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Saturday, November 27, 2021

Volleyball Perfection - Saturday Cardinal Couple

 A slight schedule change as Jeff takes the Saturday write for Case who is a bit under the weather thanks to a Covid booster shot.  Case expects to be back for the Sunday article.

Volleyball Perfection

Dani Busboom Kelly's volleyball squad has run the table for the 2021 regular season.  A perfect 28-0 season, a feat that hasn't happened in the NCAA since Missouri pulled it off in 2013.  The Cards finished the accomplishment against Notre Dame last night in a four set win, 24-26, 25-13, 25-23, 25-13.

Mia Stander caught in the act of vandalism

Notre Dame came into L&N FCU Arena last night with a 13-14 overall record, 10-7 in conference.  They needed the win last night to even be eligible for post-season play with the criteria being an overall .500 record.  With the Irish's crazy schedule and unpredictable play, if they had gotten the win, there was actually a chance that they would have gotten an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament...a slim one, but one nonetheless.

Louisville, of course, entered the game with the ACC Championship already clenched and maybe a bit of a Pitt hangover.  The Wednesday match against Pitt was the top ranked match nationally, of the season in NCAA volleyball.  The second highest ranked match nationally of the season was the earlier matchup between the two when the Cards were ranked second, and Pitt fourth.

Neither team set the court on fire in the first set, Notre Dame hit .143, and the Cards only swung for .098.  12 of Notre Dame's 26 points in the set came on UofL miscues.  Pitt hangover, indeed.

#20 Rachel DeMarcus being the first onto the
court to celebrate with her teammates
One of the advantages of having such a senior laden squad that has played together with minimal lineup changes for the better part of two seasons is having the poise and confidence to put that sort of an opening set behind them and correct course.

In the second set, the Cards basically said, "No, that's not how this regular season is going to end." and asserted their dominance.  Anna DeBeer set the early tone in the set, being responsible for five of the first eight UofL points to lead out to a Cardinal 8-2 lead with four kills and a service ace.  The Cards then cruised to the 25-13 win in the set.  The Cards hitting improved to .400 for the set, with the Irish cooling off slightly to .114.

The Irish weren't quite ready to go quietly, though.  Sophomore Aubrey Hamilton started the set on a hot streak and would get four kills in the set to lead Notre Dame out to a 9-7 lead.  Buoyed by four Cardinal service errors, they would push that lead out to 20-15.  Again, UofL would say, "Nuh uh." and roared back to tie it at 21 and then push into a 23-21 lead.  Trading points the rest of the way, UofL took the third set to take the 2-1 set advantage.  UofL hitting cooled slightly to a still good .300 in the set.

Tori Dilfer with parents Cassandra and Trent
Dilfer.  Trent, of course is a SuperBowl
champion quarterback.  Cassandra was a standout
swimmer at Fresno State.
Notre Dame opened the fourth set with a big Caroline Meuth swing right into the waiting big block of Aiko Jones and Amaya Tillman, and it really felt like the Irish pretty much deflated from there.  The Cards pulled out to another early 8-2 lead, including two kills by setter Tori Dilfer and would cruise to the set and match win, and finalizing the undefeated season, from there, exemplified by the .533 hitting for the Cards in the set.

UofL led in every stat category, with the biggest impacts coming from having five aces to Notre Dame's one, and nine blocks to Notre Dame's five.

Anna "Steve" Stevenson celebrating with the
ACC Championship trophy
Tori Dilfer was attack-minded last night, putting down another three kills in addition to the two mentioned above for an error free five of eight in hitting for .625 average.  I usually don't include Tori's hitting numbers because it's typically a pretty small sample size from the setter.  Anna DeBeer led in kill totals with 16 at a .231 clip, with fellow left sider Claire Chaussee being the most efficient of the main attackers tallying a .400 average out of 13 kills.

Aiko Jones has struggled of late on offense, but seemed to get back on track last night with nine kills in 20 attempts reaching a quite respectable .300.  Anna Stevenson also reached double digits with 10 for a .304 clip.

A good blocking night for the Cards.  Dilfer and Jones both got solos, but if you believe sharing is caring, then Amaya Tillman had four shares, Jones, Stevenson, and Dilfer each got a part of three, and Chaussee kept the number even with a share of one.

