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Lexington to be nation's volleyball epicenter this weekend

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vbregional.jpeg Nearly two years ago when Kentucky learned it would host an NCAA Regional for the first time in school history in 2011, it was a signal of just how far volleyball had come in the Bluegrass with Craig Skinner at the helm of the UK program.

"We are really excited to be hosting one of the four 2011 Regionals," Skinner said in February 2010. "To be selected through the bid process of the NCAA, shows a lot of respect for our program and recent success. Our administration has been very proactive in hosting NCAA events and I want to thank them for their willingness to put on an event of this magnitude."

At the time, Skinner didn't know just how big of an event would be taking place in Memorial Coliseum.

Not only will UK be getting the chance to play the Sweet 16 in its own building on Friday at 7 p.m., but the Wildcats will be joined by three titans of college volleyball that make the three matches to be played this weekend feel more like a Final Four than a regional. Here are the four schools who will take the floor:

Kentucky (28-5)

The Wildcats may not have earned a national seed as their three counterparts in the Lexington regional, but they've certainly played like one. UK finished second in the Southeastern Conference and is fresh off arguably its best performance of the season: a 3-0 sweep of No. 16 Texas A&M on the Aggies' home floor.

No. 1 Texas (24-4)

The NCAA Tournament's No. 1 overall seed, the Longhorns were dominant in advancing to the Sweet 16 with wins over Texas State and Michigan State. Texas lost three matches in a row to start the season, but has gone 24-1 since and sports a 17-game winning streak entering the matchup with UK on Friday.

No. 8 Penn State (25-7)

The Nittany Lions are the four-time defending national champions and not much more needs to be said than that. Led by 33rd-year head coach Russ Rose, Penn State is the only program in the history of college volleyball to win four national titles in a row. PSU swept through its first and second round matches against Liberty and Delaware as the Lions began their drive for five in a row.

No. 9 UCLA (26-6)

Under a month ago, the Bruins were the No. 1 team in the nation. Since then, they have lost three matches to Oregon, Arizona and USC but the Bruins remain a contender for the national championship. UCLA lost just one set in wins over Maryland Eastern Shore and San Diego in the tournament's first and second rounds.

Here is this weekend's complete schedule:

Friday, December 9

Match 1, 5:00 p.m. ET: UCLA vs. Penn State
Match 2, 7:00 p.m. ET: Kentucky vs. Texas

Saturday, December 10

Match 3, 4:30 p.m. ET Regional Final: Match 1 winner vs. Match 2 winner


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