Nov. 19, 2011
MILWAUKEE – Meeting in the BIG EAST Conference Volleyball Championships for the sixth time in the last seven seasons, the latest installment of the rivalry between Notre Dame and Louisville lived up to its billing Saturday at Marquette’s Al McGuire Center.
The top-seeded Cardinals (22-7) used an 8-0 run to win the second set, but that would be all the regular-season champions would hang their hat on during Notre Dame’s 3-1 (25-22, 22-25, 25-21, 25-19) triumph to rid Louisville of a potential fourth straight tournament title.
Fifth-seeded Notre Dame (16-11) now looks ahead to the final match of the BIG EAST Championship where it will face the winner of tonight’s contest between third-seeded Marquette and second-seeded Cincinnati. The tournament’s final match will be played at 3:00 p.m. (CT) on Sunday and will be televised live on ESPNU.
Notre Dame and Louisville have made a habit of facing each other in the BIG EAST Championship. Louisville joined the BIG EAST in 2005 and has faced Notre Dame in the tournament eachyear since with the exception of 2010.
The Cardinals own a 4-2 record against the Irish in the BIG EAST Championship and – before today – won four straight at the annual league showdown that included the 2008 and 2006 title matches and semifinal affairs in 2009 and 2007.
Notre Dame beat Louisville in 2005 to take home its last BIG EAST tournament title.
BIG EAST Player of the Year Lola Arslanbekova had the opening three kills for Louisville but ran into awall on her fourth attempt when juniors Hilary Eppink and Marie Roof teamed for a first-set block at 6-6.
Arslanbekova finished with eight of Louisville’s 12 kills in the frame and totaled 24 on the day. Just two of those came in the fourth set.
The pressure continued to mount on the Cardinals when sophomore Andrea McHugh went crosscourt at 13-10 to force a Louisville timeout.
McHugh would total 11 kills and eight digs with a block.
The lead went to Louisville after a double-block at 17-16. Senior Kristen Dealy’s push to the corner capped off a 4-0 Irish run to put Notre Dame ahead, 20-17. Dealy ended the match with 13 kills (.281), four aces and 18 digs.
Senior Frenchy Silva equaled that output with 18 digs and added three assists.
Eppink’s solo block at 22-20 helped put the finishing touches on the Irish victory. In fact, Eppink blocked three shots while adding seven kills on the day.
Sophomore Maggie Brindock aced the Cardinals on the opening serve of the second but Caitlin Welch ace put Louisville ahead, 7-3.
A kill by Dealy snapped Louisville’s 5-0 run at 8-4 and McHugh’s crosser tied it at 9-9.
McHugh added a roller to give Notre Dame an 11-9 lead with Dealy punching in an ace to force a break in the action on the heels of an 8-0 Irish run.
Louisville’s scoreless drought hit double digits on another Dealy ace (14-9).
Freshman Jeni Houser went for the tip over the double-block to keep Notre Dame ahead, 19-15, though the Irish saw their lead slowly slip away. Houser was one of three Irish players with double-digit kills, maxing out with 10.
Louisville turned a 22-17 deficit into a victory for itself by ending the frame on an 8-0 run.
The Irish fell behind in the third, 7-3, and scrapped their way back into contention by stuffing Arslanbekova three straight times to take a 10-9 lead.
An incredibly thrilling third set ended in Notre Dame’s favor on the tune of 13 ties and eight lead changes. Eight different players recorded kills as the Irish hit .273 with a pair of aces from Dealy.
McHugh hung an ace while Notre Dame started the fourth on a 4-1 spurt to help build an 8-4 lead. Eppink buried an overpass at 16-11 and freshman Toni Alugbue teamed with Roof for what may have been the biggest block of the match at 20-17.
Both Alugbue and Roof chipped in five blocks apiece.
A serve by Silva clipped the net for an ace one play later as Notre Dame would slam the door on the regular-season champions.