National pundits are still shaking their head this morning wondering how a smaller, less athletic Wisconsin Badgers women’s volleyball team breezed past top-seeded Texas Longhorns in the National seminfinals, Thursday night at Key Arena in Seattle.
On their largest stage, likely ever, Wisconsin completed one of their two tasks they set out to do when they booked their plane tickets. The Badgers beat Texas.
And they did it in one of most glaring, simple ways possible. They didn’t beat themselves and they believed they belonged.
“You know, we believed that we could win this match,” UW head coach, Kelly Sheffield, said. “And I think that’s a big part of anytime you go into anything. This has been a team that no matter who we played we believed, the players have believed that there’s a way to win.”
Everyone in the colisium Thursday knew Wisconsin’s only chance at dethroning the defending champs was to get out early and not look back.
UW did just that, dominating the first two sets with a series of runs, one 7-0 run early in the first, behind another consistent and strong Wisconsin serving attack.
“We had to serve with confidence,” Sheffield said. “We had to execute with fearlessness behind the serving line. We believed if we did that, they were going to get we’d have them out of system a lot. If they’re out of system, I knew we’ve got the best back court in the country and we’d be able to dig some balls.”
Texas’ net defense was going to be a factor in the match, regardless of the outcome. Although the Longhorns out-blocked the Badgers 19-10, Wisconsin made up for it in hustle and unforced errors, digging out 9 more attacks, also.
“This has been a team that no matter who we played we believed, the players have believed that there’s a way to win” – Kelly Sheffield
Anne Marie Hickey grabbed a match-high, 21 digs. Her 21 saves also gave the senior her sixth 20-plus match of the season. Deme Morales tossed in 14 digs for her 19th double-double on the season, and Lauren Carlini, who accounted for 50 of UW’s 57 assists in the match, also put up 12 digs for her team-leading 22nd double-double.
UW will face Big Ten rival, Penn State, in the championship game Saturday night. The 2nd-seed Nittany Lions swept 3rd-seeded Washington (25-14, 25-13, 25-16) in the other national semifinal match.