NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS • FINAL FOUR
SEATTLE • KEYARENA
THURSDAY, DECEMBER 19 • SEMIFINALS
(1) Texas vs. (12) Wisconsin • 4:30 p.m. PT • ESPN2
(3) Washington vs. (2) Penn State • 6:30 p.m. PT • ESPN2
SATURDAY, DECEMBER 21 • FINALS
Winner Match 1 vs. Winner Match 2 • 6:30 p.m. PT • ESPN2
SEATTLE - Before the start of the season, the Husky volleyball team headed to Seattle’s Kerry Park for a team photo. The locale provided the most picturesque setting of the city skyline, and framed in the middle of the photo was KeyArena, the end destination for every team in the country and right in Washington’s back yard. Four months after that August afternoon, the Huskies have made good on their first goal, reaching the Final Four and earning a chance to compete for a national title at home, as Seattle hosts the championship for the first time.
Now the third-seeded Huskies (30-2) want to put on a great show for the hometown fans, and earn two more wins to secure the program’s second national championship, and first since 2005. To do so they will have to get past perennial powerhouse and second-seeded Penn State (32-2) in the semifinals on Thursday, Dec. 19. The first semifinal on Thursday, beginning at 4:30 p.m., pits defending NCAA Champion and No. 1-seed Texas (27-2) against the one team that could be considered a surprise finalist, 12th-seeded Wisconsin (27-9).
The Washington-Penn State matchup will go at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, or 30 minutes after the end of the Texas-Wisconsin meeting. The winners will then play for the title on Saturday, Dec. 21, at 6:30 p.m. All matches will be televised live on ESPN2.
The Final Four features three conference champions: Washington won the Pac-12, Penn State captured the Big Ten, and Texas went undefeated through the Big 12. The Longhorns and Nittany Lions share the longest current win streaks in the country, having both won 23 in a row entering the week.
Led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Krista Vansant, the Huskies fought back from an 0-2 deficit to defeat No. 6-seed USC on Saturday to reach the program’s fourth Final Four under Head Coach Jim McLaughlin, and first since advancing to three in a row from 2004-06. Washington prevailed, 17-15, in the fifth set after saving two match points, and Vansant achieved an incredibly rare feat with a 30-30 match, career-highs of 38 kills and 30 digs.
Penn State’s seniors were freshmen when the team won its fourth-straight NCAA title, a record for the sport, in 2010. The Nittany Lions are in the Final Four for the second straight year. The Badgers are making their first semifinal appearance since 2000 and are looking to knock off the defending champs from Texas. The Longhorns defeated Oregon to win the program’s second NCAA title last year and have marched through the tournament again despite the target on their back.