By Danny Davis, Austin-Statesman staff
AUSTIN, Texas — In search of two wins for a berth at the national semifinals, the volleyball teams from Texas, Minnesota, Florida and Louisville will battle at Gregory Gym this weekend.
Texas is set to host Louisville at 4 p.m. today (ESPNU) while Minnesota and Florida meet in Austin’s other Sweet Sixteen showdown at 6:30 p.m. (ESPN3 live stream, AM-850, 98.1-FM). The winners of those two matches will return to Gregory Gym on Saturday. The last team standing this weekend will travel to Pittsburgh next week for the NCAA final four.
The four teams in this regional are not unfamiliar with each other. In September, Texas swept Minnesota in a match that was held in Austin. Minnesota has beaten Florida this season. Florida, meanwhile, opened its 2019 campaign with a 3-0 win at Louisville.
Florida’s leading scorer, Thayer Hall, was out of the lineup for the first and second rounds. It is still unknown whether she will return for the regionals, as coach Mary Wise said Hall is “day-to-day.”
Both Texas (Micaya White) and Florida (Rachael Kramer) boast players who have started in NCAA championship matches. Minnesota last reached the final four in 2016, and there are four players leftover from that team. Louisville’s volleyball team is looking to book its first-ever trip to the final four.
Here are some additional tidbits that you should know about the four teams in Austin’s regional:
Current AVCA ranking: 4
Postseason seed: 2
Conference standing: t-1st, Big 12
Postseason results: Albany, 3-0 W; UC Santa Barbara, 3-2 W
Best ranking in 2019: 1st, Oct. 28 – Nov. 24
Wins vs. ranked teams: No. 14 USC (3-1, Sept. 1); No. 8 Minnesota (3-0, Sept. 4); No. 13 BYU (3-1, Sept. 13); No. 1 Baylor (3-0, Oct. 23)
Losses vs. ranked teams: No. 1 Stanford (3-2, Sept. 8); No. 3 Baylor (3-2, Nov. 20)
Best statistic: Hitting percentage (1st of 332 teams)
Worst statistic: Team digs (325th of 332 teams)
AVCA all-region (Southwest): OH Micaya White, OH Logan Eggleston, OPP Skylar Fields, S Jhenna Gabriel
Fun fact: The Longhorns’ three leaders in kills this season — White, Eggleston and Fields — are all hitting over .300. Texas has yet to pull off that statistical feat this decade. UT’s 2012 championship team had two of its top-three killers hit over .300, but Haley Eckerman’s team-high 504 kills were complemented by a still-impressive .298 hitting percentage.
Current AVCA ranking: 7
Postseason seed: 7
Conference standing: t-2nd, Big Ten
Postseason results: Fairfield, 3-0 W; Creighton 3-2 W
Best ranking in 2019: 3rd, preseason
Wins vs. ranked teams: No. 7 Florida (3-0, Sept. 7); No. 10 Oregon (3-0, Sept. 13); No. 1 Stanford (3-1, Sept. 14); No. 15 Purdue (3-0, Sept. 28); No. 17 Illinois (3-1, Oct. 9); No. 17 Illinois (3-1, Oct. 19); No. 16 Purdue (3-1, Nov. 3); No. 23 Michigan (3-0, Nov. 16); No. 7 Penn State (3-1, Nov. 30); No. 15 Creighton (3-2, Dec. 7)
Losses vs. ranked teams: No. 3 Texas (3-0, Sept. 4); No. 7 Wisconsin (3-0, Oct. 13); No. 7 Wisconsin (3-1, Nov. 14); No. 6 Nebraska (3-2, Nov. 22)
Best statistic: Blocks per set (8th of 332 teams)
Worst statistic: Total aces (256th of 332 teams)
AVCA all-region (North): OH Alexis Hart, L CC McGraw, MB Regan Pittman and OPP Stephanie Samedy
Fun fact: Minnesota’s record slumped to 1-2 after its loss to Texas. That marked only the third time this decade that the Golden Gophers have had a losing record. The team dropped the first match of its 2011 season and opened a 2015 campaign that ended in the Final Four with a 0-2 showing.
Current AVCA ranking: 12
Postseason seed: 10
Conference standing: t-1st, SEC
Postseason results: Alabama State, 3-0 W; UCF, 3-0 W
Best ranking in 2019: 7th, Sept. 2-8
Wins vs. ranked teams: No. 25 Louisville (3-0, Aug. 30); No. 23 Florida State (3-0, Sept. 17); No. 24 Missouri (3-2, Oct. 30)
Losses vs. ranked teams: No. 1 Stanford (3-0, Sept. 4); No. 8 Minnesota (3-0, Sept. 7); No. 15 Kentucky (3-2, Oct. 6); No. 17 Kentucky (3-2, Nov. 17)
Best statistic: Hitting percentage (7th of 332 teams)
Worst statistic: Team Attacks Per Set (315th of 332 teams)
AVCA all-region (Southeast): OH Thayer Hall, MB Rachael Kramer
Fun fact: Florida sophomore defensive specialist Paula Cerame is the cousin of former UT volleyball player Paulina Prieto Cerame. Both players wore No. 19. This season, Paula is averaging 1.43 digs per set.
Current AVCA ranking: n/a
Postseason seed: n/a
Conference standing: t-3rd, ACC
Postseason results: Samford, 3-0 W; Western Kentucky, 3-2 W
Best ranking in 2019: 22nd, Sept. 9-15
Wins vs. ranked teams: No. 19 Western Kentucky (3-2, Dec. 6)
Losses vs. ranked teams: No. 10 Florida (3-0, Aug. 30); No. 23 Purdue (3-1, Sept. 13); No. 16 Kentucky (3-0, Sept. 20); No. 3 Pittsburgh (3-0, Oct. 27); No. 2 Pittsburgh (3-1, Nov. 27)
Best statistic: Blocks per set (20th of 332 teams)
Worst statistic: Digs per set (301st of 332 teams)
AVCA all-region (East): OPP Aiko Jones
Fun fact: Louisville junior Tori Dilfer, who is averaging 8.26 assists per set, spent her first two years of college at TCU. Dilfer distributed 52 assists in a 3-2 loss to Texas on Oct. 3, 2018.