Familiar foes may stand between the state’s top two volleyball programs and their postseason goals.
No. 8 seed Nebraska likely would face top-seeded Texas with a trip to the Final Four on the line.
And Creighton — if it gets past first-round foe Arkansas — would need to beat either Wichita State or Kansas for the second time this season to advance to the program’s first Sweet 16.
The Huskers (23-6) open the tournament at 7 p.m. Friday against Fairfield (19-12) at the Devaney Center. The winner of that contest will face the Oregon-Miami winner at 7 p.m. Saturday.
Nebraska’s path to the Final Four doesn’t leave Lincoln, as the Huskers were placed in the Lincoln Regional. Should the top seeds win during the opening weekend, Nebraska would face No. 9 San Diego in the round of 16 Dec. 13 at Devaney. The other regional semifinal would pit top-seeded Texas against No. 16 Duke.
The Huskers are familiar with the Longhorns. On Sept. 22, Nebraska lost a five-set thriller to Texas (23-2) in Austin.
Fairfield, NU’s opening opponent, won its second consecutive Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference title. Nebraska has never faced Fairfield.
This year marks the 29th time that Lincoln has hosted the first and second rounds.
Creighton (22-8) will travel to Lawrence, Kan., for its first-round match. The Bluejays will take on Arkansas at 4 p.m. Friday.
The winner of that match will face either No. 14 Kansas or Wichita State, which square off at 6:30 p.m. Friday. The Bluejays defeated Kansas (23-7) in four sets Sept. 10 at Sokol Arena. Creighton beat Wichita State (28-6) in five sets on Sept. 22 in Wichita.
The Razorbacks (16-13) dropped three of their final five matches. Arkansas is anchored by senior setter Ashley Vazquez, who transferred to the Razorbacks after two seasons at Long Beach State.
On Sunday, Creighton’s team met to watch the selection show at the Old Mattress Factory, and coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said it’s always exciting to see your team’s name appear.
“We’re hoping it’s becoming the norm,” she said.
It will be Creighton’s second straight trip. The Bluejays also qualified in 2010.
As the names were ticked off, Booth said, she thought CU might go to Lincoln, Missouri or Minnesota, where it had traveled in its first two tournament appearances.
Instead, the unseeded Bluejays are headed to Lawrence. They’ll be among four great teams there, Booth said.
“Any of the four teams are going in with the feeling they can come out of it,” she said.
Creighton has never met Arkansas in Booth’s 11 seasons at CU. She and Arkansas coach Rob Pulizza had actually talked earlier about playing each other if there had been no Big East tournament.
She doesn’t know anything about the Razorbacks besides what she’s caught a few times on TV.
“They are a very athletic team,” she said.
Booth said she’s excited about the draw.
“We’ll put our best out there and hopefully have a shot to win,” she said.