Four time! News, notes, history as NCAA volleyball regional finals set for Saturday

One more time, here are the four Saturday NCAA Tournament regional finals that will decide the semifinal berths. 

All can be seen on ESPNU and ESPN+. 

The matches, four in a row, are scheduled to start every two hours.

Which is laughable. Nebraska coach John Cook is right about the NCAA volleyball regionals being Thursday-Saturday and Friday-Sunday. That’s a debate for another time. Meanwhile …  

Since it’s highly unlikely any of the first three matches will all be played in less than two hours, get a second TV or device ready and be prepared to watch the start of the second, third and fourth matches on ESPN+:

At Louisville
Oregon (26-6) vs. Louisville (29-2), 4 p.m., ESPNU, ESPN+
At Texas
Ohio State (22-9) vs. Texas (25-1), 6 p.m., ESPNU, ESPN+
At Wisconsin
Pittsburgh (30-3) vs. Wisconsin (28-3), 8 p.m., ESPNU, ESPN+
At Stanford
San Diego (30-1) vs. Stanford (27-4), 10 p.m., ESPNU, ESPN+

The last time out

Oregon of the Pac-12, which has won 16 in a row, has beaten Loyola Marymount, Arkansas and Nebraska in the NCAA Tournament.

Co-ACC champion Louisville, which has won 11 in a row, swept Samford, Purdue and Baylor.

Ohio State of the Big Ten entered the tournament on a four-match losing streak and has beaten Tennessee State, USC and Minnesota.

Big 12-champion Texas has won 11 in a row and beat Fairleigh Dickinson, Georgia and Marquette.

Co-ACC champion Pittsburgh in the NCAA Tournament defeated Colgate, BYU and Florida.

Big Ten-champion Wisconsin has won 21 in a row and in the NCAA Tournament beat Quinnipiac, TCU and Penn State.

West Coast Conference-champion San Diego has won 27 in a row and advanced with wins over Northern Colorado, Washington State and Kentucky.

Stanford, which won the Pac-12 and is on a 21-match winning streak, beat Pepperdine, LSU and Houston.

Then and now … Logan Eggleston of Texas attacks at Ohio State in the season opener last August 26/Texas Athletics photo

In their previous meetings

While this is the first meeting between Oregon and Louisville, it’s the third this season alone between Ohio State and Texas. 

Texas opened the season at Ohio State and came away with a 25-21, 25-22, 25-22 sweep on August 26 before winning 23-25, 25-18, 25-20, 25-13 the next night. This is the first postseason meeting between the programs.

Wisconsin is 6-3 against Pittsburgh but the last meeting was in 2008.

Stanford is 5-1 against San Diego, but they haven’t met since 2016.

Random volleybits

Pittsburgh’s leading attacker is Iowa transfer Courtney Buzzerio, so the 6-foot-5 right side has obviously played Wisconsin. Wisconsin swept Iowa in both their meetings in 2021. In the first, Buzzerio had nine kills and hit .241. In the second, she had 15 kills, hit .367 and had five digs and three blocks … 

The shortest player left is Oregon DS Maya De Los Reyes, a 5-2 freshman who has played in three matches this season. The next is 5-3 San Diego libero Annie Benbow. The tallest, of course, is 6-9 Wisconsin sophomore Anna Smrek …

Louisville’s sports-information intern is former FGCU standout Courtney VanLiew … Texas is in its 16th NCAA regional final in the last 17 seasons … When Stanford ousted Houston, it was the program’s NCAA Tournament-best 135th victory … Wisconsin is in the round of eight for the fifth year in a row … While Ohio State is in a regional final for the first time since 2004, coach Jen Flynn Oldenburg went to the 2011 final as an assistant to Stanford’s Kevin Hambly when Illinois …

Wisconsin is the defending national champion, Stanford is going for its first title since 2019, Texas for its first since 2012, and the other five are hoping for their first NCAA crown … Pitt is the only Division I team with at least 30 victories in each of the last four seasons (excluding the COVID-abbreviated 2020 season) and along with Texas and Wisconsin as the only teams in the round of eight for the third year in a row … 


Oregon’s Brooke Nuneviller on playing Louisville: “We are very similar teams … they set all of their players, we have undersized outsides, they have a couple considered undersized outsides with really good arms that jump well, and they get a lot of balls. Serve and passing, they pass two-man, they have tough servers that we are going to have to respond to but at the end of the day, we are a really good passing team. Hopefully, we can prove that tomorrow a little bit.”

