SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE
-VolleyCards eliminated from NCAA Tournament by Michigan
Louisville's hopes of playing in the NCAA Volleyball Final Four in the KFC YUM! Center were dashed by the Michigan Wolverines Friday night...Louisville falling 15-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-27.
A tough way to go out for the Cards' four seniors Gwen Rucker, Lola Arslanbekova, Tanya Lukyanenko and Kaitlynn James. Michigan jumped on Louisville early and won the fourth game in comeback fashion...the Cards at set point 24-22 but unable to get the final point to force a fifth-game tiebreaker. The #9 Cards end the season 30-4.
Game one was a nightmare for Anne Kordes' team. A slow start plagued the VolleyCards...they hit for a meager .097 while the Wolverines went for a superlative .389 and had 18 kills, compared to UofL's 7. UM's junior Molly Toon did the most damage...pounding the Louisville defense for six and Lexi Erwin added four. The 17-4 run UM went on after the Cards came back from a 5-0 beginning by Michigan was impressive. We knew then that the Cards were in for a long night and that their outside hitters were the real deal and among the best Louisville had seen this year.
Louisville trailed for about 2/3rds. of the second game as well...until a Cardinal 8-1 run erased a 16-11 Michigan lead and put the Cards up 19-17. UM stayed close, tying it at 21-21 but a Michigan hitting error put Louisville ahead 23-21 and the Cards took two of the final three points for the win 25-22. Louisville hitting improved to .359 and recorded 17 kills to Michigan's 14. Lola had seven of them and the Cardinal defense held Michigan to .152 hitting. It was now 1-1 in games and the crowd was cautiously confident. Louisville had dropped the first game to Belmont Thursday night and came back to win the next three. Could the Cards repeat the same procedure?
After halftime, the Cards fell back into their slow-starting ways. Down 7-3, Kordes called a time out, but it didn't remedy much...the Wolverines increased the lead to 14-7. That went to 17-11 and the Cards needed some answers. They found them in Lola...her block started a 9-4 Cards run that had Louisville trailing by just one at 21-20 after a Rucker block. The Cards could not keep the momentum going, though...Michigan scored three of the next four points and was at set point at 24-21. A Toon kill, her 15th of the match, gave UM a 25-22 win and a 2-1 lead in games.
With their backs against the wall, the Cards kept it close early in the final game. Anne Kordes' squad used a 8-5 run to go from a 6-5 deficit to a 13-11 lead after a Lola kill. The Cards would not relinquish that lead...increasing it to 22-18 after a Lola kill. It looked like the Cards were going to force a fifth game.
Sadly, it did not happen. The Cards got to set point at 24-22 but couldn't seal the deal. Two Louisville sets to the middle resulted in two Michigan double blocks and two straight UM points that tied it up. The Wolverines went on to capture three of the next four volleys to take the game and the match with three impressive shots past the Cards' heralded libero Caitlin Welch.
Disappointment and heartbreak, for sure...but still a great season for the Louisville Volleyball squad. The Cards will return next season, though...with plenty of talent and make their final season in the BIG EAST another legendary one.
Almost 3500 were in attendance for the game tonight, encouraging numbers for the program. We'll miss Lola, Tanya, Kaitlynn and Gwen...but the future looks bright with Caitlin Welch, Brooke Mattingly, Hannah Kvitle, Emily Juhl, Katie George (she's just a freshman!) and the rest of the returning girls...plus a very highly regarded and ranked in-coming class for the 2013 season. We're sure the recruits and played coached by Kordes will reward us with many more victories!
POST GAME ANNE KORDES:
"Hats off to Michigan, they played a phenomenal match especially in that fourth game when they came back and held their composure. This is what we wanted, was an opportunity to play. It was a hell of a volleyball match and you have to be able to execute...you have to be able to execute at a very high level and for a very consistent amount of time, to be able to advance in the NCAA Tournament. Michigan did that better than us. I thought it was a phenomenal match. It was great for volleyball...an unbelievable crowd. I can't thank our UofL fans more for what they brought tonight. You could tell they wanted it. I am just so proud of our team. I'm heartbroken for this loss because you want that win for your team so bad and they have worked so hard. But, I am so proud of this season, so...it was a good night for volleyball."