SEATTLE – The University of Wisconsin (28-9) continued its Cinderella season by shocking University of Texas 25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23 in the first of two NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championship semifinal matches at KeyArena in Seattle.
Wisconsin entered the tournament as the No. 12 seed, while Texas was the defending national champion and 2013 top-seed with a 10-match NCAA postseason win streak. No. 12 Wisconsin will face the winner of the second semifinal between No. 2 seed Penn State and local favorite and No. 3 seed University of Washington.
Wisconsin’s Ellen Chapman led the Badgers with 17 kills, three aces and two blocks. Teammate Deme Morales, a diminutive 5-7 outside hitter, charted 14 kills and 14 digs in the victory. Dominique Thompson added 12 kills and five blocks. Freshman setter Lauren Carlini, who had extensive time with USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline before going into college, ran the Badger offense with 50 assists, 12 digs, four aces and two blocks. Annemarie Hickey posted a team-best 21 digs.
Haley Eckerman paced Texas with 17 kills and 14 digs for a double-double. Molly McCage contributed eight kills and seven blocks for the Longhorns, while Khat Bell tallied seven kills, 10 blocks and an ace. Bailey Webster was held to seven kills and two blocks. Longhorn setter Hannah Allison was credited with 33 assists, 11 digs and seven blocks. Sarah Palmer held a team-leading 16 digs.
Neither team hit well for the match as Texas out-hit Wisconsin .156 to .131. The Badgers committed 37 attack errors and three service errors for the match. The Longhorns had 23 attack errors and nine service errors. Texas out-blocked Wisconsin 19-10.
The USA Volleyball High Performance pipeline was well-represented in the match. Eckerman was part of the 2011 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team that finished fourth at the FIVB Women’s Junior World Championship. McCage played on the 2010 and 2011 U.S. Girls’ Youth National Volleyball Team as the captain. Webster was part of the 2008 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team. Allison was part of two FIVB World Championship teams – 2009 with the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Team and the 2011 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team. Bell also was on the 2011 U.S. Women’s Junior National Team.
Wisconsin’s Carlini was on the U.S. Girls’ Youth National Volleyball Team in 2010 and 2011. She was named the most valuable player of the 2011 USA Volleyball High Performance Championships.
Wisconsin came out strong in the first set with a 17-12 advantage, then weathered Texas coming back to within one at 20-19. The Badgers, which it only .167 for the set to Texas’ .231, benefited from three Longhorn errors in the last five points of the set to win 25-19.
Wisconsin broke a 3-all tie in the second set with a 7-0 run to surge ahead 9-3 before easing into a 25-18 victory. The Badgers hit .333 in the second set, while the Longhorns were held to a .207 efficiency. Wisconsin totaled six aces through the first two sets as the Longhorn reception was unable to keep their offense in system.
Wisconsin saved two set points in the third set and picked up its first match point at 25-24. However, Texas answered the call to tie the set again at 25-all and capped the set at 28-26 to extend the match. The Longhorns benefited from 16 Badger attack errors in the third set.
Texas led 19-16 in the fourth set, but Wisconsin chipped away to level the score at 21-all. Wisconsin took the lead at 23-22 as Thomas and Thompson combined for a block leading into Texas’ second timeout. Wisconsin completed the upset with Morales slamming the final kill at 25-23.
Wisconsin, with Kelly Sheffield in his first year as head coach directing the Badgers, was making its first semifinal appearance since 2000. The Badgers are seeking their first NCAA title after reaching the championship match for the first and only time in 2000.
Texas, which defeated University of Oregon in the 2012 finals, entered the match with a 10-match NCAA postseason win streak. The Longhorns were making their ninth overall appearance in the NCAA national semifinals and fifth time in six years.