PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The No. 2 seed Louisville Cardinals notched a 3-1 (25-17, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21) win over No. 7 seed Seton Hall in the third BIG EAST Volleyball Championship quarterfinal match. The Cardinals have advanced to the BIG EAST Championship semifinals match in all six seasons that they have been members of the conference, going a perfect 6-0 in quarterfinal action. The Pirates, who have qualified for two consecutive BIG EAST Championships, have not won a match in the tournament since 1994.
The Cardinals, who led the conference and ranked eighth in the nation in blocks per set, used their defense as the difference in the match. Louisville had 13 total blocks including eight from senior Amanda Simmons. Freshman Caitlin Welch also assisted in the defensive effort with a match-high 23 digs. Sophomore Lola Arslanbekova, the 2009 BIG EAST Championship Most Outstanding Player, started right where she left off a year ago with a match-best 25 kills to go with 10 digs. Seton Hall was led by senior Sarah Osmun who had 19 kills and 19 digs, while junior Meghan Matusiak added 17 kills including the 1,000th of her career.
Louisville, who lost a five-set match to Seton Hall on Sept. 26, claimed the first set 25-17. Seton Hall stayed within striking distance for most of the frame, but a 6-1 run by the Cardinals midway through put UofL up 21-13. The team had three blocks during that stretch, including two by Simmons. The squad, which ranked eighth in the nation in blocks heading into the match, had six in the first set. Simmons recorded one solo block along with five block assists, helping to hold the Pirates to a -.060 hitting percentage.
Seton Hall evened the match by winning a closely contested second set 25-22 that did not see either team take more than a four-point advantage. The Pirates responded on the defensive end, registering four blocks in the set. Junior Krissy Wrobel and sophomore Morgan DeVries each had a pair of block assists in the frame. With the set tied at 10, the teams exchanged points until the 13-point mark when Seton Hall rattled off three straight to claim a 16-13 lead. The Pirates extended that advantage to four at 20-16 when Wrobel and junior Meghan Matusiak combined for a block. A hitting error by Louisville clinched the set for Seton Hall. Louisville freshman libero Caitlin Welch was stellar defensively for the Cardinals with seven digs in the session.
The Cardinals responded with a 25-23 third-set win to gain a 2-1 advantage in the match. Not much separated the two squads in the third set as neither side could gain more than a four-point lead. The offense picked up on both ends, as the Pirates hit .390 and the Cardinals hit .386. Arslanbekova boosted the Cardinals in the frame, notching eight kills on 14 swings for a .500 hitting percentage. On the other side, Matusiak had eight kills while Sarah Osmun notched seven. Louisville held a 23-19 lead, but Seton Hall responded with three straight points to come within one following an Osmun kill. But, it would be UofL junior Anastasia Artemeva who ended the set with a well-placed spike to put the Cardinals up heading into the fourth set.
Louisville led by as many as nine in the fourth set at 17-8 following an ace from freshman Emily Juhl. Seton Hall climbed back to within three at 21-18 after scoring 10 of the next 14 points. Osmun and Matusiak each had a pair of kills in the stretch. But it was Arlanbekova who once again came up big, recording the final two kills of the match to lift the Cardinals to the victory.
UofL faces the winner of No. 3 seed Marquette and No. 6 seed Pittsburgh at 3:30 p.m. on Saturday in the second semifinal match.
Quarterfinals, Friday, Nov. 19
Match 1: No. 5 Notre Dame 3, No. 4 Villanova 1 (25-20, 25-17, 21-25, 25-14)
Match 2: No. 1 Cincinnati 3, No. 8 USF 0 (25-7, 25-13, 25-14)
Match 3: No. 2 Louisville 3, No. 7 Seton Hall 1 (25-17, 22-25, 25-23, 25-21)
Match 4: No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 6 Pittsburgh, 6 p.m.
Semifinals, Saturday, Nov. 20
Match 5: No. 1 Cincinnati vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, 1 p.m.
Match 6: No. 3/No. 6 vs. No. 2 Louisville, 3:30 p.m.
Championship, Sunday, Nov. 21
Match 7: Semifinal winners, 3:30 p.m. (LIVE – ESPNU)