UW coach said Carlini would
not have played in final four
It was a rematch of last year’s NCAA volleyball championship, but it didn’t live up to the hype for one reason.
Wisconsin setter Lauren Carlini, the B1G player and setter of the year, injured her ankle in the first set of the quarterfinals match against Penn State on Saturday.
Carlini, a 6-foot-2 sophomore who was the No. 1 recruit coming out of high school, left the game for a short time, but came back to lead Wisconsin to an opening-set win.
After that, however, she slowly deteriorated, limping about the court, unable to get to passes and kill attempts she normally does. The Badgers fell, 3-1 (22-25, 25-16, 25-22, 25-19), snapping their 22-match win streak.
Losing so close to a second consecutive NCAA championship berth is obviously disappointing, but even more so when it wasn’t a fair fight with the Badgers not at full strength.
Consider Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield’s comments after the match, however. Perhaps it is better the B1G will be represented by Penn State (32-3) in the final four – based solely on Carlini’s status.
“The doctor told me if we won this match that she probably wouldn’t have been able to play next week,” said Sheffield, whose team finished 31-3. “She got it really, really good – I mean everybody saw she looks like Willis Reed out there limping around. Unfortunately she’s got to cover more ground than what Willis did back then.”
For those who don’t know, Willis Reed led the New York Knicks to a Game 7 victory in 1970 against the L.A. Lakers in the NBA Finals. He didn’t show up for pre-game warmups. Nobody knew if he was going to play. He took an injection right before tipoff, when he limped out of the tunnel onto the court and hit the first two shots for the Knicks, as the crowd went wild.
Carlini had a Willis Reed demeanor to her, as she hobbled around the court. But it just wasn’t going to get it done against a Penn State team that’s made the final four its home. The Nittany Lions have gone to the semifinals 11 times, including six of the last seven seasons. They’ve won it all in 1999, 2007, ’08, ’09, ’10 and ’13.
Sheffield wasn’t sure how serious Carlini’s injury was after the match.
“The kid is in a lot of pain right now,” he said in the post-game press conference. “The doctors are working on her and I think they are taking her to get x-rays.”
The injury effected the match, but didn’t faze the Badgers, who went all out with the season on the line.
“I mean Taylor Morey is putting her face in a table and Lauren is going with a bum ankle and about to dive into the scorers table,” Sheffield said. “I am yelling at her no, I want her to see another point. They’re just putting it all out there and we got beat.”
The final four teams remaining begin play Dec. 20 in Oklahoma City. Penn State moves on to face top-ranked Stanford (33-1), while No. 12-ranked BYU (29-4) takes on No. 6 Texas (27-2).