Since Cincinnati and Louisville joined the BIG EAST Conference in 2005, ESPNU has covered eight regular-season conference matches and five BIG EAST Championship finals. Of those 13 matches carried on national television, the Bearcats and Cardinals were featured in 12.
Five teams from the league have been featured by ESPN in regular-season play since Cincinnati and Louisville joined. The other three are Notre Dame, USF and Villanova. Notre Dame has been featured the most since 2005, having been televised seven times, followed by Louisville with five appearances and Cincinnati with three. USF and Villanova both made one appearance on ESPNU.
On Sunday, Oct. 28, Cincinnati and No. 13 Louisville will face each other on ESPNU for the second time in BIG EAST regular-season play and the first time since the 2005 season. That year, Louisville was ranked No. 6 in the nation and defeated the Bearcats in four sets. The No. 6 ranking was the Cardinals’ highest in program history.
Cincinnati has been featured on ESPNU three times in regular-season action since joining the BIG EAST and is 1-2 in those games. The Bearcats have also competed in the last three BIG EAST Championship finals, which have been televised by ESPNU, and hold a 1-2 record in those as well, winning the BIG EAST Championship last season in a 3-0 sweep over Notre Dame.
Last season marked the first time Louisville did not have a match on ESPNU since the Cardinals joined the league. Prior to the 2011 campaign, Louisville was featured in five ESPNU regular-season matches and four BIG EAST Championship finals. In regular-season play, the Cardinals are 3-2 with wins over USF (Nov. 2, 2008), Notre Dame (Oct. 29, 2006) and Cincinnati (Oct. 16, 2005). Louisville holds a winning record in BIG EAST Championship finals on ESPNU as well with a 3-1 mark (5-1 total; two finals televised on CSTV). In 2008 the Cardinals defeated Notre Dame in four sets followed by a 3-1 win over Cincinnati in 2009 and a 3-0 sweep over the Bearcats in 2010.
Cincinnati holds a 9-14 overall record and 7-3 BIG EAST mark heading into weekend play. The Bearcats faced the toughest nonconference schedule of any member in the league with seven matches against top-25 teams, including one against then unranked Western Kentucky team that currently holds the 19th spot in the poll.
“It is exciting for our program, the athletic department and campus as a whole to be able to host such an event this weekend,” said first-year head coach Molly Alvey of Cincinnati. “We are excited to include the community and our fans in the match and to increase the energy around the program and the direction we are headed. Cincinnati volleyball has incredible fans and we are excited to get them back to Fifth Third Arena to cheer us on in such a huge match on national TV.”
No. 13 Louisville handed Marquette its first BIG EAST loss its last time out to record its 20th win of the season. The Cardinals now have 25 seasons with 20 or more wins, including 12 in the last 13 years. They are 20-3 overall and 9-1 in BIG EAST play with their only losses coming against No. 1 Penn State, Notre Dame and No. 8 Texas. They have enjoyed a spot in the poll each week since earning the No. 24 spot in Week 2 and found themselves ranked as high as No. 10 in Week 4. Most importantly, Louisville ranks No. 7 in the NCAA RPI rankings with a resume that includes wins over then-No. 10 Kentucky, No. 11 Purdue, No. 20 Illinois and now No. 24 Miami (Fla.).
“It gives us an opportunity for some exposure in our recruiting and that’s the most important thing I think a TV game can provide for us,” said Louisville head coach Anne Kordes. “We’re really trying to reach out to the rest of the country. We got kids coming from Texas, kids coming from Florida and it gives us an opportunity to not only reach out to more kids in those areas but for them to watch us on TV, their parents and their families to watch and say, ‘Hey, that’s the school I’m going to be playing for the next couple of years’.”
In the seven regular-season meetings between Cincinnati and Louisville since joining the BIG EAST, the Cardinals hold a 5-2 advantage. However, in the last five matches in which one team was ranked, the unranked team walked away with victories in three of those five games. The last match was on Oct. 16, 2010 when No. 21 Cincinnati traveled to Louisville and was upset by the Cardinals, 3-2. When both teams were still in Conference USA, Cincinnati upset No. 22 Louisville in 2001 and once again in 2003 when they swept the No. 17 ranked Cardinals.
The last time these two teams met in the national spotlight, Louisville claimed a 3-0 win in the 2010 BIG EAST Championship. Of the 19 players that competed in that final, 10 of them remain on their respective teams; four from Louisville and six for Cincinnati.