Louisville Volleyball is Going to the National Championship!
Let's go! The Cards win! Louisville beats Pitt 3-2 (25-18, 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-2) to advance to the NCAA National Championship!
Before we get into the meat and bones of the match and the celebration, let's take a look at some of the other events that happened in Omaha yesterday.
In the first match of the night, 1-seed Texas go against the semi-surprising 2-seed San Diego. The Tereros would pull off a 28-26 first set victory before the Longhorns woke up and dominated the next three sets 25-16, 25-18, 25-20. Texas dropped just their third set of the NCAA Tournament.
The much-anticipated match-up between 1-seed Louisville and 2-seed Pitt followed roughly 30 minutes later. The late 10:00 p.m. ET start had both teams' fan bases in their pajamas and drinking coffee at night.
Louisville and Pitt tied for the ACC regular season title with the Cards earning the tiebreaker. Some in the world of volleyball titled this one as the "ACC Championship That Never Happened". It lived up to that hype.
Notes about the Final Four:
-This was a rare Final Four that saw no SEC or Pac-12 teams.
-Two of the Final Four teams (Louisville, San Diego) have women's head coaches.
-Louisville and Pitt are the fourth and five ACC teams to make the Final Four (2011- Florida State, 2021- Louisville and Pitt).
-This is the first time an ACC team has made the NCAA Championship game.
-Texas is the only one of the Final Four teams to have won a national championship or even make a championship game appearance.
-Dan Meske was named AVCA Assistant Coach of the Year
-This is the fourth Louisville team to compete in a national championship (men's basketball- three times, women's basketball- two times, men's soccer- one time). Louisville has quite a few individual champions and student-athletes compete in championships over the years too.
Now, onto the match as we take a look at all five sets.
Set One: Louisville 25, Pitt 19
A service ace started the match for the Cards and ignited a 6-0 run for the Cards. In fact, Louisville had two aces in that stretch. Pitt would not go down and would go on a mini run to bring the Louisville lead to 7-6 and then tie it at 9-9. A couple of small runs helped the Cards go up 17-11, 19-12, and 23-15, allowing the Cards to put themselves in an almost-comfortable lead. Momentum was all in favor of the Cards at this point. A paid of Anna DeBeer kills were the final two Louisville points in an opening set highlighted by strong serving.
Set Two: Pitt 25, Louisville 23
Louisville saw themselves in an early 3-1 lead, but the Panthers weren't about to let themselves go down big or early again. Pitt would take a 7-5 advantage before two straight points evened the score again. A strong Pitt attack saw the Panthers pull ahead 11-8. The Cards would cut their deficit to one that saw Pitt lose a challenge, but the fourth service of the match halted the momentum and give Pitt a 12-10 lead. The Panthers would go into the media break up 15-12. The Cards struggled to go against Pitt's front line defense and Dani Busboom Kelly called a timeout down 19-16. A block by Aiko Jones and DeBeer's fourth ace of the night brought Louisville within two at 21-19 and caused Pitt to call a timeout. After trading points, DBK burned her last timeout down 24-22. The Panthers would ultimately take the set to even the score at halftime.
Set Three: Louisville 25, Pitt 22
Coming out of halftime, DeBeer logged her fifth ace of the night and the Cards went on a 3-0 run before Pitt would score a couple to make it 3-2. Another 3-0 spurt by the Cards highlighted by an Aiko Jones forced Pitt into an early timeout. Pitt would score four straight to even the score before a Claire Chaussee kill stopped the run. Neither team could build much of a lead and Chaussee tied the score at 15-15 with her famous sky high jump for the kill. A net violation by the Cards put Pitt up 19-16 and DBK would call a timeout. The Cards would rally to even the score at 22-22 and Pitt would burn a timeout. A pair of aces by Elena Scott and a kill by Chaussee helped the Cards end the set on a 5-0 run and take a 2-1 lead.
Set Four: Pitt 25, Louisville 22
A similar sight unfolded at the start as Louisville went up 3-0 and then 5-2 before PK Kong went to the bench to get checked out for a minor hand injury. Louisville's attack helped spark the next couple points as Pitt called a timeout at 7-2. Pitt wouldn't go down without a fight, though. They pieced together a run to bring the Louisville lead to 8-7. Then Louisville got hot for a bit. Everything seemed to click for the Cards. A monster kill by Jones and Scott's fourth ace put the Cards up 15-10. Timeout number two for Pitt. After Louisville's lead got cut to 16-13, Busboom Kelly called a timeout to give her team a breather and to refocus. Louisville's errors got the best of them as the score was evened at 17-17. Insert a quick 3-0 Louisville run capped off by a block by Amaya Tillman to help put the Cards back on top. Louisville used its last timeout of the set after the Panthers evened the score at 22-22. Sloppy play continued for Louisville as Pitt went on to take the set.
Set Five: Louisville 15, Pitt 2
Louisville started the deciding set on a 3-0 run. Kong's block forced Pitt to call an early timeout. Then, Chaussee found the corner for a kill and Kong logged back-to-back blocks to extend the lead to 6-0. The block party continued to push the lead to 8-0. Pitt managed a point and Louisville followed with a 4-0 run to go up 12-1. Louisville closed the door from there to take the win!
WOW! Talk about a helluva fifth set! The Cards left no doubt on which team was going to walk away victorious.
Claire Chaussee led the Cards with 25 kills and a .429 attack percentage. Anna DeBeer had 15 kills and Aiko Jones added 12 kills on a .310 attack percentage. Raquel Lazaro had 49 assists. Elena Scott had 28 digs. DeBeer and Scott each had five aces. PK Kong recorded a career high 10 blocks in the match. Amaya Tillman logged seven blocks and Jones had six.
Dani Busboom Kelly looks for the hat trick after winning national championships as a player and assistant coach, now going for her first as a head coach. Louisville looks to be the first women's team on campus to win a national championship.
Louisville and Texas will face off at 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday for the national championship. We will recap all of the excitement on our Cardinal Couple Podcast tomorrow morning. Note: The podcast will be at 10:00 A.M. this week, since we figure some of our readers might be interesting in watching Louisville Football in the Fenway Bowl at 11:00 A.M
(All photos courtesy of Louisville Athletics and Louisville Volleyball)
Happy Friday and Go Cards!