Badgers' NCAA run ends in regional final

Stanford sweeps Wisconsin volleyball to advance to the Final Four

GREEN BAY — The Wisconsin volleyball team saw its season come to an end in the regional finals of the NCAA tournament, as the Badgers were swept by the Stanford Cardinal 3-0. After an emotionally-draining five-game win over No. 3-seeded Hawaii a night earlier, UW had no answer for three-time All-American Ogonna Nnamani and Stanford at the Resch Center Saturday. Nnamani hammered 27 kills to lead the Cardinal to a 30-18, 31-29, 30-26 win.

"I think it was a tough match for us today, coming off a very emotional match last night," UW head coach Pete Waite said. "The team gave everything they could, but the first game was very flat for us. Once we started waking up a little bit, the second game was close. I was really proud of the way they battled, considering what they went through last night."

The Cardinal (28-6) dominated the match's opening game, racking up a .526 hitting percentage behind 10 Nnamani kills.

The Badgers began to show life in game two. After falling behind 8-2 early, UW battled back to grab a 12-11 lead following an attack error by Stanford's Kristin Richards.

"It showed the character of the team, coming back and fighting," Waite said of game two. "They could have really at that point laid down and been done."

Wisconsin had an opportunity to even the score at one game apiece, but could not put Stanford away. With the Badgers serving for game point at 29-28, Franci Girard tied the game with a kill. A hitting error by UW's Maria Carlini followed by a Richards kill gave the game to the Cardinal.

UW pushed Stanford once again in game three, but could not stay with the No. 11 seed down the stretch. The game was tied as late as 25-25, but the Cardinal took control and closed out the match on a 5-1 run. Richards slammed a kill in the back right corner to send her team to the Final Four in Long Beach, Calif.

"I'm very proud of our team, we've come a long way," Stanford head coach John Dunning said. "At one point, no one would have thought we could have gotten into the Final Four after the first two weeks of the season."

Aubrey Meierotto and Sheila Shaw led Wisconsin with 13 kills apiece.

"It was a really great year," Meierotto said. "I think finishing strong like this is really going to carry over into next season."

After recording a career-high 25 kills against Hawaii, senior Jill Odenthal was held to just seven kills and a .107 hitting percentage in her final collegiate match.

"I just didn't click as well with (setter) Jackie (Simpson) this afternoon and they did a great job digging," Odenthal said.

Odenthal and libero Jocelyn Wack were both named to the regional's all-tournament team. Wack finished with 16 digs against Stanford, giving her a two-match total of 51. Wisconsin ends the 2004 season with a 22-10 record. Reaching the Elite Eight was the furthest the Badgers have advanced in the NCAA tournament since 2000.

"For us, it's been a fantastic season," Waite said. "To look at the number of new people in the lineup this year on the team and how young they were, they've come a long, long way. To be in the top eight in the country was fantastic."


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