"I was telling everyone I saw all week that Loyola was a good team," UW head coach Pete Waite said. "They really made us work to win this match. I was also really proud of our team. They stepped up to any surges Loyola came at us with."
UW quickly learned it would be in a dog fight all night long, as a scrappy Loyola team battled wire to wire in game one. The Ramblers led as late as 27-26 before the Badgers reeled off four consecutive points to take the game. Maria Carlini hammered back-to-back kills and teamed with Taylor Reineke to block Loyola's Hilary Stromath for game point. Wisconsin recorded 9.5 blocks in game one alone.
A youthful UW squad turned to its veterans for offense in game two. Junior outside hitter Aubrey Meierotto and senior opposite Jill Odenthal recorded four kills apiece, as the Badgers held off the pesky Ramblers and took a two-games-to-none lead into the locker room.
"The upperclassmen really pulled through and made it easy for them (the younger players) to be on the court and feel comfortable," Waite said.
Loyola held its last lead of the match at 12-11 in game three, but an Odenthal kill and a block by Odenthal and Reineke gave Wisconsin the lead. An attack error by Loyola's Kathryn Langheld capped a 9-3 UW run that gave the Badgers all the cushion they would need. Sheila Shaw hammered home match point, giving Wisconsin a 3-0 win and a date with Notre Dame.
Odenthal led the Badgers with 12 kills, while Shaw added 10. Carlini and Meierotto each added nine kills against a small but defensively-active Loyola team.
"I knew that they were scrappy," Odenthal said. "So, I tried to aim high for the end lines."
Reineke keyed the Wisconsin block by tallying 10 block assists. Carlini added one solo block and six assists. The tall Badger frontline shut down the Ramblers' top offensive threat in Nichol Amberg. Amberg, who averaged 4.32 kills per game this season, was limited to just four kills in the match and a hitting percentage of -.242.
"They effectively took away our left-side attack," Loyola head coach Tim O'Brien said. "They keyed on her (Amberg). We scored in other places, we stayed right in the game, but when it came down to it, we would have needed a couple more kills on the left side."
Wisconsin has now won nine consecutive matches at the Field House. First serve against Notre Dame is set for 7 p.m.