Badger volleyball shocks Gophers

Wisconsin wins thrilling 5-set match

The Wisconsin volleyball team earned its biggest win of the 2004 season Saturday night by upsetting No. 2 Minnesota 3-2 in front of a season-high 5,136 fans at the UW Field House.

The 30-27, 20-30, 28-30, 30-27, 17-15 victory extends the Badgers' winning streak to seven matches and improves Wisconsin to 15-5 overall, 9-3 in the Big Ten. It is also the first time UW has defeated Minnesota (21-3, 10-2) since Nov. 17, 2001.

"I'm just thrilled with this win," UW head coach Pete Waite said. "It's a huge win for our team. I think they really hung in there when early in the match Minnesota's hitting percentage was way higher than ours. We started touching some of the balls in the block and started slowing them down a little bit. We kept our composure the whole way."

Wisconsin grabbed the early momentum by taking the first game, even after Minnesota had rallied to tie the score at 27-27.

The Gophers quickly took back the momentum by taking the next two games. Hitting .394 in the second game and an even .300 in the third, Minnesota grabbed a 2-1 lead and had an opportunity to put UW away in the fourth game.

Wisconsin showed its resolve in game four. After trailing early, the Badgers fought back to tie the score at 16-16 on a kill from Maria Carlini. The kill came in the midst of 9-2 UW run that allowed the home team to seize the lead and hold off the Gophers. Jill Odenthal ensured Wisconsin would see a fifth and decisive game by putting away game point.

The Badgers took an early 7-3 lead in game five before the Gophers battled back to tie the score at 13-13. Wisconsin would twice serve for match point, only to see the Gophers knot the score. However, with UW leading 16-15, Carlini sent the raucous crowd home happy when she placed match point in the Minnesota backcourt.

Running the offense, freshman setter Jackie Simpson put up a career-high 75 assists.

"It all goes back to our defense and our serve receive that we've been working on really hard," Simpson said. "The passers were doing their job and that makes my job a lot easier, gets some good sets out to the hitters so they can put some balls down. It was fun."

Junior middle blocker Sheila Shaw tied her career high by hammering 24 kills to lead the UW hitters. Five of those kills came in the all-important fifth game.

"I thought I just had to pick it up and be an emotional leader out there and try and pick everyone else up with me," Shaw said. "If we play with energy and intensity we can beat anyone."

Odenthal added 20 kills while hitting .378 in the match. Joining Shaw and Odenthal in double figure kills were Carlini (14) and Aubrey Meierotto (10).

"I thought Shaw and Odenthal were as good as I've ever seen them offensively," Minnesota head coach Dr. Mike Hebert said.

Carlini finished with a double-double by recording 21 digs, a career best. Libero Jo Wack matched her career-high with 22 digs.

Wisconsin returns to action when it plays host to Northwestern Wednesday.

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