NCAA Volleyball Tourney
Third-ranked Horns host USC, Florida, and Wichita State
The third-ranked Texas Longhorns (25-4 on the season) host the NCAA Regional finals this weekend, playing No. 14 Florida (27-4) on Friday; then perhaps sixth-ranked Southern Cal (29-5) for a spot in next weekend's final four in Louisville.
The Horns are led by sophomore outside hitter Haley Eckerman (pictured), the 2012 Big 12 Player of the Year. Also first-team Big 12 and AVCA All-Region are Khat Bell, Sha'Dare McNeal, and Bailey Webster, all six-foot-plus hitters and blockers. The Gators are big up front as well, with four All-Region players of their own, led by Slovenian freshman Ziva Recek – but if the favorites win out and it's a UT-USC final, it could come down to offense vs. defense, because the Women of Troy's best player is All-American libero Natalie Hagglund, who led the Pac 12 in digs. Also watch out for USC outside hitter Sara Shaw, a high school All-American at Westlake High.
It'll also be a homecoming for USC coach Mick Haley, who spent 17 glorious seasons at UT (1980-96), winning two national championships, an NCAA bid every year, and every Southwest Conference title in that league's history. (And on the other hand, Longhorn coach Jerritt Elliott was USC's interim head coach for two years while Haley was serving as the coach of Team USA.) Tickets are $8 ($5 student/youth), or $14/10 for all three games; buy online at www.texassports.com, or at Gregory Gym, starting an hour before tipoff.
Semifinals are Friday, Dec. 7: Wichita State-USC at 5pm, Texas-Florida at 7pm. Regional championship: Saturday, Dec. 8, 8pm. Gregory Gym, 2101 Speedway.