Volleyball advances to NCAA Regional finals Saturday, defeating Wisconsin 3-0
AUSTIN, Texas -- Seventh-seeded Texas collected a match-high 12 kills and nine digs from freshman outside hitter Ashley Engle and 11 kills from junior middle blocker Lauren Paolini, as the Longhorns (24-6), behind an extraordinary .398 team attack percentage, claimed a decisive 3-0 (30-19, 30-22, 30-12) victory over 10th-seeded Wisconsin Friday evening at Gregory Gym. The Longhorns advance to Friday's NCAA quarterfinals where they will meet second-seeded Stanford, a 3-0 winner over California in Friday's first NCAA round-of-16 match. Amy Bladow led the Badgers with eight kills but was unable to get much help elsewhere, as Wisconsin (26-7) totaled a .000 attack percentage for the match
Wisconsin began the match with an aggressive attack, getting kills from Amy Bladow, Maria Carlini and Audra Jeffers to assume a 3-0 led. A Paolini attack error and a Badger block pushed the lead to 5-0, forcing UT coach Jerritt Elliott to burn an early timeout. Paolini put Texas on the board with a kill and Engle later added a kill of her own to cut the deficit to 6-2. Trailing 8-2, the Longhorns commenced a rally, taking six of seven points, capped by an Engle kill, to draw within 9-8.
After a Taylor Reineke kill stretched the Badger lead to 11-9, Texas went on the offensive, reeling off five consecutive points with two Paolini kills, one from freshman outside hitter Destinee Hooker and a pair of attack errors to take a 14-11 lead. After an Engle attack error, Moriarty dunked a kill and Paolini added a block to stretch the UT lead to 16-12 to force a Wisconsin timeout.
Leading 23-19, Hooker pounded another kill, and an ensuing Badger ball-handling error and a Hooker block pushed the Texas lead to 25-19. The Longhorns closed out the game by taking the next five points, capped by a Hooker kill, to take the first game, 30-19.
Texas opened game two with kills from Engle and Paolini before junior setter Michelle Moriarty and Wisconsin's Jocelyn Wack exchanged service errors. The Badgers got a kill from Amy Bladow, but UW's Jackie Simpson served out of bounds to give UT a 4-2 lead. Wisconsin would rally to take a 6-5 lead and force a Texas timeout, but the Longhorn deficit proved to be short-lived, as Texas regained the lead at 10-9 on a Hooker block and would not look back.
Leading 13-10, Texas totaled three consecutive points off of Hooker's serve, beginning with a thunderous service ace, to force another Wisconsin timeout at 16-10. Hooker's next serve sailed long, but Texas added four more points on kills from Paolini, Engle and Acevedo and a team block to assume a 20-11 lead and induce a Badger timeout.
Wisconsin claimed the next four points to climb within 20-15, but the Badger deficit failed to shrink throughout the remainder of game two. A Carlini kill sliced the deficit later in the game to 26-20, but Jennifer Todd's kill finished off game two, 30-22.
Texas trailed early on in game three at 4-3, but an Engle kill and two Badger attack errors eliminated the deficit, as UT took a 6-4 lead. Acevedo added another kill before the Badgers responded with a pair of kills to pull within 7-6. However, the Badgers hindered their rallying efforts with errors on the next three points, forcing UW coach Pete Waite to burn a timeout facing a 10-6 deficit.
Plagued by errant hitting throughout the match - UW hit -.152 in the first game and .000 in the third - the Badgers sandwiched two more attack errors around a Hooker kill, as UT assumed a 13-6 lead. UW's Reineke registered a kill to pull the Badgers within 14-8, but Wisconsin aided the Longhorns with a service error and two Carlini attack errors to extend the Texas lead to 17-8 and force another timeout.
Leading 19-10, Texas dealt Wisconsin the final blow, a seven-point run highlighted by two Engle kills, one from Jen Christian and a Paolini service ace, to extend its lead to a commanding 26-10 margin. Wisconsin managed two more points on a Christian attack error and a Jeffers kill, but the Longhorns closed out the match with consecutive kills from senior Jenny Andrew (Kingwood, Texas), Engle and Christian to advance to the NCAA quarterfinals.
TEXAS POSTGAME QUOTES
On junior middle blocker Lauren Paolini's performance: We lost both All-American middle blockers (Leticia Armstrong and Brandy Magee), and we're not missing a beat. I know the team feels exactly the way I do in regards to our ability to keep moving forward. Lauren is playing exceptionally well and we've worked on some different sets with her. She's been coming to practice about half an hour early for the last three weeks and working hard. I think that shows her commitment, and it was nice to see that pay off tonight.
On the team's depth: You have to be deep to be successful. We have a lot of girls that are committed, and our team chemistry and commitment to winning is amazing. We've had people who haven't been starters to come off the bench, and they're all in this together. The depth has allowed us to get to this point, and there would be nothing sweeter for a coach than to see that pay off by winning tomorrow night.
On preparing for Stanford: We've been scouting them and we have broken down their rotations, hitting tendencies and defenses. We'll go spend some time to give our players a general feel of it, and the players all have DVD's with the scouting reports on them to reinforce the information we're sharing with them tonight. The most important thing is for them to get rested, re-hydrated and get in the right frame of mind for our match tomorrow.
Michelle Moriarty, Setter
On playing Stanford at home: We love playing at home. I could say it a million times and it still wouldn't do it justice. We have the greatest fans, and we love playing in front of them. I think it's good for us that we're home tomorrow because we really love the atmosphere here.
Lauren Paolini, Middle Blocker
On how her form has improved over the season: I think that our team was really in rhythm tonight, so it was easy to get me in rhythm too. I've been working on my form for months, and it was really easy to put that into the game today.
Ashley Engle, Opposite Hitter
On the difference between the first match against Texas and this match: Before the match I was going to say we were different and better. One thing they do well is they serve tough and keep you on your heels offensively. When you can't run your offense, it's very hard to attack that big block and that defense. So, I wish we would have received better. Had we done that, it might have kept us in system and it would have been a better match.
Taylor Reineke, Middle Blocker
Amy Bladow, Middle Blocker