The fact that libero Annemarie Hickey can’t remember exactly when her right shoulder popped out of its socket tells you how much Wisconsin’s championship match meant to the senior.
Like Mel Gibson in “Lethal Weapon,” the Badgers’ deadliest defender popped the shoulder back into place and continued to dig up balls to keep rallies alive. Only Hickey couldn’t overcome the injury on her serve with Wisconsin up 23-20 in the decisive fourth set.
Instead, Hickey’s serve mashed into the net, giving Penn State the opening it needed to collect two crushing service aces by junior Micha Hancock and a kill apiece by seniors Katie Slay and Deja McClendon in successive points to win the championship match.
“It hurt pretty bad and I could feel it come out of my shoulder,” Hickey said of suffering the injury on an awkward landing during an attempt to save a ball.
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“It was painful but we were playing in such a high intensity and we were winning the game,” Hickey said of the fourth set. “All I wanted to do was win for my teammates. I didn’t want to come out. I didn’t want to let them down, so I just worked through it as much as I could.”
Hickey had a team-high 12 digs in the set. She finished with 26 overall.
Teammates Lauren Carlini, a freshman, and junior Deme Morales cried as Hickey, the sole senior on the team, spoke about the program’s turnaround in a postgame interview.
“I’m really excited to see where this team is going to go next year,” said Hickey, a sociology major. “It’s been an incredible journey for me … I’m excited for the rest of these girls to keep proving people wrong.”
Penn State committed five errors in the opening set to equal the amount of mistakes it had in its entire match against Washington on Thursday. It finished with 27 attacking errors overall.
Aptly named senior Katie Slay was the perfect counter, however. A 6-foot-6 middle hitter, Slay had one error in the match with 14 kills on 27 attempts for a .481 hitting percentage.
“It’s the tallest middle up against the shortest middle,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said of his lineup. “What are you going to do? She’s going to get hers at times. (But) we defend like crazy. And it doesn’t always look pretty, but we’ll throw our bodies around with the best of them.”
• Hancock was selected the Most Outstanding Player of the Final Four. Washington junior outside hitter Krista Vansant was named to the all-tournament team along with Carlini, Morales, McClendon and Ariel Scott (Penn State).
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.