MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The BIG EAST volleyball regular season is in the books and the top eight teams make the trip to the Al McGuire Center in Milwaukee, Wis., for the 2011 BIG EAST Volleyball Championship beginning on Friday. The event is a single elimination tournament with four quarterfinal matches scheduled for Friday, followed by the semifinals on Saturday and the championship on Sunday.
All the quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be streamed live on www.bigeast.tv and the BIG EAST Championship Central page will have all the latest information throughout the tournament. The championship match will be exclusively broadcast live on ESPNU at 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT.
The first quarterfinal match is scheduled for 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT on Friday and features No. 4 seed Syracuse (19-11, 8-6 BIG EAST) and No. 5 seed Notre Dame (15-11, 8-6 BIG EAST). After missing the championship in 2010, the Orange bounced back and captured the fourth seed, which is their highest championship seed since 2005. Syracuse has never won a BIG EAST volleyball championship. The Orange went to the championship match in 1991 before falling to Pittsburgh. Syracuse defeated Notre Dame 3-1 in the final match of the regular season on Nov. 13. Notre Dame had won the last 18 contests in the all-time series heading into the match dating back to 1981. Junior Sam Hinz ranks ninth nationally with 1.47 blocks per set.
The Irish have appeared in the BIG EAST Championship for 17 straight seasons. Notre Dame has won nine BIG EAST titles; second most in league history, most recently in 2005. The Irish rank third in the BIG EAST with 2.59 blocks per set and fourth with 13.18 kills per set.
The 1:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. CT match will see No. 1 seed Louisville (21-7, 13-1 BIG EAST) battle No. 8 seed Pittsburgh (18-12, 7-7 BIG EAST). The Cardinals won their first BIG EAST regular-season title after posting 13 conference wins. Louisville is receiving votes in the most recent AVCA Coaches’ Poll. Junior Lola Arslanbekova leads the Cardinals averaging 4.94 kills per set which ranks third nationally. The Cardinals have won four of the last five tournament titles and are the defending champions.
Pittsburgh has qualified for the championship for the fourth consecutive seasons. The Panthers have won a record 11 BIG EAST Championships, most recently in 2003. Pittsburgh handed Louisville its only conference loss of the BIG EAST regular season, a 3-1 victory on Oct. 23. Senior Kiesha Leggs ranks third in the conference with 3.65 kills per set.
At 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. CT, No. 2 seed Cincinnati (22-8, 12-2 BIG EAST) matches up with No. 7 seed Villanova (17-12, 8-6 BIG EAST). The Bearcats enter the Championship on a nine-game winning streak. Cincinnati is receiving votes in the latest AVCA Coaches’ Poll and is the only BIG EAST team to defeat a ranked opponent this season. The Bearcats defeated then No. 17 Oklahoma 3-1 on Sept. 2. Having fallen in the title match the past two seasons the Bearcats look for their first BIG EAST Championship. Cincinnati leads the league with 13.39 kills per set. Senior Missy Harpenau and junior Jordanne Scott rank sixth and seventh, respectively in kills per set with 3.50 and 3.45.
Villanova has qualified for the BIG EAST Championship for the second consecutive season. Senior Kim Maroon leads the nation in digs with 6.92 per set. Maroon set a BIG EAST single-season record with 734 digs. The Wildcats fell to Cincinnati 3-2 on Nov. 13, in the final match of the regular season.
The final match on Friday begins at 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT, and has host No. 3 seed Marquette (22-8, 12-2 BIG EAST) against No. 6 seed Seton Hall (17-12, 8-6). Marquette’s 12-2 conference record is its’ best as a member of the BIG EAST. Seton Hall and Marquette met on Oct. 21, with the Golden Eagles notching a 3-2 victory. Last season the Golden Eagles fell to eventual champions Louisville 3-1 in the semifinals.
Seton Hall earned its third straight BIG EAST Championship appearance with a pair of five-set wins in the last weekend of play. The Pirates 17 regular season are the most since 2003 and their eight conference victories established the highest BIG EAST win-total in program history. Senior Megan Matusiak ranks second in the conference with 3.81 kills per set.
The winner of the Championship earns an automatic berth to the 64-team NCAA Championship field.
Quarterfinals, Friday, Nov. 18
Match 1: No. 4 Syracuse vs. No. 5 Notre Dame, 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT
Match 2: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 8 Pittsburgh, 1:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. CT
Match 3: No. 2 Cincinnati vs. No. 7 Villanova, 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. CT
Match 4: No. 3 Marquette vs. No. 6 Seton Hall, 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT
Semifinals, Saturday, Nov. 19
Match 5: No. 1/No. 8 vs. No. 4/No. 5, 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT
Match 6: No. 3/No. 6 vs. No. 2/No. 7, 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. CT
Championship, Sunday, Nov. 20
Match 7: Semifinal winners, 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT (LIVE – ESPNU)