PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The No. 1 seed Cincinnati Bearcats defeated the No. 5 seed Notre Dame Fighting Irish 3-0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-19) to advance to the BIG EAST Volleyball Championship title match. The Bearcats are making their second straight trip to the championship match, falling in last year’s final to Louisville 3-1. Notre Dame has fallen in the semifinals in back-to-back seasons.
Cincinnati had three players record double-digit kills, with senior Stephanie Niemer leading the way with 15. Sophomores Jordanne Scott and Becca Refenes were also in double digits with 10 kills and 11 kills respectively, helping UC to its second straight sweep at the BIG EAST Championship after beating USF 3-0 in the quarterfinals. The Bearcats hit .320 for the match. Freshman Andrea McHugh led the Irish with a 16-kill, eight-dig effort. Junior Kristen Dealy came one kill short of a double-double with nine kills and 15 digs.
Cincinnati grabbed the first set 25-23 to jump out to a 1-0 lead in the match. The first frame was closely contested, as the two teams were not separated by more than three points, including exchanging points from the 10-point mark until set point. Niemer put down the final kill, notching seven kills on 18 swings in the session. McHugh led the Irish with six kills and added five digs. The Irish hurt themselves with errors, with three hitting errors, three block errors and one ball handling error during the set. The Bearcats trailed 23-22 but got kills from junior Missy Harpenau, Scott and Niemer on consecutive plays to take the 1-0 advantage in the match.
Niemer showed why she was chosen as BIG EAST Player of the Year in the second set as Cincinnati won the frame 25-22. With UC up one point at 19-18, the senior outside hitter notched four kills and one assist in the final six points, including hammering down the final two scores. Niemer was one-for-eight to start the set, but had five kills on her final nine swings to finish the set with six kills. On the other side, McHugh continued to carry the Irish with seven kills on 12 attacks in the second set. The Bearcats hit .333 in the session to push them to the 2-0 match advantage.
Refenes carried the Bearcats through to final set, as the Bearcats finished the sweep with a 25-19 third-set win. The sophomore had seven kills and four digs in the set. With the score 14-13, UC went on a 5-1 run to stretch the lead to five at 19-14. Refenes had two kills and a block during the run. Scott ended the match with a kill. It is the second time this year that Cincinnati has swept Notre Dame, completing the same feat in the regular-season meeting on Oct. 10.
Cincinnati faces the winner of No. 2 seed Louisville and No. 3 seed Marquette on Sunday at 3:30 p.m. The match will be broadcast live exclusively on ESPNU.