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December 20, 2013

Badgers end Texas’ dream of going back to back

SEATTLE — Kelly Sheffield turned to his bench and pumped his fists as the court flooded with Wisconsin players after the Badgers became the lowest seeded team in NCAA volleyball history to reach the championship match.

What was expected to be a speed bump for top-seeded Texas on its way to the title game instead became a shining moment for the 12th-seeded Badgers when they upset the defending national champion Longhorns 3-1 on Thursday night.

“We believed that we could win this match. And I think that’s a big part of anytime you go into anything,” Sheffield said. “This has been a team that no matter who we played we believed.”

Wisconsin (28-9) took control early and held off the Longhorns 25-19, 25-18, 26-28, 25-23.

Wisconsin will play No. 2 Penn State in the championship match Saturday night. Penn State beat No. 3 Washington 3-0 in the second semifinal. The Nittany Lions swept the Badgers this season, beating them 3-0 in each of the two matches.

“We wanted to show we’re here to stay and we’re not going down easy,” Wisconsin setter Lauren Carlini said.

The previous lowest seed to reach the championship game was Stanford at No. 11 in 2004. Wisconsin is the fifth team seeded 12th or lower to reach the national semifinals, but the first to earn a spot in the title match. The Badgers also advanced to the title match in 2000, losing to Nebraska.

Ellen Chapman had 17 kills, Deme Morales added 14 — including the final two points — as the Badgers ended Texas’ attempt to become the sixth school to win consecutive national titles.

Carlini had 50 assists and 12 digs, Dominique Thompson added 12 kills and the Badgers had seven aces to help overcome the size of Texas’ frontline. Wisconsin finished with 72 total digs and its ability to keep points alive flustered the Longhorns.

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