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No. 13 Badgers sweep NU 3-0 in final regular season match

Game Photo
Wisconsin 13 Wisconsin 3, Northwestern 0
  Welsh-Ryan Arena • Evanston, Ill. • Attendance: 1,512

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1st 2nd 3rd 4th 5th
25 25 25 -- --
 Northwestern 19 21 14 -- --
 Stats Leaders
Nelson - 10 Kills Holthus - 10
Carlini - 33 Assists Ryan - 33
Two tied - .500 Hit %
Dutchman - .333
Morales - 16 Digs Niedospial - 19
Nelson - 6 Blocks Dutchman - 2
Carlini- 3  Aces Two tied - 1
 Stats Comparison
 Kills 41 37
 Hitting Pct. .320 .148
 Assists 35 35
 Service Aces 5 2
 Digs 48 48
 Total Blocks 13.0 3.0
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Nov. 30, 2013

EVANSTON, Ill. -- In its last match of the regular season, the 13th-ranked Wisconsin volleyball team impressed in a 3-0 sweep of Northwestern Saturday night. The Badgers breezed by the Wildcats 25-19, 25-21, 25-14 on the road. With the win, Wisconsin finishes the regular season 23-9 overall and 12-8 in the Big Ten Conference, finishing in a fourth place tie with Illinois.

Entering the second half of the Big Ten season, Wisconsin had two goals as a team – finish among the top-four teams in the league and put the team in a position to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. With Saturday's win over the Wildcats (16-16, 8-12), the Badgers did just that.
 Fast Facts
• Wisconsin finishes regular season 23-9 overall and 12-8 in the Big Ten, tied for fourth place with Illinois
Deme Morales records team-high 16 digs and career-high five blocks
• Badgers hit .320 on the match, their highest overall attack percentage since Nov. 10 against Iowa

"I thought it was a total team effort," said first-year head coach Kelly Sheffield. "Our talk all week long was to finish strong, and we certainly did that. We came out ready to play."

Wisconsin was exceptionally solid on both offense and defense, putting on one of their best overall performances of the season against NU.

Offensively, the Badgers hit .320 (41 kills - 8 errors - 103 attempts) on the night, their highest attack percentage since a Nov. 10 sweep of Iowa, while Northwestern hit just .148 (37-20-115) as a team. Freshman Haleigh Nelson led the charge, putting away 10 kills while recording an attack percentage of .500 (10-1-18). Juniors Ellen Chapman (9 kills), Deme Morales (8) and Dominique Thompson (7) rounded out Wisconsin's offensive attack. Morales also hit .500 (8-1-14) on the night, and Thompson hit .438 (7-0-16).

Northwestern was led offensively by senior Stephanie Holthus with 10 kills. Sophomore Caroline Niedospial grabbed match-high honors with 19 digs to lead the Wildcats on defense.

"This is a good team that won a lot of matches and beat a lot of really good teams," Sheffield said of Northwestern’s squad. "There are a lot of similarities between how the two teams play and how hard they played. There were some really, really good rallies, especially early on in the match… Their season was on the line, and we were getting their best shot. I thought we certainly handled that well."

Defensively, the Badgers dominated at the net, out-blocking the Wildcats 13-3 on the match. Nelson led all players with six blocks, and Thompson and Morales added five stuffs apiece, a career high for Morales.

Of middle hitters Nelson and Thompson, Sheffield said, "They’re working really, really hard."

Both Wisconsin and NU recorded 48 team digs. The Badgers were led by Morales with 16 saves. Senior Annemarie Hickey added 12 digs, and junior Courtney Thomas rounded out the Badger defense with 11 saves.

The Badgers were also impressive at the service line, recording five team aces, the most in a three-set match since Sept. 27 against Purdue. Freshman Lauren Carlini led Wisconsin at the line, recording a career-high three aces.

Wisconsin and Northwestern opened the first set battling for points with five tie scores early. Five team blocks and four kills apiece from middle blockers Thompson and Nelson keyed a 25-19 win for Wisconsin.

Northwestern took the initial lead of the second set, but Wisconsin tied it at 5-5 and took control, gaining a lead as large as six (19-13) points. The Wildcats were able to tie it up at 21-21 on a 8-2 run, but two kills and a block by Deme Morales finished off NU and gave the Badgers a 2-0 lead heading into the break. Wisconsin hit an impressive .387 (16-4-31) in the period.

Wisconsin finished the match strong, cruising to a 25-14 victory in the third set. The team stole the lead at 5-4 and did not look back, leading by as many as 11 points. The Badgers had six blocks in the set and hit .317 (13-2-35) in the period to solidify the match win.

The Badgers will find out on Sunday at 8:30 p.m. where they will play in the NCAA Tournament when the 64-team bracket is selected live on ESPNU. First and second-round matches will be held from Dec. 5-8.

"We’d like to play at home, and we’d like to have our fans," Sheffield said. "We’re excited about being in the tournament. We’re wanting to get in the tournament and make some noise." 

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