December 17, 2023
TAMPA — You may have forgotten, but in the AVCA preseason top 25 that came out last August, Texas was No. 1.
Yes, those same Longhorns who then went and lost their first match, in four, at Long Beach State on a day when superstar middle Asjia O’Neal did not play.
Texas, seeded No. 7, was 5-3 on September 15 after losing in four to Washington State.
That might as well be ancient history, because the Longhorns (27-4) lost just once again, an out-of-character sweep at Kansas State. Since then, they’ve won nine in a row, including five in this NCAA Tournament, most recently knocking out third-seeded Wisconsin in Thursday’s NCAA Division I Volleyball Championship national semifinals.
In that same preseason poll, Nebraska was tied for fifth with Louisville.
Eventually, of course, Nebraska, now 33-1, moved into the top spot and stayed there. The Huskers, accordingly, were the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament. Their only loss was a late-season sweep at Wisconsin. They’ve won six in a row, which includes losing just one set in their five NCAA tourney victories.
And here we are.
Red-hot Texas, the runaway winner in the Big 12, vs. THE team to beat, the Big Ten champion.
It’s all there for the sporting world to see at 3 p.m. Eastern Sunday on ABC, the first time the NCAA final is going to be seen on broadcast network TV, capping a season in which attendance TV-ratings records have continually been blown away.
Tell your non-volleyball friends. Tell them to put on ABC and just enjoy what promises to be a fantastic sporting event with more story line and sub plots than can be imagined.
Here are a few:
THE THIRD TIME: Nebraska and Texas will play for the title for the third time. In 1995, Nebraska beat Teas in four. In 2015, Nebraska swept Texas. For that matter, Nebraska has five titles, the last in 2017. Texas has won three, including last season.
As Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said,”It’s a special moment to be able to have a Texas-Nebraska game on ABC on national television to really blow it out of the park.”
ABOUT THOSE FRESHMEN: The number of youngsters in this tournament has been a popular news-conference question this week, but let us not forget that in 2016, Stanford won it all with four freshmen leading the way, outside Kathryn Plummer, setter Jenna Gray, libero Morgan Hentz and right side Audriana Fitzmorris.
No matter which team wins, it will be do so with a freshman setter, for Texas Ella Swindle and for…