The City of Seattle is hosting the NCAA Women's Volleyball Final Four for the first time and the site will be rocking extra loud as the home team University of Washington Huskies play for a place in the National Championship game.
The KeyArena is decked out in NCAA finery as it hosts the event and fans can expect intense action as the No. 3 Huskies take on the Penn State Nittany Lions and defending champion No. 1 seed Texas Longhorns will take on the party crashing No. 12 Wisconsin Badgers.
Badger first year head coach Kelly Sheffield was asked if he felt his team was challenged after coming through a bracket where the toughest seeds were eliminated before they could play them.
"...We had, out of the four teams still playing, we had the toughest first round opponent, we had the toughest second and third round opponent...," said Coach Sheffield. "So we didn't luck ourselves into this. We didn't walk backwards into this. We hit it straight on with some really,, really good teams playing in the best conference in America. This team deserves to be here."
All the teams, except Wisconsin (27-9), are conference champions. Washington (30-2) won the Pac-12, Texas (27-2) the Big 12 and Penn State (32-2) the Big Ten.
Facing off with the Longhorn's the Badgers know they have a lot of power coming at them over the net. But they feel they can stay with them as long as they play their game.
"I think we're strong defensively in the back court...," said senior libero Annemarie Hickey. "They are very powerful and physical at the front but we also led the Big Ten in digs and we are also keeping a lot of teams we've been playing to their lowest hitting percentages...I think it's a great match-up for both teams."
Despite winning big over most of their opponents and defeating a tough Nebraska team to reach the Final Four Texas isn't taking the Badgers lightly.
"We haven't been concerned about the bracket in the last probably eight years of the program that I've been associated with," said the Longhorns head coach Jerritt Elliott. "We have one team we're focused on and Wisconsin is playing well right now. We're going to respect them. We know what they can do. They've got an amazing setter. They're very efficient right now."
Penn State will be facing not only a tough Washington team but a crowd that will reflect the Huskies are only five miles away from their home.
"We're excited to play in front of a big crowd once again," said senior Ariel Scott. "Going to Nebraska and Illinois and places like that have definitely prepared us for a home crowd like it's going to be tomorrow night. So we're excited."
Washington is ready. At their press conference they talked about focus and about getting to the Final Four in Seattle.
"Well, it would just be a lost opportunity (to not be in it in Seattle)," said Huskies head coach Jim McLaughlin. "But I had a belief, I had faith that if we did the things we were capable of doing and we controlled our ability to play well enough to win that it wasn't going to be about anybody else. It was going to be about us and if we didn't get here it was going to be about us not doing what we were supposed to do. So that's the mindset and they responded to it."
Whatever the results all the teams believe the games will be entertaining and tough with all playing their game and fighting to get to that final game of the NCAA season.
The Longhorns take on the Badgers at 4:30pm on Thursday, December 19th with the Huskies playing the Nittany Lions at 6:30pm or 30 minutes after the first game ends.
All games will be played at the KeyArena and fans are encouraged to get their early to move through ticket lines and bag searches.
The National Championship game is slated for 6:30pm on Saturday, December 21st at the KeyArena.