Wisconsin shocks No. 3 seed Hawaii

Badger volleyball team wins thrilling match over second-ranked team in the country, advances to NCAA Regional championship Saturday

GREEN BAY — Senior Jill Odenthal was not about to let her Badger career come to an end at the hands of the Hawaii Rainbow Wahine. Behind 25 kills and several huge blocks from the 6-foot Odenthal, the Wisconsin volleyball team dealt Hawaii its first loss of the season in the Sweet Sixteen round of the NCAA tournament. The Badgers bounced the No. 2 team in the country from the tournament 3-2 by scores of 31-29, 30-23, 22-30, 28-30, 21-19.

"It came down to us believing we could win and following through on that," Odenthal said. "We came in there with nothing to lose and it just felt good to step up and play great."

After winning games one and two, only to drop three and four, UW used a game-five comeback to advance to the regional final against Stanford Saturday afternoon at the Resch Center here.

"That was one of the most phenomenal matches I've ever been a part of and I've been coaching for a long time," UW head coach Pete Waite said. "Hawaii is a great team and I have a ton of respect for them. Our kids really stood strong, they really came on in the fifth."

The UW offense stormed out of the gates, hitting at a .326 clip in the match's first two games and allowing the upset-minded Badgers to head to the locker room with a seemingly commanding two games to none lead.

The Rainbow Wahine emerged from the intermission a new team, taking game three by recording a team hitting percentage of .311.

Wisconsin rallied to tie game four at 27-27, but faltered down the stretch. Hawaii setter Kanoe Kamana'o sealed the game for the Rainbow Wahine by blocking Maria Carlini to force a decisive game five.

The Badgers grabbed the early momentum in the final contest, jumping out to a 8-5 lead before the Rainbow Wahine stormed back to tie the score at 9-9 and eventually grabbing a 13-11 advantage. After a service error by Hawaii's Kelly Ong, Odenthal drew Wisconsin even once again by hammering a kill. Undeterred, the Wahine got a kill from Susie Boogaard, allowing them to serve for match point. Once again, Odenthal had an answer, as she recorded a kill to even the score.

"Technically, tactically, we just couldn't stop Odenthal," Hawaii head coach Dave Shoji said. "We never did slow her down. We tried everything."

Following a Carlini kill that made the score 15-14 in favor of Wisconsin, the Badgers served the first of four unsuccessful match points. The Rainbow Wahine had one final chance to take the match, serving with a 19-18 lead. Odenthal tied the score with her final kill of the evening.

"I told them in the fifth game, ‘You guys better want this as much as I do, because I want this very, very bad,'" Odenthal said.

Carlini and Taylor Reineke teamed up to block Juliana Sanders to put UW back in front at 20-19. Fittingly, it was Odenthal who sent the Badgers to the regional finals by stuffing Boogaard with a solo block.

"I told my players that was one of the best volleyball matches I've been involved with as a player or coach," Shoji said. "It was well played, it had every emotion you could ask for. I just think it was what college athletics are all about."

In addition to Odenthal's 25 kills, Shaw and Aubrey Meierotto each added 16 kills, while Carlini finished with 13. Jackie Simpson recorded 64 assists at the helm of the UW attack.

Freshman libero Jocelyn Wack starred in the Wisconsin back row by tallying a career-best 35 digs in the match.

"At critical times, she made some awesome digs to keep us in the match," Waite said. "Thirty-five digs in a five-game match is phenomenal."

Wisconsin (22-9) will meet No. 11 seed Stanford (27-6) Saturday at 3 p.m. in the regional final. Led by outside hitter Ogonna Nnamani's 28 kill's, the Cardinal defeated the Texas Longhorns 3-0 in the other regional semifinal.

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