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Texas Volleyball Final Four Preview and Open Thread

The Gazelles once again reach the Final Four as they defend their National Championship.


The Number 1 Seeded Texas Longhorns Women's Volleyball team have once again reached the Final Four of the NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament and will take on the Badgers of Wisconsin tonight at 6:30 CST at the Key Arena in Seattle, Washington. The match will be broadcast live on ESPN 2, and the victor will earn the right to play the winner of the Penn State/Washington match for the 2013 National Championship.

Amidst the chaos surrounding the football program, the defending National Champion Lady Longhorns have flown under the radar while running through the NCAA tournament in dominating fashion. After winning the Big 12 Conference Championship the Longhorns defeated Texas State 3-0, Texas A&M 3-1, American 3-1, and Nebraska 3-0.

Texas (27-2) comes into tonight's match against Wisconsin (27-9) riding a nation-best 23 match win streak, and have not been taken to a 5th set since an early season contest against Nebraska on September 22nd.

The Cornhuskers were not nearly as competitive in the rematch as the Longhorns easily handled Nebraska, winning the Regional Finals in straight sets, 25-19, 25-22, and 25-23 behind dominating performances by All-Americans Haley Eckerman and Bailey Webster, who logged 14 and 12 kills apiece. While the Lady Huskers out-dug and out-killed the Longhorns, the final score fell in favor of Texas thanks largely to a strong team blocking performance; Texas posted 14 blocks to Nebraska's 3. Setter Hannah Allison also contributed significantly to the win with 37 assists, and Khat Bell posted 6 blocks on the night.

Meanwhile, the 12th seeded Lady Badgers have become somewhat of a darkhorse in this tournament. Despite four late season conferences losses against Purdue, Nebraska, Penn State, and Minnesota on November 2nd, 8th, 15th, and 27th, respectively, the Badgers appear to have caught fire at the right time, as no team has taken them to a 5th set during their tournament run.

While the Longhorns won their Regional Final in large part to stellar blocking, the situation was quite opposite for the Badgers who defeated Purdue, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 25-21, behind a strong offensive performance by Deme Morales who posted a career high 20 blocks on the night. Also expect strong performances tonight from team leaders Ellen Chapman, who has posted 490 kills, Annemarie Hickey who has logged 435 digs, and Haleigh Nelson, who has accounted for 150 blocks on the season.

While The Gregory Gazelles can't make the mistake of discounting a scrappy underdog in Wisconsin, they are terrifically poised to repeat as National Champions if they come into Seattle tonight focused and prepared to take care of business. Be sure to take a break from the circus that is the athletic department and football program and cheer for our women as they continue to embody the standard of excellence we expect from our athletic programs at the University of Texas.

This is your open thread. Point Texas!