By Noah Allison–
The Louisville volleyball team ended the season in a second round NCAA tournament loss to Michigan, Friday, in the YUM! Center. After winning the Big East regular season and Big East tournament, head coach Anne Kordes’ team could not beat Michigan, who won 3-1, sealing it by coming back in the fourth set.
Michigan, 25-11, handed Louisville only its fourth loss all season, and it was their fourth and final loss at home. Three of the games in the set ended with both teams scoring at least 20 points, with the fourth and final set going into extra points. It didn’t come down as much to x’s and o’s as it did to just only one team being able to win the match.
“I think we played our butts off, I don’t think anything really went wrong, I just think that they came out and beat us,” senior middle blocker Gwen Rucker said. “We gave all the effort we could give and they were just a little bit more talented than us and their defense was unbelievable. They were scrappy and just couldn’t make a mistake.”
Louisville was constantly fighting to take the lead back and was never able to feel comfortable against Michigan’s defense that managed to unbelievably return so many of Louisville’s attempted kills.
“They played a phenomenal match, especially in that fourth game, they held their composure,” Louisville Head Coach Anne Kordes said of Michigan. “This is what we wanted, an opportunity to play high level volleyball, and you have to be able to execute at a very high level for a very consistent amount of time to be able to advance in the NCAA tournament.”
With the loss ends the era of this talented and important class of seniors who propelled Louisville volleyball to heights it couldn’t imagine. Sending off Gwen Rucker, Tanya Lukyaneko, hometown hero Kaitlynn James and volleyball legend Lola Arslanbekova, who leaves as one of the greatest things not only to happen to U of L volleyball, but Louisville athletics as a whole.
“They came in and completely changed the standard of effort and the standard of commitment and I really appreciate the kind of leadership that they have been able to provide,” Kordes said.
As painful as it was for the no. 9 team in the country to fall short in the NCAA tournament, the volleyball team has done nothing but bring respect to the University of Louisville, ending their season of accomplishments in a fashion that will motivate them to come back with a chip on their shoulder next year.
“As bad as we wanted to advance, all we talked about was doing things at U of L volleyball that have never been done before,” Kordes said. “They’ve had a phenomenal season, they’ve lit up a community, and set the foundation for what can be a very special program here. And that’s what we are focused on, everything they were able to accomplish. There are a lot of teams who have won final fours and national championships and the moment they won couldn’t wait to get a way from each other. I’d take losing in the second round to have chemistry and the special experience and the memories that this group has had together, because it is so special. They are vey much like family, they are sisters and that is far more important to us than advancing to the second round and doing it at the cost of not having something that means so much.”
Photo: Austin Lassell/The Louisville Cardinal