THURSDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
-Cards overcome slow start, defeat Cats 3-1
-New CARDINAL COUPLE banner header
Behind the spiking trio of Lola Arslanbekova, Brooke Mattingly and Gwen Rucker...and getting key play from freshman Katie George, junior Caitlin Welch and senior Kaitlynn James...Louisville defeated UK 3-1 in front of a record crowd for Louisville Volleyball with 5,007 fans in attendance Wednesday night in the KFC YUM! Center.
The Cards started slowly, losing the first set to the Cats 25-21 but swept the final three 25-23, 25-15 and 30-28.
Louisville managed to hang close to the Cats in game one, leading 6-5 after two straight Lola spikes...but the Cats responded with a 12-6 run, causing UofL head coach Anne Kordes to call a time out with UK leading 17-12. The Cards rallied to climb within three after a Emily Juhl spike made it 21-18 and following a Gwen Rucker spike and Kaitlynn James block...Louisville trailed by only two at 23-21. UK got the final two points of the game, though...a game ending serve by UK sophomore Lauren O'Conner that skimmed the net and caught the Cards out of position.
Louisville erased any doubt that they were intimidated by #10 UK, though by roaring out to a 9-4 lead in game two after a Lola block. She delivered a massive spike to increase the Cardinal advantage to 11-6, but the Cats dug in and took a 15-14 lead, which led to another Cardinal timeout. The game stayed close for the rest of the way...Louisville regaining the lead for good after two straight points from Lola gave Louisville a 23-21 margin. She contributed the next point as well and Brooke Mattingly's block gave the Cards the second game 25-23.
After the halftime break, the Cards came out for game three ready for action. Katie George's tip created a 4-1 Cardinal lead. A Mattingly spike increased it to 10-6. After a Lola spike the Cards were up 13-8 and UK needed a timeout. Despite the strategy session, it was the closest UK would get in game three...the Cards leading 16-10, 19-11, 22-11 and coasting in with a 25-15 third game romp.
The final game turned out to be a nail biter.
Louisville jumped out to an early 4-0 advantage following a James spike, but the Cats came back and closed it to 4-3. Back and forth the two rivals went, UK actually gaining a 10-9 lead. Spikes by James and Rucker gave the Cards a 16-15 breather, but UK retaliated with two straight to take the lead.
It was nip and tuck the rest of the way, the crowd (mixed with significant blue jerseys) standing on each possession. A Lola service ace put the Cards up 21-20. The Cats tied it. Rucker scores. So does UK. Lola spiking her heart out...the Cats managing to tie it after each one.
Gwen Rucker came through with the final two Cardinal points for the win. At 28-28, her tip after a ferocious exchange between the two squads made it 29-28. A smack to deep left court during the next volley gave Louisville the two point victory and the Cards bench rushed the court to celebrate with the jubilant players on the floor. Cards win, CARDS WIN !!
Gwen, we're glad you decided to play volleyball at Louisville. Lexington may not be...
Lola led the Cards with 20 kills, Gwen Rucker had 15, Brooke Mattingly recorded 13 and Kaitlynn James finished with 10. Caitlin Welch provided 21 digs.
POST GAME: Anne Kordes
"This is huge. Huge. You know I forgot the simple fact they they (UK) were ranked tenth in the country. It just hadn't been an issue because it was UofL vs. UK. And, it's such a huge RPI boost for us. We talked in the beginning of the year, we've got five teams ranked in the top 25. We've got to get two out of those five. We got this one. That was a gusty game. It was all about guts at the end. You saw how tight it was. I'll go back to our strength coaches and how hard they worked them this summer. This came down to who was going to push harder in the end. Gwen Rucker was unbelievable. And I'll tell you what Caitlin Welch might go for another 1,000 digs before she graduates.
Katie George, what a spark she gave us. She's a hometown hero and you can see why. She's got a lot of guts. Tonight...this was one of the most fun coaching environments and wins that I've ever been in."
POST GAME: Lola Arslanbekova
"I've seen crowds like this for basketball, but not for our games. We fed off the energy. We had a great crowd. We were enjoying it! Gwen was so excited to beat them. She was like 'I'm so ready for this, it's been one year and I am ready for tonight'. Katie George...she's a great player and she brings a lot of energy. Our players are feeding from that."
You may have noticed the new CARDINAL COUPLE banner header at the top of the site. A special thanks to Adam Lucas of Adam Lucas Design who created it. Check out his outstanding work at the link below:
Adam Lucas Design