Penn State is looking for its sixth national title, and the quest continues tonight in Louisville as the 33-2 Nittany Lions take on the Ducks, who are making their first final four appearance at 29-4.
This will be Coach Russ Rose and the team's second trip to Louisville this season, after playing a tournament in junior Deja McClendon's hometown earlier this year, in which they swept all opponents.
The Nittany Lions didn't drop a set en route to a Big Ten matchup in the region finals versus #8 Minnesota, who came out strong and nearly matched the #1 team point for point. Watching the match, it felt lucky that the Lions only dropped one set en route to the semifinal, as the Gophers were electric at points inside Mackey arena; in the end, however, PSU's talent and depth was too much for the up-and-coming Minnesota program.
Oregon, unlike Penn State, was the underdog in their regional final, taking on #4 Nebraska in Omaha. The Ducks looked incredibly sloppy in their first set, and many (including this blogger) turned off the match for fear that it would be a Huskers slaughter--but Oregon dug in its heels, and made an about face. Beginning with the second set, they completely overpowered and outmatched Nebraska, and the rest of the match wasn't even close.
Most years see a final four comprised of one or more California schools, but 2012 is the rare exception, as unseeded Michigan and #3 Texas took out #2 Stanford and #6 USC, respectively, in their own regional finals. The matchup between these two schools is set to start at 7 pm, also on ESPN 2.
Whichever team wins this earlier match, if the Nittany Lions do advance past Oregon, they'll be familiar with their National Championship opponent; PSU swept Texas at home earlier this year at the Nike Big Four, and beat Michigan in five sets in Ann Arbor in October.
Before that can happen, though, the Nittany Lions take on a scrappy, overperforming Oregon team that finished second in their conference behind first team all-Americans Alaina Bergsma and Lauren Plum, only the program's second and third first team all-Americans ever.
Good luck, ladies!
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