The Badgers enjoyed their share of success in 2013-14 and now UWBadgers.com is honoring the best student-athletes, teams and performances of the year. Over the next few weeks, we'll unveil the best of the Badgers in five categories: Big Ten Medal of Honor (June 16), Athletes of the Year (June 17-21), Team Achievements of the Year (June 22-27), Games of the Year (June 28-July 5) and Freshmen of the Year (July 13-18).
Today we feature volleyball’s NCAA runner-up finish as a Team Achievement of the Year nominee.
June 23, 2014
• 2013-14 Year in Review (http://www.uwbadgers.com/genrel/2013-14-in-review.html)
MADISON, Wis. -- How do you make an appearance in the NCAA championship? You bring in a new head coach that turns around the program and the best prep player in the country. That’s exactly what the Wisconsin volleyball team did in 2013 on its way to the NCAA championship match.
After five years of not making the NCAA tournament, the Badgers brought in first-year head coach Kelly Sheffield. The former Dayton head coach brought a new attitude and work ethic to UW. One of the first things Sheffield had to do as the Badgers’ head was to make sure that Lauren Carlini, the 2012 Gatorade National Player of the Year in volleyball, was still headed to Madison. She was, and the duo joined up to bring the Wisconsin program back into the national spotlight.
The Badgers started the season 6-0, winning the Pepperdine Classic and NDSU Invitational on the road. Wisconsin lost its home opener but rebounded to win five more non-conference matches to head into Big Ten Conference play with an 11-1 mark.
UW went 12-8 in conference play, improving consistently as the season went on. The Badgers won four of their last five Big Ten matches, playing some of their best volleyball of the year.
Wisconsin received good news when the 2013 NCAA Tournament bracket was announced in late November: UW was back in the Big Dance for the first time since 2007 and hosting first and second round matches.
Two 3-0 wins over Milwaukee and California send the Badgers to the Champaign (Illinois) Regional, where the Badgers downed No. 16 Florida State and No. 19 Purdue to win the regional crown and advance to their first NCAA championship semifinal since 2000.
At the national championship semifinals, Wisconsin shocked No. 1 Texas, 3-1, to advance to the first all-Big Ten championship, facing No. 2 Penn State for the national title. The Badgers fell to the Nittany Lions 3-1 in the championship match but gained numerous fans for their tough defense and team play. As the No. 12 seed, UW was the lowest seeded team to advance to the title event since seeding was begun in 2000.
UW’s improbable runner-up finish came about even though eight players missed at least three matches due to injury and the Badgers played the seventh-toughest schedule in the nation.
With the loss of only one starter and three letterwinners, Wisconsin is posed to make another championship run in 2014.