NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS • FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS
ALASKA AIRLINES ARENA
FRIDAY, DECEMBER 6 • FIRST ROUND
Michigan vs. LSU • 5:00 p.m. PT • Live Stream
(3) Washington vs. Alabama State • 7:00 p.m. PT • Pac-12 Network
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 7 • SECOND ROUND
Winner Match 1 vs. Winner Match 2 • 7:00 p.m. PT • Live Stream
SEATTLE - The most anticipated month of the calendar has arrived at long last, as Seattle area volleyball fans have been looking forward to the extra holidays on the horizon for a couple years now. The NCAA Championships kick off this week, and in less than three weeks will culminate with the Final Four at KeyArena right in third-seeded Washington’s back yard.
Washington (26-2, 18-2 Pac-12) begins a 12th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance, and 18th all-time, by hosting the first and second rounds this Friday and Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena. First up will be Alabama State (25-15), the champions from the Southwestern Athletic Conference. The Lady Hornets are making their first NCAA tourney appearance. The match will begin no earlier than 7:00 p.m., but could begin later depending on the length of the first match on Friday, which pits the Michigan Wolverines (18-13) against the LSU Tigers (18-12). The Big Ten and SEC squads face off at 5:00 p.m., and a 30 minute warm-up period is required before the UW-Alabama State match.
The winners of the two matches on Friday will meet on Saturday night at 7:00 p.m. for the right to advance to the round of 16, which will take place next week at the Galen Center in Los Angeles, hosted by USC.
The Pac-12 Networks will televise Washington’s match against Alabama State live on Friday night, but Friday’s early match, and the second round match on Saturday will be streamed online only via GoHuskies.com.
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.
This week, junior Krista Vansant was named the Pac-12 Player of the Year, the third Husky ever to earn that honor. She and Kaleigh Nelson were named to the All-Pac-12 Team, with Jenna Orlandini and Lianna Sybeldon earning honorable mention. Head Coach Jim McLaughlin was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year for the fourth time, as UW captured the third Pac-12 title during his tenure.
Michigan was a Final Four team last season, losing 3-2 in the semifinals to eventual NCAA Champion Texas. The Wolverines were 8-12 in the Big Ten this year but had several close losses to tough competition. Michigan has made at least the round of 16 in five of the last six years. The Wolverines have faced a couple Pac-12 teams already, having defeated Oregon State and Oregon back to back early in the season. Another common opponent is Illinois, which UW defeated in four sets in Champaign, while Michigan lost two close ones to the Illini.
LSU has also had a number of close calls against top teams, and though the Tigers have 12 losses, they have only been swept two times all year. LSU lost in five sets at Kentucky on Nov. 10, with the Wildcats earning the No. 15 overall seed in the bracket, and LSU also took sets from No. 4-seed Missouri and No. 5-seed Florida. LSU is making its first NCAA appearance since 2010, but made six straight tourneys from 2005-10.
Alabama State is one of four teams in the bracket making its NCAA debut. The Lady Hornets have made a point to test itself in non-conference play, and this year they played at Arizona State, losing in three sets to the Sun Devils in September. Alabama State also played at Washington State last season, falling in three sets.