The NCAA volleyball Final Four has arrived at Nationwide Arena, and at least two teams are in familiar territory. Of the four teams to make the national semifinals - Minnesota, Nebraska, Stanford, Texas - two are in the Big Ten and come to Ohio State at least twice a season.
The NCAA volleyball Final Four has arrived at Nationwide Arena, and at least two teams are in familiar territory.
Of the four teams to make the national semifinals - Minnesota, Nebraska, Stanford, Texas - two are in the Big Ten and come to Ohio State at least twice a season.
The last time reigning NCAA champion Nebraska - whose Hunter Atherton went to Dublin Coffman - was in town, coach John Cook wanted to see Nationwide, where the semifinals will be played Thursday and the national championship Saturday.
"We played Ohio State back in October, and we made sure we drove by this Nationwide Arena here. And it's been one of our goals," Cook said. "But we've been working on this since January."
It's only fitting that with a familiar location should come a familiar opponent. Nebraska plays Texas, but the teams are far from strangers. Before the Cornhuskers left the Big 12, they forged a heated rivalry with the Longhorns and lead the series 32-21. Nebraska left for the Big Ten after the 2010 season and took a hiatus from the series before picking up an annual nonconference game in 2013.
The teams can't avoid each other in the postseason, either. The Longhorns lost in straight sets to Nebraska last season in the national championship in Omaha, Nebraska.
To Cook and Texas coach Jerritt Elliott, the rivalry is very much alive.
"Texas, they're not that complicated to prepare for," Cook said. "They have athletes and you have to stop them. And so it's not like we have to go reinvent a whole new game plan or do stuff like that."
Minnesota is the only team among the Final Four that has not won at least one national championship. The last time it had the chance at one, in 2004, it lost in three games to Stanford.
That trend continued at the beginning of the season when the Gophers lost at Stanford in four games. But Minnesota only lost three matches after that, and outside hitter Sarah Wilhite said that the team is different than the one that lost in late August.
"I think we've grown a lot throughout the year. I think against Stanford the biggest thing that we've learned is to be patient and if you see your shot you take it," she said. "That's been a huge growth of ours."
The Gophers can rely on Big Ten setter of the year Samantha Seliger-Swenson, who gives the team many options on offense, something they will need against Stanford's wall of middle blockers and outside hitters who average about 6 feet 3, including 6-6 Pac-12 freshman of the year Kathryn Plummer.