Louisville coach Dani Busboom Kelly comparing her team and Oregon: “Pitt, who we play every year a couple of times runs a really fast offense. Luckily we have prepared for this type of speed, it’s just going to be different hitters. I definitely would compare their speed to Pitt and we start slow against Pitt often and so it will be a good challenge for us to start out strong.”

Nebraska coach John Cook after losing to Oregon: “It was thrilling, wasn’t it? Some great volleyball … It was a great match; Oregon made a couple plays to win it. I thought we played our hearts out and sometimes that’s how those things go, a couple deuce games, and they made some great plays. 

“I told the team that I don’t really feel like we lost that match, I thought Oregon won it. The other thing I told them is that I don’t think there’s anybody in Nebraska that’s not proud of them.”

San Diego coach Jen Petrie before playing Stanford: “This season has been very magical for us.”

Petrie on the return of 6-6 Sami Francis to the Stanford lineup: “Clearly she’s imposing and a big space taker … she played club volleyball with my daughter (Jane, who plays at Boston College), so I’ve seen her play for many, many years. She’s been out a little while but I know what she’s capable of and she’s a big addition for them. I’m excited she’s back.”

Pittsburgh’s Dan Fisher on playing Wisconsin: “It’s an interesting challenge because they’re a physical team with a big block and we’re a team that likes to take big rips. That’ll probably be one of the story lines, their block and us getting after it.”

Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield: “To win three sets against us, it’s gonna take a really good effort.”

Championship history

Wisconsin defeated Nebraska in five to win the 2021 NCAA title. It was the second straight year in which a first-time champion was crowned after Kentucky won in 2020 (spring of 2021).

Just 12 programs have won it since the NCAA began holding women’s volleyball championships in 1981: Stanford (9 times), Penn State (7), Nebraska (5), UCLA (4), Hawai’i (3), Long Beach State (3), USC (3), Pacific (2), Texas (2), Kentucky (1), Wisconsin (1) and Washington (1).

Kentucky of the SEC is the only team outside of the Big Ten or Pac-12 to win the crown since Texas of the Big 12 won 10 years ago.

Coaching carousel spins in Oxford

Bre Henry, an assistant coach acting as the interim head coach after the school and Kayla Banwarth “mutually agreed to part ways,” is now the head coach.

Ole Miss made the announcement Friday. The former Bre Mackie played indoors and beach at Long Beach State and was a player on the 2013 team that won the AVCA national beach championship. The coach of that team is current Oregon coach Matt Ulmer.

Henry was an assistant at Nebraska and Santa Clara and joined the Ole Miss staff before last season.

Ole Miss finished 11-17 this season, 7-11 in the SEC. When Henry took over in October, Ole Miss beat last-place Missouri twice and then Mississippi State, but the team went 1-7 after that. The last five losses to end the season were to three NCAA tourney teams, Auburn, Georgia and Florida. 

The hiring of Henry leaves seven openings in Power 5 conferences, UCLA and Oregon State in the Pac-12, Minnesota in the Big Ten, Kansas State and Oklahoma in the Big 12, and Texas A&M and Missouri in the SEC.

Big West adds a tournament

The league announced Friday that beginning in 2023, Big West women’s volleyball teams will play an 18-match conference schedule before a six-team championship in late November. 

The first championship will be at Long Beach State. This year, Hawai’i won the regular season and the NCAA Tournament automatic bid that went with it. Hawai’i lost in the first round to LSU.

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