In a National Championship match up that many didn’t expected to see, Texas will face Stanford for the NCAA crown.
With many obstacles standing in their way this season, both teams are still improving entering the final dance of the season. With Texas losing an All-American middle blocker to academic issues and Stanford having the youngest team in the finals ever, each team looks to take their adversities all the way.
Each of these teams defeated the two best regular season teams, holding the No. 1 and No. 2 slots in the AVCA Coaches Poll in the final weeks of the regular season. With being on top, sometimes it is easier to be the team on the rise with somewhere to go, rather than the team at the top of the hill with no where to climb in the final four.
Entering their second straight NCAA National Championship match, the Longhorns look to claim the title they lost to Nebraska just a year ago.
Despite losing their All-American middle blocker Chiaka Ojbogu, who was declared academically ineligible before the season began, the team moved Yaazie Bedart-Ghani to the middle. Last season as an outside hitter, Bedart-Ghani was named to the 2015 All-Big 12 Freshman Team.
The squad has a dominate three in the front row – Micaya White, Ebony Nwanebu and Paulina Prieto Cerame.
White is a freshman with a lot of potential, this season she is putting down 4.02 kills per set for the Longhorns and a .274 hitting percentage. White is also picking up 2.19 digs per set and 0.67 blocks per set defensively. Nwanebu is putting down 3.73 kills per set and a .384 hitting percentage, while Prieto Cerame is adding 3.54 kills per set and hitting for .275.
The Cardinals are looking to claim their seventh National Championship, to tie Penn State.
The team has the youngest squad to take part in the NCAA finals, with four freshman starting for the Cardinals.
The team lost All-American sophomore outside hitter Hayley Hodson to an injury, who is taking a medical leave of absence from the university. Hodson looks to return with the team next season.
After finding themselves is a rut in the middle of the season running a 6-2 offense with senior Kelsey Humphrey and freshman Jenna Gray, the coaching staff decided to change it up. The change being to switch the offense to a 5-1 and use Gray as the full time setter. With the change, the Cardinals saw results almost immediately, winning 14 of their next 15 matches.
Stanford is led this season by redshirt senior Inky Ajanaku and AVCA Freshman of the Year Kathryn Plummer.
Ajanaku is hitting an impressive .406 this season with 2.84 kills per set, while defensively she is posting 1.52 blocks per set. Plummer is currently putting down 3.30 kills per set and 0.89 blocks per set.
Where to watch the finals
You will be able to watch these two teams square off on ESPN2 on Saturday, December 17 at 9 PM ET.