Wisconsin 3, Notre Dame 1

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MADISON, Wis. - The Wisconsin volleyball team earned a trip to NCAA Regionals with a 36-34, 30-16, 30-16 win over Notre Dame in the UW Field House Saturday night. The Badgers advance to the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2001 with a 21-9 overall record while the Irish finish their year at 21-9.

Wisconsin dominated Notre Dame offensively, hitting .285 on the night and holding the Irish to a negative .015 mark.

"I think the best teams we've had (at Wisconsin) have been able to hold the opposition's hitting percentages down, and that was huge," Wisconsin head coach Pete Waite said. "Earlier in the year we weren't doing such a good job of that, but our block became much more disciplined and aggressive, and the more their confidence grew, the better we got."

Sophomore Maria Carlini led all hitters with 15 kills in the match. Junior Sheila Shaw also put up double-figure kills for Wisconsin with 14, and hit at a match-high .429 mark.

"(Maria has) been adding to the offense hitting a high hitting percentage, and she's also been blocking a lot of balls," Waite said. "It really disrupts their offense and makes them think twice about where they're going to set the ball."

Notre Dame was led by Lauren Brewster, who put down 13 kills at a .265 clip. Emily Loomis had eight kills and was the only other member of the Irish to finish with a positive hitting percentage at .111.

At the net, Badger blockers kept the Irish hitters off-balance putting up 15.5 stuffs compared to Notre Dame's eight. Shaw took match-high honors with seven block assists and one block solo. Carlini registered three block solos and two block assists.

Wisconsin also out-did its opponent defensively, recording 61 digs to Notre Dame's 46. Freshman libero Jocelyn Wack led all players with 16 saves, while Carlini and junior Aubrey Meierotto tallied 13 and 12 digs, respectively.

The Badgers played from behind for most of game one, allowing the Irish to serve for game point at 23-29. Kills by Carlini and Meierotto followed by a Notre Dame attack error forced the Irish to call a timeout as Wisconsin pulled within three at 26-29. When play resumed, three different Badgers teamed on back-to-back blocks, followed by a Meierotto block solo which tied the score at 29 all.

The two teams battled back and forth until Wisconsin went up 34-33 on a Notre Dame miscue. After fighting off nine Irish game points, the Badgers pulled out the come-from behind victory as Carlini followed a Shaw block solo with the game-winning kill.

"That first game was critical," Waite said. "Our kids just dug deep and kept battling and the crowd kept them in there. Winning that was huge for us because I think after that, Notre Dame really struggled in keeping up with us and staying with the pace of the game."

Riding high on momentum from game one, the Badgers jumped on the Irish right away in game two, taking an early 8-2 advantage. Notre Dame pulled within four points at 10-6, but the Badgers hit .368 while holding the Irish to a negative .029 hitting percentage to go up 2-0 in the match.

Game three was a similar story as Wisconsin trailed only once at 0-1. The Badgers used a 7-0 run midway through the game to go up 21-9. Senior Marian Weidner came off the bench late in the game and sealed the victory for Wisconsin with a cross-court kill

-- Courtesy Wisconsin