The national semifinals are set. Four teams remain in the tournament: the No. 1 Wisconsin Badgers, the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats, 4-seed Texas and the 6-seeded Washington Huskies. Here are our two DI women's volleyball national semifinal matchups, previewed:
No. 1 Wisconsin vs. No. 4 Texas
I am not sure if it can get ANY better than this.
Texas played lights out in a four-set win over Nebraska, a team that practically had a home-court advantage. The Longhorns hit .336 on the match, and I think this is the most athletic team in the country. Just pure athletes, so much firepower, talent at every corner.
Not only that but they were so aggressive at the service-line, keeping Nebraska out-of-system down the stretch. Logan Eggleston not only had 18 kills but notched five aces as well. They went on a lot of runs with her behind the service line. Skylar Fields, absolutely unreal. 18 kills on .630 hitting she was hammering down kills from the left side at almost every single touch. At one point she had 15 kills and 0 errors. The block was strong as well with Asjia Oneal and Brionne Butler. This is not a Texas team you want to be playing right now.
But then we have the undefeated Wisconsin Badgers, who had a much shorter regular season than the Longhorns. But hey, they are now officially battle-tested. Florida gave them ALL that they could handle, and the Badgers prevailed. Showed what they are made of. And it was players like Dana Rettke and Molly Haggerty that shined so bright in the biggest of moments. Sydney Hilley had an outstanding outing, and you know what, I think the Badgers needed a five-set test like that. I think it's a good thing for them.
Now for the matchup. Two of the best teams in the country featuring many of the top players in the country. One thing Wisconsin worked on a TON since its loss to Stanford in the 2019 national championship is its out-of-system play. Texas got a lot of points with Nebraska out of system, but might not be able to do the same against the Badgers, we’ll see.
Both teams are superb blocking teams, with really strong pin hitters. I'm interested to see how Fields adjusts with the Wisconsin block. And I think the Badgers will need every single hitter to have a good game. That includes Rettke, Haggerty, Grace Loberg and Danielle Hart. Texas is certainly hot at the right time, all of their players have been showing up. I said it already but I’ll say it again, It really doesn't get better than this matchup.
No. 2 Kentucky vs. No. 6 Washington
Our next semifinal matchup will feature the No. 2 Kentucky Wildcats taking on the No. 6 Washington Huskies. The comeback queens.
The Huskies pulled off yet another MASSIVE five-set comeback in the tournament. This team has been on the court more than anyone. They were down 2-sets against Pittsburgh before rallying back to push a fifth set, pulling off the reverse sweep. The Huskies keep getting pushed to their limits but they keep finding a way, which I think shows a lot about the heart and talent of this team. Ella May Powell had 48 assists in the win, such a vital aspect of this team’s success and Samantha Drechsel really turned it on and took control of the match in the third set.
The Wildcats won their quarterfinal matchup with ease, in the only sweep of the round. I have nothing but good things to say about this Kentucky team, they are playing some really high-level volleyball right now. They don't make many mistakes, their hitters are pure athletes, making plays all over the court, and then they have Madison Lilley a phenomenal setter and a big reason why this offense is so unstoppable. They made history making it this far and they deserve it.
So the matchup will be between Kentucky, a team that hasn’t really had trouble with any of their opponents in the tournament so far, and a team battle-tested through and through. Washington had a quick turnaround after a very long match. The Huskies then endured another five-setter in the quarterfinals so they will get some much-needed rest and can re-dial in over the next few days. I think the biggest question in this matchup is, can Washington slow down the offensive powerhouse that is Kentucky? Purdue’s blocking game was not enough in the quarterfinals, the Huskies block will be big. If Washington can come out strong from the beginning and put together a complete match, this could be a fun one.
Really, the national championship is up for grabs. Anyone can do it. This is going to be fun. The National semifinals are coming up this Thursday, April 22.