By Matt Bradshaw —
After achieving a shared ACC title last year, volleyball (6-3) has started the 2018 season with their best opening record since 2015.
U of L dropped three matches but kept each contest close. The losses came from top-20 opponents and offered valuable challenges for the Cardinals to prove themselves early in the year.
Here’s a recap of volleyball’s tournaments before they return to Cardinal Area next weekend for a pair of matches at home.
Louisville opened their season with the Cardinal Classic held at Cardinal Arena. Tennessee-Martin, Southern Illinois and IUPUI traveled to campus for the tournament.
The Cards swept UT-Martin 3-0 in their home opener. Junior outside hitter Melanie McHenry led all attackers with nine kills and senior libero Molly Sauer totaled nine digs.
Southern Illinois was Louisville’s next victim in another 3-0 sweep. McHenry and senior Jasmine Bennett recorded 10 kills each and senior setter Wilma Rivera added two aces.
The Classic ended with the Cardinals sweeping IUPUI in the final matchup. Sauer was named MVP of the tournament with 19 digs in the closing contest.
Louisville proved their depth, height and talent in the first tournament. This year’s squad is one of the deepest ever and features a potent mix of veterans and upperclassmen.
Volleyball traveled next to the University of Florida for the Bubly Invitational. They blanked UCF 3-0 to start the tournament with their fourth straight sweep.
U of L’s second opponent was the Florida Gators, 2017 NCAA Championship finalist. No. 4 Florida handed U of L their first loss of the season in a 3-1 defeat.
No. 7 USC swept the Cardinals in the final contest of the tournament. McHenry and Bennett added their second straight game with double digit kills but the powerful Trojan offense won the match.
The team exited the tournament with a 4-2 record. They picked up their first two losses of the season against top-10 opponents.
In their first matchup of Purdue’s Stacey Clark Classic, U of L downed Lipscomb 3-1. Junior Megan Sloan notched 10 kills with four blocks and Sauer recorded 23 digs and five aces.
Louisville moved on to defeat Xavier in their fifth sweep of the season. The Cardinals recorded 40 kills and forced the Musketeers to a negative hitting percentage (-.014).
No. 19 Purdue dealt U of L their third loss of the season. McHenry, Sloan and Bennett combined for 41 kills in the 3-1 loss.
On the offensive side, McHenry leads the squad with 111 kills. Bennett adds 83 and the best hitting percentage at .462.
Rivera helms the setting position with 328 assists and 11 service aces. Sauer leads the team with 17 aces.
Sauer heads the defense with 144 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist Kelly O’Neil has 58.
You can watch volleyball face the Kentucky Wildcats at Cardinal Arena on Friday, Sept. 14 at 7 p.m.
UK has won the Battle of the Bluegrass for five straight seasons.
You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.
Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal