By Donny Yaste–
The University of Louisville volleyball team shined over the weekend in their first two of six games played at the KFC Yum! Center this season. The Cardinals swept the St. John’s University Red Storm, 25-19, 25-14 and 25-23 on Friday night.
The following Sunday afternoon, the Cards returned to Yum! to sweep the University of Conneticut Huskies 25-7, 25-13 and 25-20, improving their record to 10-4 and remaining undefeated at home and in conference play.
Junior outside hitter Lola Arslanbekova was dominant throughout both games and recorded 14 kills, one ace, 11 digs, one block and her fifth double-double of the season against St. John’s.
The Cards came out somewhat jittery in their first game at the Yum! Center. They traded the lead with St. John’s in the first set until sophomore outside hitter Emily Juhl started serving with a 14-12 lead. Four serves, two aces and a St. John’s timeout later, Louisville was up 18-12. They never looked back after that and won the first set 25-19.
The second set saw a less jittery Cardinal team, as they stormed out to 5-0 and 10-2 leads. They continued to increase their lead throughout the set, leading 20-10 and then eventually winning the set 25-14. They accrued 13 kills and five blocks throughout the set. Arslanbekova had seven kills in the set and Emily Juhl added four kills and an ace.
The third set started off back and forth with U of L and St. John’s battling to a 7-7 deadlock. However, the Cardinals started to separate themselves from the Red Storm when they built a 12-7 lead. St. John’s would storm back and cause the two teams to battle until the end of set. The tension was at its greatest with St. John’s serving and U of L leading 24-23. After some intense back and forth play an Emily Juhl kill ended the match and provided Louisville the opportunity to celebrate their first ever game and victory in the Yum! Center.
Arslanbekova had a stellar showing against UConn on Sunday as well, recording 18 kills, an ace and a block.
“Lola had another great match for us, but I thought Caitlin Welch did a great job passing and Brooke Mattingly was a threat in the middle for us as well,” said volleyball head coach Ann Kordes following the victory against the Huskies.
Kordes was also particularly happy with the crowd and the Yum! Center, saying, “There is no better volleyball venue in the nation.”
Kordes urges even more people to show up for the rest of their games at the Yum! Center.
The U of L volleyball team will return to action for four more games in the Yum! Center. The next game at Yum! is coming up on Oct. 23 versus University of Pittsburgh. For now, the Cards will brace themselves for a four-game road trip before returning to Cardinal Arena on Oct. 14 to face the Bearcats of Cincinnati.
Photos: Cody Hibbard/The Louisville Cardinal