Freshman year manager turned team member
Jamie Vasilou getting ready to jump out of the
Digging and passing was led by super surprise freshman Elena Scott with 17 digs, but good contributions came from DeBeer with 14, Jones with 10, and Ayden Bartlett with nine.

The Cards chose to celebrate senior night with post-match festivities rather than the traditional pre-match approach.  They did take a moment just before the starting lineups to recognize the Notre Dame seniors, always a nice touch when teams do that, I think.  I wasn't able to quite catch all of the seniors recognized for Notre Dame.  I didn't catch all of the names, but it included much of the core of Notre Dame's team, including Charlie Niego (who didn't play in the match, she was on the sideline in a boot), Sydney Bent, Lauren Wenzel, Lexi Saulney, and I believe Zoe Nunez, and surprisingly, I think Caroline Meuth as well?  She is listed as a junior on ND's roster, but I believe she was recognized as well, perhaps she's graduating early and will be a transfer for graduate studies?

Emily Scott pondering whether she can Fosbury
Flop over the net.
In the post-match ceremony, Louisville recognized seniors Mia Stander, Emily Scott, Jamie Vasilou, and Rachel DeMarcus, along with super-seniors Tori Dilfer and Anna Stevenson.  We will still get a chance, here at Cardinal Couple, to report on Emily Scott beyond the volleyball season as she will be competing with Track and Field in the spring in the high jump competition.

A quick side note, I don't think I've ever seen an intro video garner a standing ovation until last night.  Without regularly going to UofL sporting events, you might miss that for the past few years, the intro videos in various sports have changed throughout the year, incorporating new clips from games and matches during the season.  Credit for the volleyball videos over the season goes to Asaad Ali, and he knocked it out of the park with the updates for the video last night, focusing on the seniors, including clips from as recently as the Pitt match on Wednesday night.  I'm not sure when he sleeps.

UofL 2021 seniors with their families, coaching
staff and AD Vince Tyra
Also in post-match festivities, UofL celebrated, and got to hoist the trophy for, the outright ACC Championship for the season.  They also brought out a bucket of scissors to cut down the net, a fitting tribute to such an amazing season.

Of course, with the ACC 'ship, UofL does officially get the ACC's automatic qualifier bid to the NCAA tournament, not that UofL's presence in the tournament was in any sort of doubt at all.  The only real suspense for the Cards in the selection show might have been whether they got the one seed if they had lost to Notre Dame, but with the win, and the undefeated season, I think it would send shock waves through the volleyball world if they are awarded anything other than the top seed.

Oh yeah, and that Missouri team that went undefeated in the regular season in 2013?  They were the four seed in the tournament that year, highlighting the need to have a good strength of schedule for tourney seeding, and went on to lose to Purdue in the second round.  Let's hope for better for the Cards.

We will find out officially what the draw is in the NCAA D1 Volleyball Selection Show on Sunday evening at 8:30 on ESPNU.  UofL Athletics will have to replace that net as the top 16 seeds get to host first and second round matches, which according to the NCAA page at will be Thursday and Friday December 2nd and 3rd, though there has been some confusion about those dates.  The top seeds that advance in each region to the Sweet 16 will get to host Regionals, rounds three and four.

UofL's hosting plan includes rounds one and two at L&N FCU Arena, and rounds three and four, presuming UofL advances will be at Freedom Hall.  The Regionals are currently listed on the above page as occurring on Sunday and Monday December 9th and 11th, so clearly there is still some confusion there, as well.

The Volleyball Final Four will be held at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, OH, Thursday and Saturday December 16th and 18th.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

We'll at least have a trio on the call today for the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast.  Paulie, Jared (maybe a bit sleep deprived), and myself will be on the call.  The Covid-booster-recovering Case is a game-time decision.  Daryl, as mentioned yesterday, has family obligations.

Expect plenty of discussion of Volleyball, of course, but I'm sure we'll get some basketball talk in there as well.

You can find the live stream at the Cardinal Couple Youtube channel (as soon as I get the stream scheduled).


  1. enjoy it little birdies you will get stomped tonight in football and then stomped in the ncaa tourney by the cats cats cats

  2. Just...WOW!
    Undefeated in the regular season doesn't happen often anymore, in ANY sport.
    Congrats 🎉👏

  3. Your opinion. We tolerate all here, even the anonymous, negative, gutless.


  4. Someone didn't have a happy Thankgiving? Well, Mr. No Name. Good luck with that. It's an art to master being a clueless moron.

    Nick O


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