Volleyball: Sweep into Sweet Sixteen

Badgers dominate California in NCAA second-round match

Wisconsin volleyball coach Pete Waite had reason to smile after the Badgers' impressive win at the UW Field House Saturday. The 11th-seeded Badgers dominated visiting California 30-23, 30-22, 30-25 to cruise through an NCAA Tournament second-round matchup.

"That's the way the team's supposed to be playing come tournament time," Waite said. "I was extremely pleased with the way we served the ball, location. Our blocking was solid. Passed the ball well and it made for a good game."

The Badgers (25-6) advance to face No. 6 seed Notre Dame (30-3) in a College Station Regional semifinal Dec. 9.

"The feeling right now is pretty indescribable," senior middle blocker Sheila Shaw said. "And it is awesome to get a win here and know that we're going to Texas and playing in Sweet Sixteen and hopefully we can continue our journey to the Final Four."

Another Big Ten team, Purdue (25-8), will join Wisconsin on the Texas A&M campus next weekend. The Boilermakers will face No. 3 seed Washington (28-1) in the other regional semifinal in College Station, Texas.

Wisconsin rarely trailed Saturday, and only early in each game. Cal (19-11) never led by more than two points. Its last lead in the first and third games was at 3-2, and its last lead in game two was at 5-4.

"That's a very good Cal team and I think we slowed them down in some of the spots they like to score at and just played solid," Waite said. "Really never got behind, never were under a lot of stress but just played really good volleyball."

UW senior outside hitter Aubrey Meierotto had a match-high 14 kills and a .500 hitting percentage and Shaw added 10 kills and a .438 hitting percentage.

Setter Jackie Simpson recorded a double-double with 37 assists and 10 digs. She also had six kills and a .455 hitting percentage.

Libero Jocelyn Wack had a team-high 15 digs, giving her 62 consecutive games with double-figure digs, one shy of the NCAA record.

The story of the game, though, was Wisconsin's ability to limit California's quality chances, and the Bears' inability to get into a rhythm until game three.

Waite lauded his team's ability to serve to spots that made it difficult for Cal to execute its offense. With the Bears forced to scramble for much of the evening, the Badgers' block was able to take charge.

"They're a very good offensive team, mostly structured on the outside with Beck and Pressey and we were able to slow them down and get in their faces a little bit and alter their shots," Waite said.

Middle blocker Taylor Reineke led the Badgers with seven blocks. Simpson added five and Shaw and freshman outside hitter Audra Jeffers added three each.

The Badgers' held the Bears to a paltry .116 team hitting percentage, including a -.103 in game two.

Through the first two games, California had 24 kills and 23 hitting errors.

"We made a lot of mistakes," Cal coach Rich Feller said. "I thought for a while we were passing pretty good and then we didn't pass as well, which makes us go high outside and for sure, then size becomes a factor."

The Bears' three most dangerous players — sophomore outside hitter Angie Pressey, freshman outside hitter Morgan Beck and senior outside hitter Jenna Brown — were all taken out of their game early.

For the match, Brown had a -.062 hitting percentage, after hitting .272 during the regular season. Beck, who averaged 3.25 kills per game during the season, recorded a .029 hitting percentage Saturday, including a dreadful -.375 in the second game.

Pressey, who had four kills and three errors through the first two games, and a -.091 hitting percentage in game two, came alive in the third game, with eight kills and no errors.

"Pressey came on in the third game and showed us what she can really do but at that point I think it was a little too late," Waite said. "We really had some solid momentum and a lot of confidence on our side of the net."

Cal as a team hit .350 in the third game, but Wisconsin ratcheted up its play as well, going from a .114 hitting percentage in game two to .436 in game three.

"It was saying a lot for the character of our team to stand up to whatever they gave us," Waite said. "Whether it was blocking at the net or defensively making some plays. And just keeping our composure."

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