Versatile Penn State poised for win
No. 2 Penn State (32-2) vs. No. 3 Washington (30-2)
9:30 p.m. ET, ESPN2/WatchESPN
HOW THEY MATCH UP: This could be a fantastic semifinal, pitting the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-12. The Nittany Lions and the Huskies both played thrilling five-setters in the regional finals to make it here, with Penn State beating Stanford, and Washington defeating Southern California.
The Huskies will be the crowd favorite, of course, playing less than 5 miles from their campus. But the Nittany Lions are used to tough environments in the Big Ten, so that may not be much of a factor.
Penn State spreads out its offense a little more than Washington, which is led by Pac-12 Player of the Year Krista Vansant.
"Matches aren't won by one player," Penn State coach Russ Rose said of Vansant. "But certainly the performance Krista had in their last match -- where she had 38 kills and 30 digs -- is an indication that she's not only one of the top players in the country, but that she played a great match at a key time when her team really needed it."
The Huskies will need that again versus Penn State, which had four players earn American Volleyball Coaches Association All-American honors for this season. Setter Micha Hancock and right-side hitter Ariel Scott were on the first team, as was Washington's Vansant.
Penn State's block will be as tough as any Washington has faced. And the Huskies are a very good serving team, which Penn State will have to counter.
EDGE: Penn State. Last year, the Nittany Lions lost to another Pac-12 team, Oregon, in the national semifinals. Can Washington also knock out the five-time NCAA champs? The Huskies are capable -- but the advantage still goes to the Nittany Lions, who have so many weapons.