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Saturday, November 4, 2023


Volleyball Falls in 4 at GT

Louisville entered Friday's match with the goal of staying tied atop the ACC. Since it was a big night among the major players, Louisville's stakes rose to getting the chance to lead outright as their match progressed. FSU took down Pitt in five sets, giving the Cards a golden opportunity to take control of their own destiny and effectively clinch at least a tie of the ACC title with a match still to play against Pitt. In the end, Louisville stayed atop the ACC, but they've now got plenty of company. FSU's win moved Pitt into a tie with the Seminoles and Yellow Jackets with two losses. Rather than bump GT down to a lonely fourth, the Cards joined the fray as four teams now sit at 11-2.

Georgia Tech is now on a five-match win streak and they are tied with Louisville at 20-3 overall. Pitt is at 20-4 overall and FSU is the outlier with a 17-8 overall record. Of the top four, only GT has lost a conference match at home. The Cards still have a fair handle on their own path to a championship. Louisville has Pitt on the road on November 18th and the return match against GT to close out the season on November 22nd. Pitt and GT will play again next week, but the big wild card is Florida State. The rest of the schedule isn't too threatening for the Seminoles. They play four of their remaining six conference matches at home, including their biggest remaining challenge against rival Miami. 

As for last night's match, it was a clear indication that Louisville volleyball gets everyone's best shot each time out. Perhaps a harbinger of what was to come, GT started the match with an ace and won the first three points. Louisville methodically worked the first set, keeping the Techsters close before going on a 7-2 run to take a 17-15 lead and force a GT timeout. Out of the break, Louisville gave up a point before winning six of the next seven to hold what you might consider a comfortable 23-17 lead in the first set. Needing just two points, Louisville dropped three straight before moving to set point at 24-20. With set point three, Louisville completely fell apart. From 23-17, Louisville went on to lose the set 26-24. They gave up a six-point run after taking set point and lost 9 of 10 points to end the first. Three of the last four points were GT aces.

The second was tight all the way through, but Louisville was never able to seize control. After winning the first point, the Cards could do no more than tie the score for the remainder of the set. As a result, they lost 25-22 and entered the locker room at halftime staring down the potential of a sweep. The first half saw Louisville hit just .167 and .222 while GT was .267 and .351 to open the match. Despite GT holding four key aces in the first (the first point and three of the last four), those four were their only four of the set. Louisville actually scored more aces in the first, but the Cards also added two service errors. In the second, Louisville won the serving battle with no aces. They committed just one error while GT committed four and could only find one ace.

Out of the break, it seemed as though the teams were in for another tight battle. Louisville was the team that showed more mettle, though, calmly extending the lead one point at a time. The Cards forced a GT timeout after a three-point run took the set from tied to 11-8. After the timeout, Louisville traded two for one as they pushed their lead to 17-11. The Cards were able to make it 21-14 before GT threatened another run. This time, Louisville weathered it, and the score once more landed on 23-17 after an Elena Scott handling error. Bianca Bertolino, who had dominated the match and led the service charge to end the first set, promptly erred on her serve to give Louisville set point seven. The Cards didn't mess around, taking the set 25-17.

Though it looked like Louisville may have won some momentum, the result of the third may have come down to GT slipping a bit rather than Louisville turning it on. Louisville only hit .270 in the third while GT hit an abysmal -.037. That didn't last. The Cards opened the fourth with an ace and took a 3-1 lead after a GT error and a service error. The lead quickly evaporated, though, and they saw the Yellow Jackets move to an 8-10 advantage. The Cards fought back to a 10-10 tie before another massive run by Georgia Tech effectively sealed the set and the match. A service error gave the ball to GT, who used two kills, two aces, and a setting error by Elle Glock to take a 16-10 lead. Louisville managed to get it as close as 18-14, but they ultimately fell 25-19. 

Louisville was never quite able to get going in this one, third set aside. The Cards ultimately hit just .186 in the match. While they had the top two kill leaders in Charitie Luper and Phekran Kong and scored more kills than GT, the timing of the errors was what did Louisville in. Looking at total errors (attack, service, block, miscellaneous) Louisville only committed five more (37-32) than Georgia Tech. If you include receiving errors (inverse of aces) just one more is added. The difference, like I said, was the timing. When Louisville led 23-17 in the first, six of GT's nine points came on Louisville errors in some fashion (two outright attack errors, one GT block, and three receiving errors on aces). Turn a couple of those around, or insert a GT error here instead of the third, and we're probably talking about a completely different match.

At the end of the day, the Cards are in, relatively, the same position they were in before Friday. They're still not alone atop the league and they still get another chance to beat (most) of their competition for the title. Louisville can only control what they can control. If they can end the season on a strong run and beat both Pitt and GT to close the year, they have only to hope that FSU slips up. It wouldn't be too out of character for this FSU team to do so. We'll just have to wait and see. The quest for an 11-match win streak to close the year begins tomorrow at 1PM on ACC Network Extra when the Cards face Clemson.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

We'll have at least three (with a wildcard) on for the show today. We'll talk Louisville volleyball, obviously, the exciting but unfortunate end to the Louisville field hockey conference tournament, and hit the highlights from Paulie's media sessions with the Louisville women's basketball team. 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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Apple Podcasts: Link
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Overcast (free account required): Link
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Spotify: Link

Until next time, Go Cards!


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