The two semifinal games will take place on Thursday, December 16 starting at 7pm ET, and they both look pretty familiar. First we’ve got Penn State versus Texas, a rematch of last year’s championship game in which Penn State came back from an 0-2 deficit to win in 5 sets. Needless to say, there’s payback on the Longhorns’ minds. Penn State, meanwhile, is looking to extend their NCAA championship streak to an unheard-of four consecutive wins.
The other semifinal game is between two Pac-10 teams, California and USC. The Women of Troy are responsible for two of the three loses that California suffered this season, but the Golden Bears have cruised through the tournament so far, winning all four matches in straight sets.
So how did we get from 64 teams to four? Check out my posts from the past two weeks for recaps on the original 64 teams and the sweet 16. Since then we saw No. 3 Stanford fall to USC in a fifth-set that ended at 16-14 and No. 4 Penn State post a relatively easy win over No. 12 Duke. Before that, however, the two top-ranked teams in the tournament fell in startling fashion.
Purdue, who entered the tournament at No. 16, faced the top seeded Florida Gators in the Austin Regional. With a 27-1 regular season record and many weeks as the top ranked team in the country at their backs, Florida was the obvious favorite. Purdue, however, used a massive defensive advantage (they led 61-37 in digs for the match) to put the brakes on the Gator offense and take them down in just three sets.
Meanwhile the Nebraska Cornhuskers faced unranked Washington, who were also able to shut down their opponents offense, holding the Huskers to just .173 hitting and winning in four sets.
All in all this has been one heck of a tournament. Check out the fully updated bracket here. I wish we had a little bit more variety in the final four (three of these teams – California, Texas and Penn State – have made the regional final for the past four years), we should still see some stellar volleyball in the next few days.
My hope is that Texas can get a championship this year after dropping that heart breaker to Penn State last year. Hook ’em horns!
Photo courtesy of Flickr.