Texas respecting underdog Wisconsin
No. 1 Texas (27-2) vs. No. 12 Wisconsin (27-9)
7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN
HOW THEY MATCH UP: The defending national champion Longhorns are the favorites, but they aren't approaching the match with a sense of superiority. Texas coach Jerritt Elliott points out that in last year's national semifinals, unseeded Michigan pushed his team to five sets.
"The tournament is getting better and better every year," Elliott said. "We're going to respect [Wisconsin]. We know what they can do."
The Badgers are the only one of the teams here in Seattle that did not have to face a seeded team in making it to the national semis. But Wisconsin did finish tied for fourth in the powerful Big Ten, and the Badgers say they won't be intimidated in playing Texas.
"We didn't luck ourselves into this," said Kelly Sheffield, in his first season leading the Badgers, but 13th overall as a head coach. "This team deserves to be here."
But does anybody deserve having to face the firepower of Texas' attack, led by Haley Eckerman and Bailey Webster? Wisconsin goes against big hitters in the Big Ten. But the Longhorns are bigger and more physical than the Badgers, who will have to play top-level defense to get the upset.
"They are very powerful at the front," Wisconsin libero Annemarie Hickey said. "But we led the Big Ten in digs, and we are keeping a lot of teams we've been playing to their lowest hitting percentages."
EDGE: Texas. If the Longhorns play with the power and efficiency they showed in a sweep of Nebraska in the regional final, it's going to be difficult for Wisconsin. Texas is firing on all cylinders, as they say. However, the Badgers can go into this match feeling they have nothing to lose, and perhaps can rattle Texas just by keeping rallies going. But it's hard to envision the Longhorns letting a chance at playing in the championship match slip away.