By John McCarthy —
Louisville volleyball defeated Samford in the first round of the NCAA tournament Dec. 5 at E.A. Diddle Arena in Bowling Green, Ky.
This was an important first-round win for the Cardinals, who improved to 20-9 on the season.
The Cardinals’ sweep of an impressive opponent in Samford, who was 24-5 before their loss to Louisville, proves that the Cards have potential to go deep into the NCAA tournament.
Standouts for Louisville were freshman Aiko Jones and junior Anna Stevenson. Jones propelled the Cardinals with 17 kills and two aces, while Stevenson added 12 kills and four blocks.
The Bulldogs marked the scoreboard first in the first set. Soon after, Louisville breezed to a 9-4 lead. Led by Stevenson’s ace and momentum-swinging block, Louisville went on a 5-0 run to go up 17-10. Samford fought back to 19-18 on the set, but the firepower of the Cardinals was too much and won the first set.
The Cards controlled the second set. Samford called a timeout after the Cardinals shot out to an early 5-0 lead. The Bulldogs were able to bring the score to 12-8 midway through the set, but Louisville caught fire yet again with responsive 3-0 run capped off by a Jones kill. Samford called their last timeout after the Cardinals’ run and were able to put four more points on the board. In the end, Louisville ran away with the set on a 6-0 run.
Louisville was hot to begin the third set, jumping out to a 10-3 lead. After a few sloppy plays by the Cardinals, Samford brought the score back to within two points. The Cardinals and Bulldogs traded points before a kill by sophomore Claire Chaussee stopped Samford’s run.
Following Chaussee’s kill, Louisville led 21-15. Louisville reached match point on an ace by junior Tori Dilfer, but the Bulldogs scraped up four points to make the score 24-22. With a timely Jones kill, the Cardinals closed the set 25-22.
The Cardinals will await the winner of the Western Kentucky University and Kennesaw State University match. Louisville prepares for two fierce competitors. WKU has been stellar this season, going 32-2 on the year and went undefeated in conference play. KSU has a seasoned roster and is 5-2 this season at neutral sites.
The Cardinals will showdown with the winner of the WKU/KSU game Dec. 6.