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Michella Chester | NCAA.com | December 19, 2019

Baylor vs. Wisconsin and Stanford vs. Minnesota: 2019 NCAA volleyball semifinals, previewed

Watch the best moments of the DI women's volleyball regional finals as four teams advance to the national semifinals

Four teams remain and will compete for the 2019 women's college volleyball national championship in Pittsburgh. The field of four includes Stanford, the reigning champs, and three teams that have never taken home the championship: Baylor, Minnesota and Wisconsin.

The Baylor vs. Wisconsin matchup features Yossiana Pressley, one of the best outside hitters in the country, versus Dana Rettke, one of the best middle blockers in the country. Can Baylor continue its magical season of firsts? Will Wisconsin bring home its first title? 

That will be followed by Stanford vs. Minnesota. It's the reigning champion and a storied program versus a team whose season was cut short last year. It's also the last dance on the collegiate stage for Kathryn Plummer, the two-time AVCA National Player of the Year.

DI WOMEN'S VOLLEYBALL TOURNAMENT: Bracket, schedule, scores

Here is closer look at those four teams, including players to watch, how they made it to Pittsburgh and how they match up statistically. 

Baylor vs. Wisconsin

Here is what you need to know about Baylor

Baylor advances to volleyball national semifinals

The Bears are in the midst of a historic season, ascending into a national volleyball power. Baylor had never made it past the third round, let alone to the national semifinal, and earned its¬†first-ever¬†No. 1-ranking in the AVCA poll. The Bears¬†completed a 17-0 home slate after beating Washington in the regional finals. The Bears notably only have one loss this season ‚ÄĒ to Texas in Gregory Gymnasium.¬†

Players to watch on Baylor

Yossiana Pressley is one of the best players in the country. She is second in the nation in kills per set with 5.37 and can completely take over a game. She has led this Baylor team through its historic season and now its first national semifinal appearance. You will definitely have your eyes on her in this semifinal, even if you aren't looking. I promise you'll know who she is by her performance. 

The next player to watch is Marieke Van Der Mark. She is one of the most fun, enthusiastic players on the team and always has great celebrations with her teammates. She has also really stepped it up as of late. Earlier in the season, it seemed like Pressley was the only one terminating balls for the Bears, now setter Hannah Lockin has multiple targets, and Van Der Mark is certainly one of them. She has been a huge presence during the tournament and has come up clutch in crucial moments. 

Shelly Stafford is another to watch. Stafford is a middle blocker and a big presence on the court. The Bears look to her for big blocks, but also big kills. Sometimes she even will dish out some assists. She is all over the court and  important to this Baylor offense. 

How Baylor got here: 

First round:  
(1) Baylor 3¬†vs Sacred Heart 0¬†‚ÄĒ The No. 1 seed in the tournament moves on. This time, Pressley wasn't the leading scorer. Marieke Van Der Mark led with 13 kills on a stunning .600 hitting percentage. Pressley followed with 12 kills.¬†

Second round: 
(1) Baylor¬†3, USC 0¬†‚ÄĒ This was a highly anticipated matchup between Pressley and USC's Khalia Lanier, two dominant outside hitters. The Bears coasted past the Trojans with a much more balanced offense. Pressley and¬†Shelly Stafford had 12 kills apiece and Van Der Mark had 12. >> Watch¬†highlights here.

Third round (regional semifinal):
(1) Baylor 3¬†vs. (16) Purdue 1¬†‚ÄĒ Baylor advanced to the regional final for the first time in program history with a 3-1 win over Purdue. Van Der Mark had an unbelievable match with 16 kills on .464 hitting efficiency. Pressley tallied 15 kills, but she had a full team behind her in this match. Stafford and Gia Milana played great as well, with nine and 13 kills, respectively.¬†

Regional final: 
Baylor 3¬†vs Washington 1¬†‚ÄĒ Earlier in the regular season, one of Baylor's biggest critiques was that Pressley was its only weapon. That wasn't the case against Washington as there were threats coming from everywhere, and this Baylor offense was so versatile and so hard to stop. Baylor won the first set, then dropped the second before dominating the next two to close it out. Pressley had 24 kills on an unbelievable .512 hitting efficiency, and then had the help of Stafford, Van Der Mark, Milana, and even their setter, Hannah Lockin, who had seven kills herself on seven attempts. Watch highlights¬†here.¬†

Here is what you need to know about Wisconsin

Wisconsin advances to volleyball national semifinals

Wisconsin just reached the national semifinal with an absolutely dominant regional final match. The last time they appeared in the semifinal and top four was in coach Kelly Sheffield's first season in 2013, when the Badgers were the national runners-up to Penn State. 

