Wisconsin moves on to Sweet 16

First-game comeback propels Badgers to three-game sweep of visiting Notre Dame

MADISON—The Wisconsin volleyball team punched its ticket to the Green Bay regional and the Sweet 16 by defeating Notre Dame 3-0 Saturday. Led by sophomore left-side hitter Maria Carlini's 15 kills, the Badgers dominated play at the net and swept the Fighting Irish 36-34, 30-16, 30-16 in the second round of the NCAA tournament at the UW Field House. Wisconsin held Notre Dame to a negative .015 hitting percentage in the match, thanks in part to 15.5 team blocks.

"We were just really focused on being disciplined and blocking their big hitters and shutting them down," middle blocker Sheila Shaw said.

UW appeared to be well on its way to a game-one loss, falling behind 29-23 after a kill by Notre Dame's Lauren Brewster. With their backs to the wall, though, the Badgers recorded six-consecutive points to tie the score. Notre Dame would retake a one-point lead four times, only to see Wisconsin battle back. Eventually, with the game tied at 34-34, Shaw blocked Brewster to give UW the lead and Carlini put away an Irish overpass for game point. In all, Wisconsin survived nine game points en route to the 36-34 win.

"That first game was critical," UW head coach Pete Waite said. "We came from behind, which is very tough to do in rally scoring. Our kids just dug deep and kept battling, and the crowd kept them in it. Winning that was huge for us because after that Notre Dame really struggled keeping up with us and staying with the pace of the game."

Following their game-one collapse, the Fighting Irish provided little resistance the rest of the way, and the Badgers took the second and third games by the identical scores of 30-16. Senior Marian Weidner hammered a kill for match point.

After being substituted out of the lineup midway through game one, Carlini finished with a hitting percentage of .367 in addition to her match-high 15 kills.

"I was really tentative at the beginning and that was forcing me to shank balls," the 6-foot-2 sophomore said.

Shaw joined Carlini in double figures with 14 kills.

Wisconsin will meet No. 3 seed Hawaii (30-0) Friday at the Resch Center in Green Bay.

The match will mark UW's first Sweet 16 appearance since 2001.

"They're always a great team," Waite said of the Rainbow Wahine. "They've got great athletes and they have some good wins this year. They're a Final Four regular, so they're used to being at the high levels. We're excited to be there."

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