Through one weekend, the Austin quadrant in the NCAA volleyball tournament has unfolded the way most had expected it would.
Late Saturday on the west coast, No. 14 UCLA stopped Michigan in five sets to ensure four seeded teams will be in Austin for regionals.
No. 3 Texas, making its 10th straight Sweet 16 appearance, hosts the Bruins at 7 p.m. Friday. It’ll be the second of two semifinals and will follow a 4:30 p.m. matchup between No. 6 Wisconsin and No. 11 Florida.
Four major conferences are represented: UCLA, fourth in the Pac 12, is running hot after beating top-seed USC two weeks ago; Florida, fourth in the SEC, owns a four-set win over Texas on Sept. 5 at Gregory Gymnasium; and Wisconsin came out third in the Big Ten battle royale.
The semifinal winners will meet at 8 p.m. Saturday to go to the Final Four at Omaha’s Century Link Center.
Texas’ path has not been easy. After opening with a sluggish sweep of Fairfield, the Longhorns (27-2 overall) ran into trouble against Purdue on Friday, nearly requiring five games before advancing 25-14, 14-25, 25-19, 27-25.
Texas is eying a 10th straight berth in a regional final.
Contenders lurk elsewhere in the field. In San Diego, No. 1 USC takes on No. 16 Creighton, and Big 12 runner-up Kansas, the No. 9 seed, will face Loyola Marymount, an unseeded Cinderella that swept No. 8 Stanford in round two.
Chalk prevailed in Lexington where No. 4 Nebraska takes on No. 13 BYU, the defending NCAA runner-up who eliminated Texas in last year’s Final Four. In the other semifinal, No. 5 Washington will play No. 12 Ohio State.
The Des Moines regional has featured the most drama. Hawaii, which was unseeded despite having only one loss, blew through SEC champion Texas A&M in three games Saturday. Hawaii (28-1) will play defending champion Penn State, the No. 7 seed. Beware Texas: Hawaii’s only loss is to, you guessed it, UCLA.
The other semifinal is a Big Ten battle between No. 2 Minnesota and unseeded Illinois. Minnesota won the regular season meeting at home in five games.
As expected, the Big Ten is flexing its muscle and accounts for six remaining teams. The Pac 12 has three, the Big 12 two and the SEC one.