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Saturday, November 20, 2021

Volleyball Tops Duke for ACC Title; WBB Taking on Washington -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Volleyball Clinches Share of ACC with Another Sweep

Louisville brought Duke into the L&N Federal Credit Union Arena for their second to last home match of the regular season with a chance to clinch a share of the ACC on the line, and they dispatched the Blue Devils with ease. The Cards will face Pittsburgh in the rematch next Wednesday with a win securing the title outright, so moving on from Duke with no drama was a highly desired result. Louisville's offense delivered with an extremely efficient match, finishing with an eye popping 0.547 hitting percentage. On the other side, the Cards defended well, forcing Duke into just an 0.028 percentage. 

The 519 point difference was far and away the best margin for Louisville this year, beating the previous high of 450, set against Boston College on October 8th. Louisville has now hit for at least 0.400 seven times this season and have held opponents to 0.050 or lower nine times. While last night was their best hitting performance of the night, the Cards have held opponents to a lower percentage three times before, with the season best coming when they held Miami (the team now in third in the ACC after GT lost to Pitt) to 0.000 on the night.

Louisville finished with 12 blocks over three sets that night against Miami, while they needed just eight last night. The Cards won the blocking battle 8-1 with Amaya Tillman leading the way. Tillman finished with a pair of solo blocks and a pair of assists, while Tori Dilfer claimed the other solo and another pair of assists. Anna Stevenson, Claire Chaussee, and Aiko Jones earned the remaining blocks, with 3, 2, and 1 block assist, respectively.

Another place where Louisville had a big advantage once more was in the service game. The Cards had nine service errors, but still finished positive with 12 aces. As Jeff pointed out in our group chat, Duke struggled with the serve receive, at one point putting five players back to receive and still getting aced. Duke, to their credit, finished with six aces of their own, but had eight errors to stay in the negative. Louisville was led by Anna DeBeer, who had four aces, with Stevenson following closely behind with three. Ayden Bartlett had two aces with Dilfer, Jones, and Mia Stander adding one apiece. 

Stevenson, unsurprisingly, also topped the charts in the kills column, as she has done frequently recently. Stevenson led both teams with 10 kills, followed by Chaussee with seven, DeBeer with six, Tillman with five, and Jones with four. Every player hit better than .250, which is to be expected with the overall hitting percentage. Jones's .286 was lowest on the team, made that way by just two errors. The team finished with just five total. 

The offense gets a lot of credit in volleyball, but Louisville's defense has been a bright star this season with Elena Scott at the helm. Scott was all over the place again, gathering eight digs, leading all players and nearly matching Duke's total of 11. One of her best came on a scramble drill play that ultimately saw an early over from the Cards and ended with, you guessed it, an Anna Stevenson block. The Cards have had a tradition of great libero play, and Scott has stepped into that role without a blink. She's a major part of what is driving this team's success.

As for the match itself, it was as straightforward as the stats make it out to be. Louisville used both big runs and consistent play to coast to a 25-12, 25-16, 25-15 victory. The closest Duke could come after the 10-point mark came in the second set when they closed the gap to 14-16. The Cards promptly rattled off six of the next seven points to close the door. In the third, Louisville trailed 4-3 before taking eight straight points and 16 of the next 19 to seal the set and the match. 

Pittsburgh knocked off Georgia Tech last night to move 14-2 in the ACC and keep their hopes for a share of the title alive. Louisville still controls their own destiny, though, as they need just one victory in their last two matches to win the league outright. These Cards are playing for more than just the ACC at this point, however. As the number one team in the country, Louisville is playing for its best season ever and for a top seed in the NCAA tournament. The Cards stand to host, at least, a couple of rounds in that tournament, and, while they could still get a seed and host with a loss to Pitt, it would feel a lot sweeter to carry that undefeated record into the postseason.

Louisville will head to Pittsburgh for the Panthers' Senior Night on Wednesday. There is an extremely outside shot that Louisville could win the league outright before that match if Clemson can somehow upset Pitt when they host them tomorrow. Whether the Panthers win or lose, it will benefit the Cards for Pittsburgh to be playing their third match in six days. There's no video listed yet, but this seems like a prime candidate for a ACCN nod. The first serve is scheduled to get the match underway at 5PM on Wednesday. 

Basketball Hits the Road

Louisville retreated to the KFC Yum! Center after the tough opening loss against Arizona and recovered with a pair of big wins. They'll try to carry that confidence back out of the building with them as they start a road trip in Seattle today. The Cards will take on the Huskies of Washington to kick off a three-game swing out west where they'll also take on Cal Poly and Colorado State. It's a bit of a homecoming for a few Louisville players, though the Colorado connection is a bit thin since the departure of Kylee Shook. Nonetheless, Hailey Van Lith will be at home in Washington, with Kianna Smith and Ramani Parker both hailing from about three hours away from San Luis Obispo in California. 

Louisville and Washington have never played each other, but there's a first time for everything. The Huskies are also led by a Ha(i)ley Van, with Haley Van Dyke returning after being named honorable mention for both the All-Pac12 and the All-Pac12 Defensive Teams last season. She is currently leading the team in points and rebounds, averaging a double-double through two games. The Huskies also return Alexis Griggsby, who shot 38% from three last season while starting 18 games. 

Newcomers to the team include head coach Tina Langley, who takes over a team that went 7-14 (3-13) last year. Langley comes from Rice, where she went 126-61 in six years and won the WNIT in her final season. Langley brought along the top two scorers from Rice's 2020-2021 team in (not a misprint) 6'9" center Nancy Mulkey and Lauren Schwartz. Mulkey is preseason All-Pac 12 and on the Lisa Leslie Award Watch List.

Washington is 2-0 on the young season, with a 57-51 victory over San Diego State in the opener and a 72-65 win against Northern Arizona on Sunday. Despite two wins, the Huskies have been mercurial offensively. They're averaging 30 turnovers per game but are shooting 45% from the floor. Washington made seven of sixteen threes against NAU but were quite a bit cooler in the opener. This should be Louisville's opportunity to show their defensive chops against a top division opponent. 

Today's game tips off at 5 PM Eastern and will be carried on the Pac12 Network Plus. Pac12 Network does not have a direct connection with a main distributor like the ACC or SEC has with ESPN or the B1G has with FOX, but there is some availability to watch this one. A fair number of cable providers will give you access to watching this one, but YouTube TV isn't one of them. You can check for yourself if your provider has access at this link.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

After taking last week off, the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast is back live this week and we'll have an exciting show. With a pair of basketball wins and plenty of volleyball still to talk about, we're handling the transition from fall to winter as gracefully as we can. As always, you can check out the live stream of the show by going to the Cardinal Couple YouTube page and clicking on the live video. Jeff usually creates that about an hour before the show, which officially starts at 11 AM Eastern. If the live time doesn't work for you, there are plenty of playback options, so be sure to check out whichever is best for you!

Cardinal Couple YouTube: Link
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Until next time, Go Cards!

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