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Sunday, December 11, 2022

Omaha and Lexington Bound - Sunday Cardinal Couple

Volleyball Punches Ticket

The Louisville bench running to celebrate the
moment, and the line judge hoping he doesn't get
run over.
The Louisville Volleyball team punched their ticket to Omaha for the volleyball Final Four in dramatic fashion yesterday with a five set win over Oregon (25-23, 23-25, 13-25, 27-25, 15-6).

The Cards and Ducks both have a tendency to start matches slowly, and yesterday was an example.  Both teams felt a bit slow and not up to their usual standards.  It was an four point Oregon run from a tie game at six points that would really set the tone for much of the first set.  Once the Ducks got that lead, they would maintain it until Louisville would tie it at 20 points each.  Louisville wouldn't take the lead again until 23-22 on an Anna DeBeer kill.  Oregon would hold off one set point before giving Louisville the set win on a service error.

The second set looked like it would be Louisville's to win.  Opening with an Oregon hitting error and a pair of aces from Elena Scott, the Cards built it out into an 8-3 lead.  The Ducks pushed back to tie it at 10 and then the teams just traded punches for a while.  The biggest runs the rest of the set were a pair of three point runs by Oregon to end up with a two point lead.  Both teams sided out at 100% the rest of the way, which was a problem for Louisville since that meant they were bouncing between a one and two point deficit.

Elena Scott with 5 aces, along with Cece Rush
and Ayden Bartlett causing numerous out of
system plays for Oregon deserve to celebrate
And then the wheels fell off.  What can you say?  In the third set, Louisville just looked like the Keystone Cops.  Oregon ran off the first four points and then the Cards gifted them another four on errors.  A kill by Aiko Jones showed just a bit of life, but Oregon would push the opening lead of the third set to 10-1.  A couple of errors by Oregon, and a DeBeer kill would claw some back to get 11-5 but that would be as close as it got for the rest of the set.  A mini Louisville three point run would push the Louisville score up from "embarrassing" to merely "bad".  Credit a pair of Claire Chaussee kills, and another ace by Elena Scott.  Oregon would cruise to a 25-13 win in the set, and the Louisville crowd of over 8,700 paying tickets, and probably closer to 10,000 in overall attendance, were probably all feeling a bit of a sense of despair.

But the Cards weren't done, they were determined not to go down without a fight.  And a fight is what they would have.  The fourth set was an absolute slugfest.  Louisville can certainly be thankful for eight Oregon errors in the set to help, and after having seven errors in each of the second and third sets, Louisville was able to get their under control in the fourth with only four.  There were a lot of three point runs, on both sides of the net, making the scoreboard feel like a teeter-totter as the lead shifted back and fourth.

Anna DeBeer celebrates
The Hollywood ending came in the fifth set.  Phekran "PK" Kong started out the set with a kill that would be answered by Oregon with a pair.  A trade of errors brought the score to a competitive 3-2.  I don't know if the Cards decided they were tired of dealing with Oregon, or if Oregon was just plain tired, but a couple of DeBeer kills, an Amaya Tillman kill, and a couple of errors from the Ducks with Cece Rush at the serving line put Louisville on a five point run out to 7-3.  In a shorter 15 point fifth set, that's a pretty big deficit, and the Ducks would never really recover.  Oregon would pull a pair back but a service error by Oregon would give the serve back over to Louisville.  Ayden Bartlett subbed in to serve and her aggressive serving like Rush had done before, led to another big Cardinal run.  Full credit where it's due, while the aggressive serving put Oregon more out of system than they had been all match, DeBeer put four kills in the stats as part of it.  One more point for Oregon, followed by a Duck attack error and an Aiko Jones kill, and the Cardinals were set to return to their second straight Volleyball Final Four.

Oregon's speed play was a real challenge for the Cards.  But ultimately the stats show that Louisville was able to overcome that.  A good blocking team, Oregon did lose the blocking battle to Louisville 11-7.  And Louisville won the service battle, seven aces to three, with five of those going to Elena Scott.  I had the pleasure of having legendary Assumption and KIVA coach Ron Kordes sitting directly behind me, and at one point I heard him say in admiration of Mercy graduate Scott, "I was so glad when she graduated."

