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Saturday, December 17, 2022

Volleyball in the Championship -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Louisville Faces Texas for Another Milestone Opportunity

After making the Final Four last season, Louisville took another step forward this year to become the first ACC program in history to make it to the NCAA Volleyball Championship game. To win, the Cards will need to take down a historic program with a lot of momentum, but it will be one Louisville has faced before. The Texas Longhorns hosted a regional in 2019, which you may remember as the season that Louisville made it to their first Elite Eight. In that tournament, the Cards entered unseeded, having to travel to Bowling Green for the first two rounds. Louisville faced Texas in the Sweet Sixteen and, for the first time in five attempts, beat the Longhorns. The Cards would go on to fall to Minnesota in that Elite Eight. 

Facing the Longhorns again, much has changed over that time. Louisville had an undefeated season dashed by Wisconsin in the Final Four last year, which included All-American seasons from Anna Stevenson and Tori Dilfer. While many of the faces have changed, one thing remains for Louisville: the drive for greatness. Aiko Jones, Amaya Tillman, Claire Chaussee, and Alexa Hendricks all remain from that match as well. Jones had 24 kills and four blocks in the 2019 matchup; a repeat performance would be stellar. 

The Cards will face the top-ranked team in the country this evening, but it's not as big of a mountain to climb as it may seem. Through the end of the season, Louisville was ranked second in RPI, just behind Texas. Their two losses on the season were to Ohio State (seventh) and third-ranked Pittsburgh, whom they've since beaten twice. Texas's lone loss on the year came against Iowa State, ranked 31st in RPI, in the same week as Louisville's last loss. The Cards stood to claim that top spot before falling to Pittsburgh on the road that weekend. The Longhorns boast the AVCA Player of the Year in Logan Eggleston, but the Cards have an All-American on all three teams themselves. With Anna DeBeer seemingly back to as normal as she'll get this season, Louisville will have all the firepower they can ask for in the matchup, including incredible tournament performance from Phekran Kong.

Should Louisville win, they'd be the second team from Kentucky to become National Champion in just three years. Since the tournament expanded to 64 teams in 1998, only California has more than one champion from their state, though it would take some effort for the state of Kentucky to match their number of four. (Long Beach State went undefeated in 1998. USC won back-to-back titles in 2002-2003 and UCLA won in 2011. Stanford is Stanford.) Texas is seeking their second championship in the expansion era and third overall. There are some interesting coincidences in this matchup. Texas won their last championship in 2012 in Louisville. Since then, they've played in the title game three more times. The loss to Stanford in 2016 isn't particularly interesting just because there isn't a connection, but their other two appearances--2015 and 2020--were both in Omaha. In 2015, they fell to Nebraska, where Dani Busboom Kelly was an assistant coach. In 2020, their loss came to Kentucky. 

While none of those connections are likely to have any bearing on this evening's matchup, they're sure to become part of the storyline regardless. These players and teams have poured their hearts into the season, and only one team can win it all in the end. It's the cruel nature of tournaments like these. On the same day, the World Cup final will see one country have its dreams dashed in the most agonizing game. Basketball sees it every year for March Madness, while baseball crowns a champion in the same city as tonight's match. 

Louisville has been drawing ever closer since that win over Texas in 2019. It seems only fitting that they'd get the Longhorns again in a chance to reach the pinnacle. Tonight's match is at 8PM Eastern on ESPN2.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

With tonight's very important match to discuss and a week off on the horizon next week, we didn't want to cancel this week's show. However, with the bowl game at 11 and various holiday events, we have had to make a shift. Today's live show will begin at 10AM, with the podcast posting shortly after. Jeff will join us from Omaha, where I'm sure the hotel is buzzing with anticipation. 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. 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!

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Until next time, Go Cards!



  1. If WKU comes up with a strong team again like they've done in most years they could be that third team to win a Natty from the state down the road. After that? That's tough. NKU? EKU? Morehead?

    Nick O

    1. Bellarmine maybe? They'd need to elevate their game a bit more than what they are currently, but it's possible.


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