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Wisconsin volleyball: Elite 8 roundup and Final Four info

What did coach Kelly Sheffield and the players have to say about the Badgers going to Pittsburgh.

@BadgerVB; UW Athletic Department

The No. 4 Wisconsin Badgers (26-6) are heading to the Final Four for the first time since 2013. The Badgers swept the No. 5 Nebraska Cornhuskers (28-5) on Saturday night, for the third time this season, and now have their sights set on the No. 1 Baylor Bears in the national semifinal.

The No. 7 Minnesota Golden Gophers will do battle with the No. 3 Stanford Cardinal on the other side of the bracket.

Here is what coach Kelly Sheffield and some of the players had to say after their Elite 8 victory.

  • Sheffield’s opening statement: “Really happy for these three and the others, everybody associated with our program. The Field House was jumping and people were waiting in line five hours before the match to get in here. Yesterday, being packed for a one o’clock game, it stunned me how many kids were there for a one o’clock game, little kids there.”
  • Sheffield on the parenting skills of many Madisonians: “So a lot of elementary school kids playing hookie yesterday. Just so appreciative of the people that have followed our program, and hopefully they will travel to Pittsburgh with us.”
  • Senior Tiffany Clark on her last game at the Field House: “For me, it was really special. It was my last game in the Field House. Just to appreciate the feel from the fans at the end, it’s really hard to explain the feeling. It’s surreal. I feel like I’m on a cloud right now. It’s a good feeling.”
  • Sheffield on beating Nebraska three times this season: “You’ve been right there for the matches, haven’t you? It could have been a more different match than the first time we played in Lincoln. There it was two teams just teeing off on each other offensively, hitting big, huge numbers, and this game was just really gritty, in the dirt, which is how Tiffany enjoys playing, a lot of defense. To hold that team under .100 is pretty cool. I thought that was a really, really gritty performance by us.”
  • Clark on how the matches between Nebraska and Wisconsin changed this year: “I thought our defensive players were making really good moves, really good reads, and blockers making really good moves there. Just have, like Kelly said, the in-the-dirt mentality. Those are the best games to be a part of. I thought both teams played really good defense on both sides of the court. Yeah, it was just a fun game to be a part of.”
  • Molly Haggerty on closing out sets: “Everything in practice, when we’re competing, we practice whether it’s 22-22, 23-23, we practice against these type of games, and I think just having that confidence and knowing what it’s like to be in those situations really helps just because we’re confident when we’re in there.”
  • Haggerty on Wisconsin’s blocking strategy: “Well, blocking against Jazz Sweet is pretty frustrating, I'm not going to lie but I think we did a pretty good job of staying patient. They were going to get there but we weren’t going to get too frustrated. Clark did a phenomenal job of adjusting and reading the block and getting some touches on those. We’ve been working really hard on our blocking and timing and pressing our hands over and I think that played out well during this match.”
  • Sheffield on the difference between 2013 and this year: ”I remember 2013. This team has probably been through the battles a little bit more than maybe that team was. I think that team was kind of the -- you know, the underdog, Rocky story, or Hoosiers, pick whatever you want to go with.

“I think that team learned to have confidence. I know there’s a lot of people that are talking about us having a 4-4 start, but this team never lacked confidence or belief in themselves. It was just a matter about getting better, and you know, we’ll figure out what we’ve got to do here sometime over the next couple days, and probably not going to worry too much about that this evening.”

  • Sheffield on how awesome we are: “One other thing I’d like to say real quick here, how often in one room do you get people from Nebraska, Wisconsin and Hawaii all here, and what the media does in those three markets for our sport is amazing, incredible, and a sincere thank-you for everything that you guys are doing to bring this sport the way that you’re covering it, so thank you.”

And here is the press release from the UW Athletic Department on the Final Four:

Making its third appearance in the NCAA National Semifinals, the fourth-seeded Wisconsin volleyball team (26-6) takes on top-seeded Baylor (29-1) in the first national semifinal on Thursday at 6 p.m. CT from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. The match will be televised by ESPN. Third-seed Stanford (28-4) takes on seventh-seeded Minnesota (27-5) in the second semifinal at approximately 8:30 p.m. CT. Semifinal winners advance to the national championship match on Saturday at 7 p.m. CT from PPG Paints Arena. That match will be televised by ESPN2.

Wisconsin is 2-0 in national semifinal matches, defeating No. 2 USC, 3-1, in 2000 and top-ranked Texas, 3-1, in 2013. The Badgers fell in the national championship match both seasons, losing to No. 1 Nebraska, 3-2, in 2000 and second-seeded Penn State, 3-1, in 2013.

The Badgers advanced to the national semifinals by sweeping all four opponents in NCAA tournament play. Wisconsin downed Illinois State in the first round before sweeping UCLA in the second round. On Friday, UW defeated No. 13 Texas A&M, 3-0, in the regional semifinals before triumphing over fifth-seeded Nebraska, 3-0, on Saturday in the regional final.

The Badgers leave for Pittsburgh on Tuesday at 1:15 p.m. CT and then have an open practice on Wednesday at 10:35 a.m. CT followed by a press conference at 12:40 p.m. CT. There will be a pep rally for the Badgers at Holiday Market, Market Square in Pittsburgh on Thursday at 1 p.m. CT and then the game is on ESPN at 6 p.m. CT.

We will have much more coverage throughout the week right here on Bucky’s 5th Quarter.