SEATTLE – The Pac-12 Champion Washington Huskies were announced as the No. 3 overall seed for the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Championships, in a broadcast live on ESPNU this evening. As one of the sixteen seeded teams, the Huskies earned the right to host the NCAA first and second rounds at Alaska Airlines Arena, this Friday and Saturday.
Washington (26-2, 18-2 Pac-12) will host Alabama State on Friday, Dec. 6, in the first round starting no earlier than 7:00 p.m. Pacific time. The other two teams bound for Seattle this week are LSU and Michigan, who will play in the first match on Friday at 5:00 p.m. The winners of the two matches will then play on Saturday, Dec. 7, at 7:00 p.m. Times could potentially shift based on television options, but any changes will be known by Monday.
The goal for all sixty-four teams in the field is to get to Seattle, where the Final Four is taking place for the first time this season. KeyArena hosts the semis and finals on Dec. 19 and 21. The Huskies will be striving for their fourth Final Four appearance under Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. Washington won the NCAA title in 2005, also the last time UW won the Pac-12 Conference prior to this season.
The Huskies were placed into the Los Angeles region, with sixth-seeded USC hosting the regional semis and finals at the Galen Center. The other three regional hosts are Nebraska, Kentucky, and Illinois, but the Trojans are the highest-seeded regional host. The top-four seeds in the bracket are No. 1 Texas, the defending NCAA champions, who were placed in the Lincoln, Neb. region, No. 2 Penn State in the Lexington, Ky. region, the Huskies at No. 3, and No. 4 Missouri in the Champaign, Ill. region.
This is the 12th year in a row that Washington has qualified for the NCAA Championships under McLaughlin, whose NCAA tourney record at UW is an impressive 29-10. Last year the Huskies made the regional semis (round of 16) for the seventh time in the past 10 years.
“I think the same thing every year, we will get back in our routines and continue to prepare,” said McLaughlin. “The opportunities become greater in the tournament, and you’ve got to be ready for those. These girls have invested a lot, and they’re ready to invest more. We have to have our best preparation, the best fundamentals, the best energy; all those things contribute to us playing as well as we can.
The Pac-12 was shown great respect by the selection committee, as it led all conferences with nine tournament selections. The Big Ten and SEC each put eight teams into the mix. The Huskies have faced 10 of the 64 teams in the field, going 15-2 against tourney teams.
Alabama State is one of four teams making the NCAA tournament for the first time, winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference. LSU went 18-12 and 8-10 in SEC play, ninth in the league standings. Michigan was an NCAA semifinalist last year, and went 18-13 this season with a 8-12 mark in Big Ten play, tied for eighth in the league standings.
“The teams are good, they’re in the tournament for a reason,” McLaughlin said. “But regardless of who we play, it’s how we play, and what we control. That comes down to the things we do on our side of the net. We’ll study these teams and see what they do but most of it is about what we do.”
Washington clinched its third conference title on Friday night with a 3-0 win over Washington State to finish one game ahead of Stanford in the conference standings. The Huskies set a program record for conference wins with 18 against just two defeats.