No. 1 Penn State may meet its match tonight in Lafayette, Ind. in playing one of the most experienced and tested teams its faced all season.
While No. 16 Kentucky (22-10, 14-6 Southeastern Conference) enters the match as a clear underdog, the road it traveled to reach the Sweet 16 was undoubtedly challenging, dating back to last year's NCAA Championship tournament.
Kentucky faced top-seeded Texas in a similar match last December, ultimately losing in a tight battle, 3-1.
Wildcats players said at a press conference Wednesday that the experience was just that -- an experience, one that gave the team extra hunger to get to the title game this time around.
"We've been here before, we know how to handle it," said Kentucky libero Stephanie Klefot. "We're just as excited this time around as we were last time."
The winner of Friday's match will move to the Elite Eight to play the winner of Purdue and No. 8 Minnesota.
Klefot spoke without a visible trace of intimidation at the press conference, as her and her teammates and coach Craig Skinner stressed words like "eager" and "excited" when discussing playing the Lions.
However, there is the clear distinction in what makes the Lions a No. 1 team, while the Wildcats lag behind at No. 16.
When asked about the Lions' strengths, Skinner rattled off several key elements in the Lions' game on both offense and defense.
"They hit high balls really well," Skinner said. "They're able to get good swings, even in bad situations."
As many Lions will attest to, a key reason they're one of the most effective hitting teams in the country is setter Micha Hancock.
Hancock is one of the few key players -- freshman Megan Courtney and sophomore Nia Grant included -- who has not yet claimed a national title.
Big Ten Player of the Year Ariel Scott, whose team-leading 3.64 kills per set are thanks in large part to Hancock's serving and passing, plays several different roles for the Lions.
Her offense is second-to-none on the team and she serves as a leader to the aforementioned starters who have not yet celebrated a championship.
But her biggest personal test this weekend may come down to her defense, as the dual threat's blocks-per-set (0.81) ranks third on the team.
"They have a lot of really good hitters," Scott said. "[In practice] we weren't able to key in on one person, but we've been doing a lot with the scouting and getting to know what they do."
With four Wildcats registering 250-plus kills this season, Scott will have her hands full in recognizing who she will have to block.
The man in charge of preparing Scott and company for the weekend is coach Russ Rose.
Saying he is not taking the Wildcats lightly, Rose went as far as saying Kentucky played "way harder" than his team in the tournament last season.
"They're very competitive and they certainly weren't intimated by playing the No. 1 seed [last season]," Rose said.