MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The No. 10 University of Louisville volleyball team won the BIG EAST Championship and regular season titles for the first time in the same season with a 25-19, 25-23, 26-24 sweep over Marquette on Sunday in the Al McGuire Center.
The Cardinals became the first BIG EAST team to win both the BIG EAST Championship and regular season titles in the same season since St. John’s did in 2007. It also marked the 15th time a BIG EAST team accomplished this feat. The win was also Louisville’s fifth BIG EAST Championship having won in 2006 and from 2008-10. It was also Louisville’s 25th conference title counting regular season and tournament accolades.
“We are so excited,” said U of L head coach Anne Kordes. “The greatest thing in the world to do is win a regular season championship and then back it up with a tournament championship. It’s tough, it’s exhausting and its pressure filled. I am so proud of our kids. If anyone has paid attention to us all year, even though we have some big stars, we’re very evenly distributed with our offense, but it’s our defense that we bank on. Marquette played phenomenal. Hats off to Marquette.”
Tournament MVP Gwen Rucker recorded 10 kills, six digs and five blocks on Sunday to finish the three-day tournament with 38 kills and 52 swings with just four errors. Rucker hit .654 for the weekend.
Lola Arslanbekova, who was also named to the All-BIG EAST Championship Team, snapped Louisville’s spell of five matches without a double-double. The senior had 13 kills and 11 digs for her 20th double-double of the season.
Caitlin Welch added a match-high 21 digs and was named to the All-BIG EAST Championship Team.
After not recording a hitting error in the first set in the quarterfinal and semifinal, the Cardinals ran into a stiff Golden Eagle defense in the first set and had five hitting errors. Despite its early struggles, Louisville regrouped to hit .300 in the opening frame and held Marquette to a .050 mark. Louisville was ignited by a 10-1 run which included three kills by Rucker, two by James and three blocks to take a 17-10 lead. Marquette fought back with a 5-1 run to cut the deficit to three at 20-17. Two late kills by Mattingly kept the Golden Eagles at bay.
Marquette used a 6-2 run to open up the second set with a 6-3 advantage. The Cardinals stormed back with an 8-2 run capped by the Uzbekistan duo of Arslanbekova and Tanya Lukyanenko to give Louisville a 13-12 lead. The Cardinals opened up a four point cushion at 16-12 before the Golden Eagles answered with a 4-0 run to knot the score at 16 all. The two teams traded points until Brooke Mattingly and Emily Juhl connected on back-to-back kills to give Louisville the 20-18 advantage. After Marquette pulled to within one at 24-23 Mattingly notched her sixth kill of the match to give Louisville the set. Louisville hit .250 in the frame to Marquette’s .214.
The Cardinals jumped out to an 8-4 lead in the third set before the Golden Eagles used a 5-1 run to tie the score at nine all. The two sides traded points until Marquette’s Elizabeth Koberstein and Danielle Carlson blocked Arslanbekova to give the Golden Eagles the two point edge at 18-16. Juhl carried the Cardinals down the stretch before Arslanbekova polished off the Golden Eagles. Juhl recorded three kills and combined with Mattingly on a block to tie the score at 20. Arslanbekova added two timely kills before Holly Mertens sailed an attack attempt wide to give Louisville the win. Louisville hit .244 in the final frame to Marquette’s .231.
Louisville will play the Ohio Valley Conference champion Belmont on Friday, Nov. 23 in Cardinal Arena at 5 p.m. Prior to the match, Louisville will honor its four seniors.