This season started slow for the Badgers and ended in a Big Ten championship. They were 4-4 early after losses to Marquette, Baylor and twice to Washington. At that point, would you have guessed they would be where they are now? They shocked many at the start of Big Ten play. It began that first week when they played Penn State and Nebraska, two top-10 teams, within days of each other. They beat them both, and then went on a hot streak, taking down Minnesota twice, and then sweeping Nebraska for a second time. This is a fun team to watch.

Players to watch: 

You might have heard this name before. Dana Rettke. Rettke is a 6'8 middle blocker for the Badgers, but she is also their kills leader. She is a dominant player and leader for the Badgers.

She has help, though, in two great pin hitters. Molly Haggerty and Grace Loberg are a huge part of this extremely balanced Wisconsin offense. Setter Sydney Hilley has three options, and can basically rely on dishing the ball out to any of these players. Wisconsin is so hard to stop with threats coming from every which way. 

Wisconsin's Molly Haggerty's road to recovery

Libero Tiffany Clark is another player who is an integral part of this team, and especially in the postseason. If you watched any of the regional tournament, you probably saw Clark diving all over the court and making unbelievable plays. She was a vital part of their success, and will continue to be in the national semifinals. 

How they got here

First round: 
(4) Wisconsin 3¬†vs Illinois State 0¬†‚ÄĒ The Badgers joined the sweep club. Rettke led all hitters with 13 kills on .400 hitting, with some help from Haggerty and Danielle Hart.¬†

Second round: 
(4) Wisconsin¬†3, UCLA 0¬†‚ÄĒ¬†Wisconsin swept UCLA behind Haggerty's 14 kills, while Rettke had 10. This was a strong win and outing for the Badgers, considering they swept a strong UCLA team that is led by Mac May, a team that gave a lot of top-10 teams trouble in the regular season. >> Watch¬†highlights¬†here.

Third round (regional semifinal): 
(4) Wisconsin 3¬†vs (13) Texas A&M 0¬†‚ÄĒ Rettke had a stunning .667 hitting efficiency in the win, and the triple threat of Rettke, Haggerty and Loberg, was unstoppable again. The Aggies put up a good fight in the third set, taking their first lead since the first set, but then the Badgers rallied to secure the sweep.¬†

Regional final: 
Wisconsin 3¬†vs Nebraska 0¬†‚ÄĒ The Badgers reached their third national semifinal after sweeping Nebraska for the third time this season. In the first set, Wisconsin completely dominated the Huskers, even without any points from Rettke. Nebraska took a 14-11 lead in the second set before Wisconsin came back and tied it up. There were nine ties in that set before Wisconsin took the 2-0 lead. Wisconsin kept control in the third as well, and secured the sweep. Haggerty led all hitters with 14 kills. >> Watch highlights¬†here.¬†

Tale of the table: Baylor vs. Wisconsin

Baylor and Wisconsin will face each other in the national semifinal at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, on ESPN. This will be their second matchup of the season. In the first meeting on Sept. 6, Baylor came out on top on its home court, 3-1, powered by Pressley's 31 kills. She was the only Bears player with double-digit kills. 

These are both different teams now. Pressley is no longer usually the only player with double-digit kills and that match was during Wisconsin's early troubles in the season. 

Here is how they match up, statistically: 

tale of the table
  ATTACK  
0.294 Percentage 0.296
14.5 Kills/set 14.6
  SET  
13.8 Assists/set 13.7
  SERVE  
1.6 Aces/set 1.1
227 Errors 200
  RECEPTIONS  
0.8 Errors/set 0.9
  DEFENSE  
14.9 Digs/set 14.4
  BLOCKING  
2.6 Blocks/set 2.5

Well, these stats are scarily similar. 

Stanford vs. Minnesota

Here is what you need to know about Stanford

Stanford advances to volleyball national semifinals

The Stanford Cardinal is the reigning champion. And not just last season -- Stanford is an eight-time national champion. The current senior class has won two national championships, one their freshman year and one as juniors last season. And it's not like they were warming the bench their freshman year, they were the stars. 

They Cardinal played 10 games this season without injured star outside hitter and two-time AVCA National Player of the Year, Plummer. But Stanford still had a great season against one of the strongest schedules in the country. 

Minnesota women's volleyball is playing for redemption in Pittsburgh

Players to watch: 

You already know it, Plummer. She may have missed 10 matches but she did not miss a beat. Plummer is such a dangerous outside hitter, sometimes it feels like every time she makes contact with the ball it's a kill. Plummer had a stunning .512 hitting efficiency with 24 kills in the Cardinal's last win over Penn State in the regional final.

The thing about Stanford is that its whole rotation is great. Sometimes the other players don't get as much attention but they would be the star players on plenty of other teams. Madeleine Gates stepped up in their latest win, and Holly Campbell. Audriana Fitzmorris has been contributing points all season right behind Plummer. 

Not to mention Stanford's All-American setter and libero, Jenna Gray and Morgan Hentz. So.... this isn't telling you that the whole team is a player to watch, but yes, actually it is. Everyone is a player to watch. 

