Arizona volleyball faces region of death in Nebraska
Arizona women’s volleyball is headed to the Sweet Sixteen for the eighth time in program history, but the Wildcats can’t escape the heat of the Pac-12 Conference as their next opponent is the conference champion and No. 8 seed overall, Washington.
The Huskies have an edge over the Wildcats in their two regular season matches. Washington dominated over Arizona and obtained only one lost set in seven played.
Arizona and Washington’s first meeting handed the Wildcats their third consecutive loss that week, contributing to a rough midseason stretch. Head coach Dave Rubio emphasized after the match the importance of a unified effort in defeating a team as talented as Washington.
Following the Washington loss, Arizona redeemed itself by defeating No. 20 Oregon, No. 25 USC and No. 9 UCLA. The Wildcats seemed prepared for the rematch with the Huskies, but the Pac-12 Player of the Year, Courtney Schwan, led Washington to a 3-0 sweep.
Arizona has had a tough run to get this far into the postseason, while Washington is cruising into the match with four losses all year.
Arizona faced nine AVCA Top-25 opponents during the regular season, ranking its schedule as the sixth hardest in the nation. Arizona eased over Cleveland State in a sweep in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but took five sets and extra points to put away No. 9 Michigan State.
Meanwhile, Washington is on a nine-game winning streak and hasn’t dropped a set since Nov. 23.
Washington and Arizona are two of four Pac-12 teams making appearances in the Sweet Sixteen. The other remaining schools are No. 6 Stanford and No. 10 UCLA. Due to the Arizona-Washington matchup, there is guaranteed to be at least one Pac-12 participant in the Regional Finals.
This is the first time Arizona has attended a regional since 2005. The Wildcats advanced to the Elite Eight as the then-No. 4 overall seed, but an unranked Santa Clara squad crushed the hopes of a Final Four appearance.
Coincidentally, 2005 was the same year that No. 3-seed Washington earned its first NCAA Tournament title by sweeping No. 1 Nebraska in the championship match.
Eleven years later, Nebraska is once again the No. 1 seed and will face No. 16 Penn State in the Sweet Sixteen. The Cornhuskers and Nittany Lions, along with the Huskies, represent the last nine of 11 NCAA national championships in women’s volleyball. It will not be an easy task as the Wildcats head to Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers will play host to the Arizona and Washington match on Dec. 9, airing on ESPN3 at 12:30 p.m. If Arizona can advance, it will face the winner of Nebraska and Penn State in the Regional Final.
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