Volleyball Sweeps UNC for Title
Louisville Volleyball completed the spring portion of their regular season yesterday and, in doing so, claimed their third ACC title since joining the league in 2014. The title is their second outright, after they shared the crown with Pittsburgh in 2017. The title gives Louisville the automatic qualifying bid for the ACC in the upcoming truncated NCAA tournament which will feature only 48 teams. The Cards are ranked in the top-15, but were not mentioned in the most recent top-ten power rankings. Louisville will learn their fate during the NCAA's selection show on Sunday at 4PM. The selection show will air on ESPNU.
As for yesterday's match, Louisville came out attacking early, as they jumped out to a 6-2 lead before UNC began to claw back. The Tarheels would get closest at 7-9 before Louisville went on a run to stretch their lead. Ultimately, the Cards would use a few point spurts, outscoring the Heels about 4-1 en route to a 25-15 first game victory. It wasn't all good for the Cards in the first game, as Ayden Bartlett went down with an apparent knee injury. This gave Cici Rush and Claire Chaussee a bit more playing time as the two would appear in all three sets following the injury.
The second game was much tighter. Louisville was again able to pull out to a 12-8 lead, but UNC was not so easily deterred this time. The Heels pulled back level and the two teams traded points into the 20s. UNC grabbed a game point at 24-23, but Louisville was able to fight it off with a huge block by Amaya Tillman. After a couple of more trades, Louisville finally won the game at 28-26. The second game was Louisville's best attacking game, yet ended up being the closest of the three. The close loss gave UNC a big motivational boost heading into the third game.
The Tarheels came out hot, zipping out to a 7-1 lead. Louisville held strong, though, and three straight errors (two blocks) brought Louisville right back into the game. After a few more traded points and a tie at 11, UNC took a 12-11 lead for their last lead of the match. From there, Louisville went on an 8-1 run to snag a 19-12 lead, which UNC could not overcome. The Cards cruised from there to a 25-18 victory.
On the whole, Louisville had an encouraging match in their final regular season action before the NCAA tournament. They hit for .288 and held North Carolina to just .080 hitting. The Tarheels did outblock the Cards at 9-8, though Louisville's were a bit more timely. The stat that still needs cleaning up has been persistent for Louisville throughout the season, and that is on the service side. The Cards finished with six aces compared to ten errors. The Heels finished with four and four. Louisville will need to clean that up to ensure advancement in the NCAA tournament.
Stanford vs Arizona for the Title
It's a shocking all PAC-12 final in the NCAA Women's Tournament after a pair of buzzer beaters missed for South Carolina and Arizona led wire-to-wire against UCONN. No Cardinal Couple Pick'em Brackets selected this title matchup.
The first game of the night saw a pair of teams desperate to get through, as South Carolina fought back from multiple large deficits against Stanford. The Cardinal held the lead for most of the game and were the beneficiaries of a few helpful non-calls. The two worst offenses came when a blatant kicked ball was missed and led to a runout that gave Stanford a five point lead with under two minutes to go. A couple of plays later saw a full shove in the back go uncalled which prevented a South Carolina layup. On that possession, the Gamecocks were probably better served by not getting that call, as the out of bounds play resulted in a three pointer.
Despite the calls seeming to all go against USC, they can't cry foul too much, as they still had multiple chances to win. They led by one with under 45 seconds to go but quickly ceded the lead. A turnover on the drive to the basket with 13 seconds left set up a foul fest to end it. With two fouls to give, USC had a couple of chances to steal out of bounds rather than send Stanford to the line. They did just that, stealing and driving with five seconds left. A layup attempt fell off the rim and fell to Aliyah Boston who had just enough time to catch and shoot as the buzzer went off. The ball clanked off the back iron and Stanford escaped.
In the nightcap, Arizona struck early and often. The Wildcats scored the first basket of the game, a three pointer, and never looked back. UCONN closed the gap to 9-8 with just under three minutes remaining in the first quarter before a 7-2 run gave Arizona a 16-10 first quarter victory. They would go on to win the second quarter by four and carried a ten point lead into the half. The third quarter saw the most scoring for both teams, and it was also the only quarter UCONN would win. The Huskies scored 21 in the third, beating the Wildcats by one in the segment. It wouldn't be enough to spark a big run, though, as Arizona got their one point back in the fourth quarter, winning by ten in a game that was never really in doubt.
The title game on Sunday will be the third matchup between Stanford and Arizona. The Cardinal won the first two games by 27 and 14 points. The Wildcats will look to continue the trend of cutting that deficit and make it a closer game. Stanford reaches their first title game since 2010-11 and is seeking their first championship since 1991-92. Prior to this year, Arizona had reached the Sweet 16 just once and had not made the tournament since 2005. If you're looking for a Cinderella, you'll have to pull for a team with the same name as the team down the road.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
What a week it has been! From the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 to the volleyball ACC title, Cardinal Couple has been there for it all. We'll do our best to break it all down in this week's Cardinal Couple Radio Hour. With softball and lacrosse being on the road, we should have a full house for the first time in awhile. Tune in to the Cardinal Couple YouTube Channel at 11AM for the live show, or check out the podcast or rebroadcast following the show's airing. As always, we look forward to bringing you the joy and excitement of Louisville women's athletics.
Until next time, Go Cards!