NCAA volleyball’s development on full show at 2022 remaining 4

OMAHA, Neb. — Louisville girls’s volleyball coach Dani Busboom Kelly paused and thought of it for a second. Sixteen years in the past? It is actually been that lengthy?

Certainly, in December 2006, she was on this similar enviornment in downtown Omaha as a Nebraska senior libero successful a nationwide championship. Seven years in the past, she was again right here as a Huskers assistant coach doing the identical factor.

Now, if her Cardinals win two matches right here, they are going to change into the primary ACC crew to say the NCAA girls’s volleyball title, and he or she would be the first lady head coach to take action. However she’s not the one one right here who may make historical past.

San Diego’s Jennifer Petrie has her Toreros on the remaining 4 for the primary time, and he or she is also the primary lady to win a title as head coach. Coach Dan Fisher’s Pitt Panthers crew — again on the remaining 4 for a second season in a row like Louisville — additionally could possibly be the primary ACC titlist.

And whereas Jerritt Elliott and Texas are remaining 4 regulars — that is the Longhorns’ 14th nationwide semifinal look — they may change into the eighth program to win the NCAA title three or extra occasions. Texas’ different two championships have been in 1988 and 2012.

San Diego faces Texas, and Louisville meets Pitt beginning at 7 p.m. ET Thursday (ESPN/ESPN App) at CHI Well being Middle, which is internet hosting the ultimate 4 for the fourth time. Busboom Kelly, a Nebraska native who celebrated the 2 titles right here beforehand, mirrored Wednesday on each her journey and that of the game.

“I got into coaching — I thought I had to give it a try, otherwise I’d always regret it,” she mentioned. “But in the back of my mind, I knew once I got a coaching job, I’d probably never get out of it.

“Being provided the job right here [at Louisville in 2016], I knew I had plenty of weaknesses, however I knew what it took to run an incredible program.”

Louisville might have faced Busboom Kelly’s alma mater in the regional final, but Oregon upset Nebraska in the semifinals. Then, playing on their home court, the Cardinals rallied for a 3-2 win over the Ducks. Thanks to Busboom Kelly’s roots, Louisville will be the favorite of Nebraska fans who will be at Thursday’s matches without the Huskers to root for. They can wear their trademark Husker red for the Cardinals.

“My first 12 months within the ACC, we did not have any groups ranked within the High 25,” Busboom Kelly said. “We wanted to push the ACC ahead. And I’ve talked to Dan Fisher a number of occasions. We want one another to be nice, and we’d like the convention to proceed to be nice.”

Before Louisville and Pitt last season, only one ACC team had made the volleyball final four: Florida State in 2011. Now, the league is guaranteed to have a team in the final for the first time.

“I am fairly excited we each made it again to the ultimate 4, as a result of I feel final 12 months, there was plenty of noise, like, ‘Oh, it is a one-time factor,'” Busboom Kelly said. “For us to each do it once more below utterly totally different circumstances, with utterly totally different groups, simply says rather a lot concerning the development of the game.”

This is a sign of that, too: For the first time ever, neither the Pac-12 nor Big Ten have a team in the final four. Two Big Ten teams (Wisconsin and Ohio State) and two Pac-12 teams (Stanford and Oregon) fell in the Elite Eight. For the defending national champion Badgers and the Cardinal, those losses were on their home courts.

Texas, still in the Big 12 until its eventual move to the SEC, has managed to stay a consistent powerhouse in volleyball, but it has taken a lot of effort. That includes working the transfer portal. Transfers have always been part of volleyball, but like with all other college sports now, there are even more of them. And they’re making even more impact.

“How will we maintain this factor going?” Elliott said of Texas’ success. “I do not sleep very a lot, and I am at all times involved about letting this factor crumble. And it is relentless effort of each facet of all of it.”

While the Texas program is so familiar with the final four, and Louisville and Pitt are making their return trip from last year, this has been the most magical season ever for the Toreros. Petrie is from San Diego but went cross-country to play volleyball in college at William and Mary in Virginia. She is now in her 24th year coaching San Diego, which is a regular in the NCAA tournament. But this is a step beyond anything the Toreros have done.

“It is actually the top of my profession to be right here,” Petrie said. “I’ve by no means had doubts in my thoughts that we’ve got been a stellar program. Actually this has exceeded that, and we have busted the ceiling on the place we have been caught for fairly a while. This season is elevating the bar for lots of groups which are going to return after them.”