The four NCAA Tournament regional finals are Saturday, and the winners will advance to next Thursday’s national semifinals in Columbus, Ohio.
The NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Final Four is guaranteed to have at least one female head coach, at least one ACC team for the first time since 2011, and at least one Big Ten team … and possibly three.
There also will be a new champion for the third season in a row.
All four of Saturday’s matches will be shown on ESPNU, however when one goes long and the next one starts, you can watch on ESPN.com. We have those links on our VolleyballMag.com TV & Streaming Listings.
4 p.m. Eastern at Pittsburgh
No. 3 Pittsburgh (29-3) vs. No. 6 Purdue (26-6)
Neither of these teams has ever been to the national semifinals. Purdue is in its fifth regional final, and Pitt is in its second in a row. Purdue is 11-0 all-time against Pitt.
Pitt of the ACC swept Kansas on Thursday, but Purdue of the Big Ten had a tougher path. Although the Boilermakers have won 12 of their last 13, they escaped with a reverse sweep win over Dayton and a tough-set, comeback victory over BYU in their last two matches.
6 p.m. at Lousiville
No. 1 Louisville (31-0) vs. Georgia Tech (26-5)
Neither team has been to the national semifinals, although Coach Dani Busboom Kelly of Louisville has won NCAA titles as a player and then assistant coach at Nebraska. Either she or Georgia Tech’s Michelle Collier will take an ACC team to the Final Four for the first time since Florida State went in 2011 and will join the short list of women to coach that far into the tournament. No female coach has won the national title.
Louisville is trying to become the first team to go unbeaten since 2009, when Penn State finished 38-0 for the second straight year during a run of four consecutive titles. Louisville has been to one regional final, in 2019.
Louisville swept both ACC matches against Tech this season.
Georgia Tech advanced with a sweep of Ohio State.
8 p.m. at Wisconsin
No. 4 Wisconsin (28-3) vs. No. 12 Minnesota (23-8)
Big Ten-champion Wisconsin, which has won eight matches in a row, has been so close. In 2019, the Badgers lost in the national-championship match. Last spring, they made it to the national semifinals.
Wisconsin, which has swept all three of its NCAA matches so far, swept visiting Minnesota on October 1 and then won in five at Minnesota on November 21. The November scores alone tell what a battle this match should be: 24-26, 25-19, 25-27, 26-28, 15-12.
In Thursday’s regional semis, Wisconsin swept UCLA, and Minnesota battled to a five-set win over Baylor.
Wisconsin has won the last five matches in the series, but Minnesota holds a 52-35 edge all-time. Minnesota has been to the national semis six times, the last time in 2019.
10 p.m. at Texas
No. 2 Texas (27-1) vs. No. 10 Nebraska (24-7)
Big 12-champion Texas is in a regional final for the 15th time in 16 season and last won it all in 2012. Thursday, Texas had to rally for a reverse sweep against Washington, and Nebraska swept Illinois.
Texas is explosive and leads the nation with its .347 hitting percentage. Nebraska led the Big Ten this season in opponent hitting percentage, .141.
Nebraska last won the title in 2017 and lost in the 2018 national-title match. The Huskers, in a regional final for the 10th year in a row, are 15-15 in regional finals.
Nebraska leads the all-time series 32-24, but Texas has won the last two, a sweep in the 2016 semifinals and a four-set victory in a regional final last spring.
Analysis and commentary
We did a video pop-up episode Friday with Salima Rockwell, Jenny Hazelwood, and Emily Ehman. Click here to watch.
Coaching carousel: Flory retires
LSU coach Fran Flory created the second opening in the SEC when she retired after 24 seasons. She leaves as the winningest coach in school history (515-413) and was the second-longest tenured coach in the SEC behind Florida’s Mary Wise.
LSU finished 13-14 this season, 9-9 in the SEC after winning five of its last seven. LSU last went to the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
Flory won a national championship as a player when Texas won the last AIAW title in 1981 and was the head coach at Kentucky before taking the LSU job in 1998. She has a handful of former players coaching in Division, including head coaches Lyndsey Oates of Northern Colorado and Samantha Dabbs Thomas of Incarnate Word. Also, associate head coach Jill Wilson of Ohio State played for Flory at LSU and was later her longtime assistant. Associate head coach Tonya Johnson of Texas was a player when Flory was first at LSU as an assistant in the early 1990s. Wilson left LSU to be the head coach at Virginia Tech then went to Ohio State; Johnson left Texas to be the head coach at Georgia Tech and then returned.
Alabama of the SEC also has a coaching opening. There are also Power 5 openings at Iowa of the Big Ten, Notre Dame of the ACC, and TCU of the Big 12.
There are currently at least 25 Division I openings.
In the championship match Sunday, Valparaiso will play host to UNLV at 7 p.m. Eastern. The match can be seen on ESPN+.
Valpo (26-9) of the Missouri Valley advanced with a 28-26, 27-25, 26-24 sweep of the Big East’s UConn (24-11).
Maddy Boyer and Peyton McCarthy had 12 kills each, and Elise Swistek had 19 digs and five assists. Rylee Cookerly had 14 more digs and is now 11 away from tying the NCAA career record for digs.
UConn’s Caylee Parker had 19 kills, hit .400, and added an assist, 10 digs, and four blocks, one solo.
UNLV (27-9) of the Mountain West advanced Thursday with a 15-25, 25-21, 25-18, 25-17 victory over UTEP (24-8) of Conference USA.
Mariena Hayden led UNLV with 14 kills, hit .310 and had an ace, three blocks, and four digs. UTEP’s Serena Patterson had 18 kills, hit .333 and had an assist and three aces.