SUNDAY CARDINAL COUPLE PRESENTS:
(Columnist JEFF McADAMS takes us through the Fri-Sat UofL Volleyball matches with his
always excellent observations, analysis and comments!)
Chalk up 3 W's for the Kordes Krew
It wasn't always pretty, and there was some epic come-from-behind play going on...and I'm not talking about football.
Middle Tennessee State University is a school that has frequently given the Volleyball Cards challenges. Eliminating UofL in the first round of the NCAA tournament in 2007, and giving them a bit of a scare in the first round of 2010. They're a pesky team, that can be counted on to give solid play.
In the first set, MTSU again gave the Cards a bit of scare, with MTSU leading most of the way. After coming off two big wins last weekend, I suspect there may have been of big game let down, again. Much like the let down after the Kentucky match, however, it lasted less than a set...if that's how this team is going to react to post-big-game-let-downs, that's not bad.
The second set was never much of a contest, and the third looked to be much the same. The Blue Raiders made a run at a comeback, but then a bunch of errors derailed their efforts.
The setting pair of Hannah Kvitle and Katie George...still splitting the second hit duties...spread the offense around quite a bit, but the most success and momentum building happened up the middle with Brooke Mattingly, and Tanya Lukyanenko. Tanya was back in the middle position to fill in for Gwen Rucker, who was on the bench all weekend, but not dressed out, due to illness. With Tanya playing in the middle the fans had more opportunity to appreciate the play of Carly Sahagian, a transfer from the University of Tennessee. Carly hit a mistake free 6 of 14, for .429 which put her third in percentage behind the .462 numbers of Brooke and Tanya...that's ignoring Katie George's single successful attempt that gives her a statistical 1.000, but isn't really fair to compare with hitters taking upwards of 10 swings a match.
Keep your eyes on this team. While I don't expect them to be back at the KFC Yum! Center for the national championship December 13th and 15th, I think a lot of people are underrating their play, as I think the VolleyCards did coming into this match.
I would say that the Cardinals weren't really fully awake for this 11am start-time, but the Rebels were effectively functioning on an 8am start time, so that excuse doesn't really stand up to scrutiny.
With only .109 hitting in the first set, and no blocks...Gwen's presence was really missed there...the first set looked really rough for UofL. It ended up being a tight game with the Rebs taking it 23-25.
The second set was only marginally better. Kaitlynn James started to come alive with several successful attacks that blunted the UNLV momentum and helped UofL scratch out a win in the second set...taking an extra point to get there...at 26-24.
Anne Kordes was clearly unhappy with her team's play heading into the break...I wonder if they had to repaint the locker room walls as I imagine she blasted her players for their poor play in the first two sets. Whatever she said, and however she said it, the team responded. With .560 hitting in the set and 4 blocks, this looked more like the team that played Purdue and Illinois last weekend. Winning the set 25-6, I imagine UNLV wishes they could forget this one.
Credit UNLV with digging deep and making the 4th set a contest. They responded to the withering attack of the third set and stepped up their play. Both teams had big runs, first the Rebels, then the Cardinals, but after being chastised during the set break, UofL continued playing well and was able to put the match away.
The marquee matchup of the Louisville Invitational was Louisville vs Miami. Miami, technically unranked, is getting votes in the coaches poll for an effective 26th. This isn't a team to be trifled with. Kaitlynn James continued to play well after the afternoon match...really a great day for her overall. The most efficient play, though, came from Brooke Mattingly...who I'm going to start calling "Stomp" because after she makes a great play, she stomps on the floor and cheers...really a honest, heartfelt expression of excitement that her teammates, and the fans, really feed on. "Stomp" hit an phenomenal .714 and helped out in a couple of blocks.
In the first set, Miami got out to a solid lead. At 22-15 the crowd largely thought the set was over and were thinking about how to respond in the second set. Kaitlynn, Lola, and Tanya thought otherwise as, starting with Kaitlynn's serving, Lola and Tanya killed and blocked their way to a 7 point run.
Good solid play in the second set got Louisville to a solid match lead. It looked like the Cards were going to have another good sweep of a good team.
The third set, however, went to the Hurricanes powered by a 9-0 run. Louisville dug down deep and started to make a comeback, but ran out of time.
Solid play across the board in the 4th set netted UofL the match and tournament win.
I think there are a couple of UofL teams that I'm glad I'm not going to be in their practice sessions this week. While both UofL Football and Volleyball came away with wins, there's plenty to praise and critique in the play of both teams this weekend. Both teams also came away with unblemished records for the weekend, but I suspect practices will be grueling dissections of what went wrong at times.
I'll leave the analysis of Football to those who know more about it, but for Volleyball, we've got good and bad.
The good is that we saw what this team can do when they meet adversity. They dug down and gritted out some wins even when things weren't going their way and they weren't executing well. To be able to dig down and turn their play around within a match like they did several times this weekend speaks well of the team's ability to tap into reserves of discipline and pull themselves together. We saw that happen this weekend during set breaks, timeouts, and even just between plays.
The bad, of course, is that they played in such a way to begin with that they found themselves in situations where they had to tap those discipline reserves. It would be great if all of their matches just went well enough that they wouldn't need to turn their play around. Of course, eventually a team will be tested, so its good to know that they have it in them to make the comebacks in tough situations.
The Cards start their conference slate, starting Friday at 7pm with DePaul, followed by Notre Dame on Sunday at 2pm, both at the KFC Yum! Center. Come check them out.