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.
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.
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.
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.