Who: #6 Washington (18-3, 17-3 Pac-12) vs #11 Louisville (15-2, 12-2 ACC)
When: Was supposed to start at 12:30pm, but due to previous match (Pittsburgh/Minnesota) going way long, 1:41pm Pacific is the new start time.
Where: CHI Health Center in Omaha, Neb.
How to watch: ESPN3
Winner faces unseeded Pittsburgh (19-4, 14-4 ACC), who stunned 3rd-seeded Minnesota (16-3, 15-2 B1G) in the first regional semifinal.
Series history: Not much. Washington won the only meeting between the teams on Sept. 11, 1993 in an early-season tournament in Lincoln, Neb. Neither team was anywhere near their current status at that point: UW went 8-21, 3-15 Pac-10 that season.
The Huskies do have far more history against the Head Coach for the Cardinals, just not as a Head Coach: Dani Busboom Kelly was a fixture on the mid-2000s Nebraska teams that UW met many times, including the Huskies’ 2005 national championship win before winning national POTY in 2006. And before getting the top job at Louisville, she was an assistant at Nebraska from 2012-16 when the Huskers knocked UW out of the postseason four times in five years.
What to watch for: Louisville is the #1 team in the NCAA in blocks/set at 3.29 — only two other teams even crack 3.00. The Cardinals are able to do this despite not being an especially tall team: their tallest regular is 6’3” MB Amaya Tillman (#2 individually in blocks/set) and three of their six starters are of average height or less for their position on a Power 5 team (6’1” MB Anna Stevenson, 6’0” OH Anna DeBeer, 5’11” S Tori Dilfer).
The Huskies have a weapon that not many teams do that they can use to attack the Cardinals’ block: Samantha Drechsel. Louisville’s elite block centers on the middle blockers and star sophomore RS Aiko Jones. Their outside hitters (6’2” Claire Chausse and the aforementioned DeBeer) are decent but unspectacular blockers, which should offer better scoring opportunities for an opponents’ right-side hitter — like Drechsel, who is very much in the conversation for the second-best RS in the country after Minnesota’s Stephanie Samedy.
If the match comes down to a tight battle at the end, the Huskies are far more tested in crunch time: Washington has played seven five-set matches already this season, going 5-2, including their second-round win over Dayton on Thursday. Louisville has had a number of close four-set matches (including R2 over San Diego) but has not played a single fifth set this year, and both of their losses came in sweeps (vs Notre Dame, at Pittsburgh).