In addition to service aces, Scott unsurprisingly led the team in digs with 15.  On the offensive side the attack was mostly spread between our three main pin hitters, who were also Louisville's honorees for the All-Region team.  DeBeer led the way with 17 kills along with a solo block and a pair of shared blocks, and 10 digs for a double-double.  Meanwhile Claire Chaussee tallied 13 kills, a pair of overhand sets, which is very uncharacteristic of her, and just missed a double-double of her own with nine digs.  Aiko Jones claimed 12 kills on the right side, picked up the other pair of service aces, a solo and a shared blocked, and a pair of digs for a solid performance.  Amaya Tillman continued to show why she's so revered as a blocker in the NCAA with a pair of solo blocks and five shares, numbers that are impressive in general, but against the super quick Oregon play-style, are just amazing.  Add in eight kills for Tillman, and she, rather quietly, had another great night.
The dogpile after the victory and Louisville is
officially advancing to the Final Four

It was mentioned above, but a definite shout out to Cece Rush and Ayden Bartlett.  While their stats lines don't show much, their serving, particularly in the fifth set, was absolutely clutch in taking Oregon out of their system and giving the Cards a chance to transition to offense cleanly.

So Louisville advances to the Final Four, where waiting for them will be a very familiar foe in Pitt.  The Panthers were able to beat defending national champs Wisconsin in their own five set thriller in Madison, WI.  On the left side of the bracket, Texas was able to dispatch what was a familiar foe for them in Ohio State in four sets.  Finally, in another upset, San Diego outlasted Stanford on their home floor at Maples Pavilion in five sets to advance to San Diego's first ever Final Four.

The Semifinals will be on Thursday at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.  Texas and San Diego will play the first match with a 7pm start time, and Louisville vs Pitt will follow with a scheduled 9:30pm start (all times Eastern).

(Photos by Jared Anderson)

Basketball Rivalry Game

After the big volleyball match yesterday, it is time to turn our attention back to Basketball.  The annual rivalry matchup between Louisville and Kentucky tips today at 1pm.

Kentucky arrives at this point in the season with a better record than Louisville, at 7-1, but they haven't met much stiff competition, yet.  Their loss came to Virginia Tech, who's certainly pretty good, and they have a win over Minnesota, who is a power five team, but...well, they're not great this year, it seems.  Otherwise, the Cats have beaten Radford, Morehead State, Coastal Carolina, Bellarmine, Dayton, and UNC Greensboro.

The main threat for the Cats is Jada Walker, averaging almost 15 and a half points per game, with Robyn Benton, who falls just short of the 15 ppg mark.  Both are threats from three point range, along with Blair Green who clocks in at just over 10 ppg.

It's a 1pm start time for this one, and it is on the flagship ESPN channel, a nice honor.

Will Louisville continue what we saw against SIUE or will they, meeting better competition, revert to the play we saw against Middle Tennessee?  There are still plenty of questions around this UofL team, and this game should start to answer those.  A poor showing today could herald a long season, but a quality outing should lift the spirits of fans and give hope that the team is finally fitting together and figuring out their roles.

Paulie, Sonja, and Jared are making the trip to Lexington so we should have some good pictures and recap for you tomorrow.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

A foursome teed off for the CCRHP yesterday with Case being a last minute cancellation due to family commitments.  Daryl, Jared, Paulie, and myself were all on the call and celebrating both volleyball and basketball success.

Recaps of volleyball vs Baylor, and basketball vs SIUE were fun, and some looking ahead to the Oregon match, with plenty of warnings about how tough that matchup was going to be, and basketball vs Kentucky today.  Along with the other typical shenanigans and good times.  Catch it at it's home at:
or any of your favorite podcast directories, as always.

-- JMcA


  1. Cards experience showed in that big comeback, they kept their composure and fought back HARD in the fourth, fifth set they said ENOUGH of this.
    Hoping basketball will show us the team they're capable of being😄

  2. Was impressed with hoops today agaist UK. Liz with the strong start and the team hitting the free throws. Cats not all that, and we showed signs of improvement.

    Blue Lou


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