For the first time in four years, the four-time defending national champion Penn State Nittany Lions are not playing for a women's volleyball national title. Why? Because Coach Michael Sealy and his #9-seeded UCLA women's volleyball team eliminated them on their march to this match in San Antonio.
After dispatching the Florida State Seminoles in the NCAA tournament semi-final match on Thursday evening, the ladies give us a Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl preview of sorts, in squaring off against #3-seeded Illinois in the national title match. The Fighting Illini pulled off an impressive five-set upset over #1-seeded U$C, which was led by maybe the only player better than Rachael Kidder, the sensational Alex Jupiter.
This game is for all the marbles, and for UCLA, national title #108 is on the line, a win that the Bruins desperately need to maintain their title lead over Stanford and U$C (which picked up a title by beating our men's water polo team). There's some good pre-game reading about one of the key contributors to the Bruin squad who doesn't get all the press that Rachael Kidder does, and it's Lauren Van Orden, the senior setter who transferred from SDSU, and has been masterful in directing the Bruins' offense. The official site has a good piece on her, as well as the NCAA official website here. Likewise, the NCAA has a neat story on Kelly Reeves, the only Bruin to have experience in winning a NCAA national title game before (well, sort of). The last time the ladies won a title, in 1991, Kelly's mom Jeanne was pregnant with Kelly as she roamed the sidelines as an assistant coach for the title-winning Bruins.
Turning to the match itself, the game preview on the official site is here, which also has quotes from Friday's press conference here. The game gets underway at the Alamodome at 5:30 p.m. PST and will be broadcast on ESPN2. You can also watch it online at ESPN3.com, or if you can't do that, you can track it with the Gametracker here.
Go get 'em ladies and bring the 108th blue-and-gold title banner back to Westwood