OMAHA, Nebraska — On Wednesday at the NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship, each of the four teams practice, they go through interviews and a photo shoot with ESPN, and they visit with the media.
“It’s pretty nice to be here,” Pitt coach Dan Fisher said.
In addition to the best quotes from Louisville, Pittsburgh, Texas and San Diego, this report has AVCA All-Americans, some news and notes, and more about the coaching carousel, that keeps on spinning as another Power 5 coach was let go.
As a reminder, Thursday’s matches in the CHI Center:
Texas (26-1) vs. San Diego (31-1), 7 p.m.
Pittsburgh (31-3) vs. Louisville (30-2)
Louisville on playing Pitt
This is the rubber match with the stakes much higher than the ACC regular season.
“They’re also changing and evolving still,” Louisville coach Dani Busboom Kelly said of Pittsburgh. “And I’ve seen their press clippings and they don’t feel like they’ve peaked yet. I don’t think we have either. I think it’s pretty exciting to go into Thursday’s match with both teams feeling that way.”
Louisville lost in five at Pitt on October 23. The 25-15, 25-13, 25-27, 20-25, 15-12 outcome left the Panthers 10-0 in the ACC at the time and Louisville 9-1. Courtney Buzzerio had 22 kills and five blocks the Pitt and Serena Gray had 15 kills, hit .480, and had five blocks. Claire Chaussee led Louisville with 17 kills, but hit .178 and Anna DeBeer did not play.
Then, on November 18, Louisville blasted visiting Pitt 25-15, 25-21, 25-18. Buzzerio had 10 kills and the Panthers hit .088, while Chaussee had 13 kills and DeBeer was back, but didn’t play front row. She’s back playing all-around now.
Louisville advanced early on Saturday, knocking out Oregon. Later, Pitt pulled its stunner at Wisconsin.
“It was funny when they beat Wisconsin. I was like oh, my gosh,” Busboom Kelly said. “What an amazing win. And then I was, like, ‘Oh, crap, we have to play them now.’ I think it goes both ways.”
“Pitt is obviously an awesome team,” DeBeer said. “The first go around this season we obviously didn’t play our best. We worked through a few things. The second time it was senior night, and I think our team did a better job of playing Louisville volleyball and taking care of business.
“It’s one-and-one. It’s split. It’s going to be an awesome match. And I know they’re going to want some revenge. We want to make sure we’re not going to lose to an ACC team to get to the finals. It’s going to be a battle, and I’m really excited.”
Added Amaya Tillman: “We’re ready for them to come at us full force. They’re going to want revenge, but we have to show them what Louisville volleyball is at the end of the day.”
Texas on the San Diego match
There is little doubt that the crowd on Thursday will root for upstart San Diego against top-seeded Texas. That doesn’t faze the Longhorns.
“I think San Diego is an amazing team. And obviously we’ve played Gabby (Blossom) before. We played Penn State when we were in Omaha a few years ago. We know she’s a super talented player and she’ll put their hitters in really great situations,” Texas star Logan Eggleston said.
“So we really need to show up. If we do the things that we do really well to get high level consistently over time, we can be in really good position to win this game.”
West Coast Conference-champion San Diego has won 28 in a row, and Big 12-champion Texas is on a 12-match winning streak.
“It’s going to be a super exciting game,” Eggleston said. “There’s going to be big crowd, lots of different pressure that we haven’t felt this season. So it’s going to be who can handle those emotions and handle that big of a stage, the best.”
Teammate Asjia O’Neal thinks the Longhorns are ready.
“It is the Final Four. Everyone’s extremely talented here. But I think we’ve done a really good job throughout the season just improving and getting to a point where we feel as though we can take the pressure and we can deal with it and we compete at a high level,” O’Neal said.
“So I’m really excited to see how we all come out tomorrow. I know we’re all going to be locked in. But just going to go play.”
The transition of San Diego’s Blossom
Gabby Blossom is a graduate-student transfer from Penn State, which is why Pitt’s Serena Gray, her former teammate, said simply: “I love Gabby Blossom. I’m a thousand percent rooting for San Diego.”
We asked San Diego coach Jen Petrie about inheriting Blossom, the veteran setter, and how much coaching was involved as the transfer took over the team.
“She would probably say that she was challenged a lot and Alfi (assistant coach Alfred Reft) probably challenged her a lot to make some changes in her game but certainly the crux of who she is and how she plays, that we didn’t want to change at all.”
Blossom nodded in agreement.
“I think the biggest thing I had to change when I got here was getting the ball out of my hands faster,” she said. “Obviously we run a really fast offense. And Katie (Lukes) can hit at incredible speed. And we wanted to be able to give her the ball she needed. And that meant that I had to get the ball out of my hands faster to fit into this offense.
“So there was a lot of grace time, I think. I’m so lucky our coaches gave me some time to figure it out because it wasn’t the easiest thing. But it worked. Here we are running this offense. So I think that was probably the biggest change and there were small changes obviously in different aspects. But in terms of setting, it was getting the ball out of my hands faster.”
AVCA All-Americans, VBM AAs next week
The VolleyballMag.com Division women’s volleyball All-American teams come out next week.
Our sare very different than the AVCA’s, which were announced Wednesday. At VBM, players do not have to nominated, our pollsters are not beholden to AVCA requirements, and we choose four teams, not just three.
The AVCA first team includes, in alphabetical order, Gabby Blossom of San Diego, Courtney Buzzerio of Pittsburgh, Claire Chaussee of Louisville, Logan Eggleston of Texas, Skylar Fields of USC, Zoe Fleck of Texas, Serena Gray of Pittsburgh, Magda Jehlarova of Washington State, Kendall Kipp of Stanford, Taylor Landfair of Minnesota, McKenna Melville of UCF, Kami Miner of Stanford, Brooke Nuneviller of Oregon and Asjia O’Neal of Texas.
Click here for the full list of AVCA All-Americans.
From Des Moines to Omaha
Jane Petrie is a sophomore setter for Boston College, which on Wednesday night plays in the NIVC championship match at Drake. Drake is located in Des Moines, Iowa, 134 miles from here.
So while coach Jen Petrie was with her San Diego team, her husband, Mark, and their other two children, Charlie and Carolin, were in Des Moines to watch BC. The proud mom was very happy to say that they all will drive to the NCAA Championship on Thursday.
It’s been spinning a little bit faster …
Colorado State is staying in house. The school promoted Emily Kohan to replace retiring Tom Hilbert. Kohan has been his assistant for seven years, the last three as associate head coach. The former Emily Hiza was a libero for Iowa and previously coached at Oregon State …
Arizona State, coming up with the silliest wording ever, announced that it is “making staff adjustments.” It means that Sanja Tomasevic is out as head coach after six years. In that time, the Sun Devils were 74-104. Arizona State finished 13-19 this season, 7-13
Saint Louis fired Kent Miller after 12 seasons in which he compiled a 181-166 record and became the second-winningest coach in program history. This season, the Billikens finished 18-13, 10-8 in the Atlantic 10 before losing in the quarterfinals of the A10 tournament …
UNC Asheville said that Frederico Santos is “stepping down,” after 12 seasons. His record 139-188. This season the team finished 4-22, 1-15 in the Big South …
With Keegan Cook moving from Washington to Minnesota and Arizona State making its change, that leaves leaves eight openings in Power 5 conferences, also Washington, UCLA and Oregon State in the Pac-12; Kansas State and Oklahoma in the Big 12; and Texas A&M and Missouri in the SEC.
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