PITTSBURGH, Pa. – The No. 2 seed Louisville Cardinals defeated the No. 1 seed Cincinnati Bearcats 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-15) to win the 2010 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship title on Sunday at Fitzgerald Field House in Pittsburgh, Pa. It is the fourth title for the Cardinals in just six seasons since joining the conference and third straight. Louisville earns the conference’s automatic bid to the 2010 NCAA Championship.
Louisville freshman Emily Juhl was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, averaging 2.82 kills and 1.55 digs per set over the three matches. She carried the Cardinals through stretches of the title match, leading the team with 13 kills while adding three service aces, three blocks and two digs. The Cardinals also landed sophomore Lola Arslanbekova and junior Gwen Rucker on the All-Tournament Team. For Cincinnati, senior Stephanie Niemer and sophomore Jordanne Scott earned All-Tournament selections. Niemer, the BIG EAST Player of the Year, had 14 kills in the final match, while Scott notched 11.
The Cardinals, who also defeated Cincinnati in the 2009 title match, won the first set by a 25-20 tally. A balanced attack helped Louisville to the early advantage, getting four kills apiece from Juhl and Arslanbekova. The Cardinals hit .400 in the first set. The Bearcats got five kills from sophomore Becca Refenes and four each from Scott and Niemer. Louisville threatened to pull away early in the set, building a four-point lead at 14-10 following a Juhl kill. But the Bearcats would pull even at 15 after scoring five of the next six points, tying it on a kill by junior Missy Harpenau. The teams remained close until Louisville scored the final three points of the set to notch the win. Rucker and Arslanbekova combined on the block that clinched the set, as the Cardinals finished with four blocks in the frame.
UofL grabbed a 2-0 lead in the match after taking the second set 25-20. Cincinnati jumped out to a 10-6 advantage after Refenes, Niemer and Harpenau all notched kills. The Cardinals then came storming back with seven straight points, ending with a block by Rucker to claim a 13-10 advantage. Cincinnati would pull to within one in the set at 14-13 following a Refenes kill, but a pair of service aces by Juhl would extend the UofL lead to six at 20-14. Juhl carried the Cardinals in the session with seven kills on 10 attacks and two aces. Cincinnati’s offense improved from the first set with a .314 hitting percentage, but four Louisville blocks was enough of a difference to take the frame.
The Cardinals completed the first sweep in a BIG EAST Championship title match since 2007, winning the third set 25-15. Louisville jumped up on Cincinnati quickly, taking 12 of the first 16 points to go up 12-4. Freshman Taylor Brauneis had back-to-back aces as part of the run. The Bearcats were never able to mount a rally in the frame, falling to the Cardinals for the third straight time including twice this season. Arslanbekova had four kills on five swings in the third set while the team totaled three more blocks. Louisville out-blocked Cincinnati 11-4 in the match. The sweep also meant that no match in the championship went to five sets, marking the first time the tournament has not had a single five-set match since 2007.
With the victory, the Cardinals earn an automatic berth to the NCAA Championship for the third-straight season. The NCAA Selection Show will air on ESPNews on Nov. 28 between 3 and 3:30 p.m.
Most Outstanding Player
Emily Juhl, Louisville, Fr., OH
2010 All-Tournament Team
Kristen Dealy, Notre Dame, Jr., OH
Nikki Klingsporn, Marquette, Sr., S
Emiyl Juhl, Louisville, Fr., OH
Stephanie Niemer, Cincinnati, Sr., OH
Lola Arslanbekova, Louisville, So., OH
Jordanne Scott, Cincinnati, So., MB
Gwen Rucker, Louisville, Jr., MH
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 3, No. 6 Pittsburgh (25-19, 25-21, 25-16)
Semifinals, Saturday, Nov. 20
Match 5: No. 1 Cincinnati 3, No. 5 Notre Dame 0 (25-23, 25-22, 25-19)
Match 6: No. 2 Louisville 3, No. 3 Marquette 1 (15-25, 25-23, 25-15, 25-14)
Championship, Sunday, Nov. 21
Match 7: No. 2 Louisville 3, No. 1 Cincinnati 0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-15)