How they got here: 

First round: 
(3) Stanford 3¬†vs Denver 0¬†‚ÄĒ Plummer put up 17 kills on .433 hitting efficiency.¬†

Second round:
(3) Stanford 3, Cal Poly 0¬†‚ÄĒ Fitzmorris came up clutch with 13 kills on .440 hitting, and Plummer tallied 17 kills.¬†

Third round (regional semifinal): 
(3) Stanford 3¬†vs Utah 2¬†‚ÄĒ Stanford came out on top to advance to the regional final against Penn State for the second consecutive year, after a tough battle against Utah. Dani Drews and Kenzie Koerber put together a great effort for Utah, but when it came down to it in the fifth set, they couldn't stop¬†Plummer in her prime rotation. Plummer ended up with 29 kills on .389 hitting efficiency.¬†

Regional final:
Stanford 3¬†vs Penn State 0¬†‚ÄĒ Penn State and Stanford matched up in the regional final for the second year in a row, and Stanford took home the win both times. In the first set, Penn State looked promising with a big 19-13 lead. The Cardinal then sparked a huge comeback, and took the first set 25-22. The second and third sets were all Stanford. Plummer was dominating with 24 kills on .512 hitting, and¬†Gates had 11¬†kills on .733¬†hitting. But, there also was unbelievable performances from Campbell,¬†Fitzmorris and setter Gray. >> Watch highlights¬†here.¬†

Here is what you need to know about Minnesota: 

Minnesota advances to volleyball national semifinals

Minnesota made it back to the national semifinals this year after its season was cut short last year in the regional final. The Gophers were upset by Oregon, which prevented them moving on to the top four that was held in their own city of Minneapolis. This year, they didn't let that happen. This will be their third trip to the national semifinals in five years, and sixth time in program history. 

Players to watch: 

Minnesota has been led all season by Stephanie Samedy. She comes up big in a lot of tough matches. But notably, in the postseason, she has come up big defensively. She tallied 19 digs in their second-round win over Creighton and 17 digs in the third round over Florida. 

When Samedy isn't leading in kills, there are plenty of others to step up. That includes Adanna Rollins, Alexis Hart and Taylor Morgan. Any one of these players can be the leading scorer. There is also their middle blocker Regan Pittman, who has been vital to their offensive production and defense. 

How they got here: 

First round: 
(7)¬†Minnesota 3¬†vs Fairfield 0¬†‚ÄĒ Minnesota held Fairfield to negative hitting in the first two sets, and .000 percent in the third. Meanwhile, the Gophers hit .478, .385 and .441 in the first, second and third set. Adanna Rollins led with 14 kills.¬†

Second round:
(7) Minnesota¬†3, Creighton 2¬†‚ÄĒ Minnesota fought off two match-points in the fourth set vs. Creighton and won that set 26-24 before winning the fifth set 15-10. Rollins and Hart put up 14 kills apiece, and Samedy added 19 kills.¬†

Third round (regional semifinal): 
(7) Minnesota 3¬†vs. (10) Florida 2¬†‚ÄĒ Minnesota had four players with double-digit kills in the five-set win over Florida. Hart led with 16 kills on .342 hitting. Samedy wasn't one of those four players, but she led the team with 17 digs.¬†

Regional final: 
Minnesota 3¬†vs Louisville 0¬†‚ÄĒ¬† Adanna Rollins led the Gophers to a 3-0 win over Louisville, ending the Cardinals' Cinderella run. The first set was a close battle, with Minnesota winning 25-21. but the next two sets were dominated by the Gophers. Rollins led all hitters with 12 kills, and Stephanie Samedy was great all-around with nine kills, three service aces and seven digs. >> Watch highlights¬†here.¬†

Tale of the table: Stanford vs. Minnesota

Stanford and Minnesota play the national semifinal at 9:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 19, on ESPN. This will be their second time playing this season. Minnesota, on Sept. 14, was one of the teams to upset Stanford. This was one of those matches where Samedy stepped up big with 21 kills. Hart and Pittman were behind her with 15 and 12 kills, respectively. They held the Cardinal to a .185 hitting percentage. 

That win was Minnesota's first win over Stanford in 10 attempts. 

How they match up, statistically: 

tale of the table
  ATTACK  
0.299 Percentage 0.266
14.7 Kills/set 13.7
  SET  
13.9 Assists/set 12.8
  SERVE  
1.4 Aces/set 1.2
238 Errors 161
  RECEPTIONS  
0.7 Errors/set 1.3
  DEFENSE  
15.1 Digs/set 16.1
  BLOCKING  
2.9 Blocks/set 2.9

These stat comparisons vary a little, with Minnesota leading in digs and tallying fewer service errors, but Stanford leads in hitting percentage, kills per set, assists and aces. 

GET READY FOR PITTSBURGH: Buy tickets| View the bracket | Event schedule | Full guide

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