Dec 12, 2022 - News

As University of Texas heads to Final Four, volleyball booms

Illustration of a volleyball net in the shape of an upward arrow.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Women's volleyball, growing steadily stateside for years, is now experiencing a full-blown domestic boom.

State of play: The University of Texas Longhorns, ranked No. 1 nationally, just booked their place in the NCAA Final Four, and the college game's popularity is just one reason for fans — and investors — to be excited right now.

  • Youth participation: Girls' high school volleyball participation has increased 8.4% since 2012, per WSJ, pushing it ahead of basketball as the second-most popular sport.
  • College viewership: Last year's NCAA final drew an ESPN record of 1.2 million viewers.
  • Pro leagues: There were no U.S. women's pro leagues in 2020. By 2024, there could be four.
  • Olympic success: The U.S. won its first-ever women's indoor volleyball Olympic gold medal last summer in Tokyo.

What they're saying: Volleyball's fast pace and athleticism "is really well-suited to social and digital, where it connects with younger audiences," says Jon Patricof, CEO of professional league Athletes Unlimited, which recently struck a deal with ESPN.

Zoom in: Austin-area high school volleyball programs Lake Travis, Rouse and Dripping Springs are ranked in the top 20 statewide.

  • The Longhorns, a perennial powerhouse, won the national championship in 2012, and have been runner-ups three times since.

The big picture: With more kids playing volleyball, the college game has become talent rich at a time when media companies are expanding their coverage of women's sports.

Worth noting: One current star Longhorn — Logan Eggleston, who helped lead student-athlete protests in the wake of George Floyd's 2020 murder — could one day be the nation's president, per her teammates.

The UT volleyball team celebrates their qualification for the Final Four, via Twitter screenshot.
The University of Texas volleyball squad qualified Saturday night for the Final Four. Screenshot of @TexasVolleyball via Twitter.

What we're watching: The Longhorns next play in the national semifinal in Omaha against the University of San Diego at 6pm Thursday on ESPN.

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