on ESPN3.

Andrew Coppens

About Andrew Coppens

Andy is a member of the Football Writers Association of America (FWAA). He is the Managing Editor of MadTownBadger and associate editor of Bloguin's World Cup site, 32flags.com as well as Publisher of Big Ten site talking10.com