Louisville Press Conference
MILWAUKEE, Wis. – The top-seeded Louisville Cardinals (27-3) swept No. 5 Cincinnati (12-19) in the BIG EAST Championship Semifinals and advanced to the final for the seventh time in eight years. The Cardinals won by scores of 25-16, 25-16 and 25-23 and will face the winner of No. 2 Marquette (25-5) versus No. 6 USF (17-13) on Sunday at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. The final will be broadcast live on ESPNU.
Louisville is 20-2 in BIG EAST Championship matches and 5-1 in the title match. The Cardinals have appeared in the championship match every year but one since joining the BIG EAST Conference, missing the 2011 final. Cincinnati, the reigning BIG EAST Champions, is 9-7 in tournament play.
Louisville, ranked No. 10 nationally, had one of the greatest offensive team performances in BIG EAST Championship match history. The Cardinals hit .432 with 50 kills on 95 attempts and nine errors. The .432 hitting percentage is the third-greatest in a BIG EAST Championship match.
Senior Gwen Rucker, an All-BIG EAST First Team selection, continued her impressive play and posted 15 kills on 17 attempts with only two errors for a .765 hitting percentage. The senior, who broke the BIG EAST single-game record with a .867 hitting percentage on Friday against No. 8 St. John’s (20-12), recorded the second-greatest hitting percentage in a BIG EAST Championship match history with her .765 attack clip. BIG EAST Player of the Year and unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team selection, senior Lola Arslanbekova posted 15 kills and hit .406 while freshman Katie George dished out a match-high 26 assists. Junior Caitlin Welch led the team defensively with 12 digs.
Cincinnati was led by seniors Jordanne Scott, a unanimous All-BIG EAST First Team selection, Becca Refenes an All-BIG EAST Second Team honoree and Megan Turner. Scott tallied nine kills and Refenes and Turner added eight each.
It was all Louisville in the first set with the Cardinals hitting an impressive .750 with 18 kills on 24 attempts without recording an error. Rucker led the way with a perfect 7-for-7 on kill opportunities and senior Tanya Lukyanenko added four kills on four attempts as Louisville took the set 25-16 to go ahead 1-0.
Cincinnati tied the second set at 12-12 but were outscored by the Cardinals 13-4 the rest of the way as Louisville took a 2-0 lead in the match. The Cardinals put together another strong offensive performance and hit .480 as a team. Arslanbekova added seven kills on 10 attempts with a .600 hitting percentage.
The Bearcats grabbed a 22-18 lead in the third set but Louisville rallied off four straight points to tie the set at 22-22. They went on to win 25-23 and take the match, 3-0.
Quarterfinals, Friday, Nov. 16
Match 1: No. 4 Connecticut, 2 vs. No. 5 Cincinnati, 3 (25-17, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-8)
Match 2: No. 1 Louisville, 3 vs. No. 8 St. John’s, 0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-18)
Match 3: No. 3 Notre Dame, 1 vs. No. 6 USF, 3 (25-17, 18-25, 25-23, 25-19)
Match 4: No. 2 Marquette, 3 vs. No. 7 Pittsburgh, 1 (25-14, 22-25, 25-23, 25-19)
Semifinals, Saturday, Nov. 17
Match 5: No. 1 Louisville, 3 vs. No. 5 Cincinnati, 0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-23)
Match 6: No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 6 USF, 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. CT
Championship, Sunday, Nov. 18
Match 7: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 2 Marquette/No. 6 USF, 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT (LIVE – ESPNU)