They aren’t labeling the game as David vs. Goliath, but for Wisconsin (27-9, 12-8) to de-throne the Texas Longhorns (27-2, 16-0) in the opening round of the NCAA Division 1 Final Four in Seattle, Thursday, would be equatable to something just short.
When the dust settles this week, the whirlwin that has been the last month for the Wisconsin Badgers hopes to blow west. Bringing with it the first National Championship in the history of Wisconsin volleyball.
Riding one of the hottest late-season win streaks in all of college sports right now, Texas hasn’t lost a match since Sept. 13 when Arizona State ripped through them in three sets. The No. 2 ranked team in the country joins along with the 15th ranked Badgers, top-ranked, Penn State, and the fifth ranked Washington Lady Huskies who will battle for the 2013 NCAA National Championship.
The Badgers women have won their last five straight, falling in just three sets total through that time. The team will make just their second Final Four appearance in the history of the program. Even with the defending NCAA champions staring down the barrel at them, the No. 12 seed Wisconsin and coach Kelly Sheffield isn’t about just coming to the West coast to simply enjoy the ride.
“We’ve got the defending champs up first … It’s what we want,” he said. “I can promise you this: we’re not going out there to just go check out the fish markets. Our team, they’re going to go hard and lay it all out there and we’re going out there to try to win a national championship like the other three teams are.”
Having not been in a National Championship situation before, the questions about this Wisconsin team’s readiness and ability to play with some of the best teams in the country is only natural. Sheffield thinks his team still has a lot to prove and some of their best volleyball ahead of them – some of which of course hangs on the health of his team going into Thursday’s semifinal.
No excuses though, being healthy isn’t something he expects will change in two days.
“You know, nobody’s that is playing in a Super Bowl either,” he said. “Nobody is healthy when they’re going into a game seven of an NBA game or Major League Baseball game. It’s the end of the season, people are beat up, and the great ones learn to raise their level even when they’re not all the way healthy. So our kids have been able to do that.”
Whether or not Texas is beatable, doesn’t seem to be a question for Sheffield to struggle with, either.
“I think everybody’s beatable. But they look really athletic,” he said. “You know, I mean, they are really, really good at their game. I mean, their outside hitters are probably touching 11 feet, and that’s not an exaggeration. They are really big and really up there, and very physical. You know, they’ve got a lot of people returning from a national championship team.”
ESPN2 will broadcast the Final Four live this Thursday with the Badgers vs Texas at 7:30 p.m. followed by Washington vs. Penn State at 9:30.
The battle for the National Championship will also air, Dec. 21 at 9:30 p.m. CST.