It is no secret that the Louisville Cardinals volleyball team is a force to be reckoned with in the ACC. The Cards have a near-perfect record and are ranked No. 4 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. On the heels of a 3-2 loss to the surging Pittsburgh Panthers, Louisville stepped right back into form Wednesday night against a downward-trending Notre Dame team. The Cardinals swept the Irish in three sets (25-10, 25-22, 25-14), bringing their record to 19-2 and dropping Notre Dame’s mark to 9-12.
A program-record crowd of 9,058 at the KFC Yum! Center was rowdy from the opening serve, as Louisville stormed out to an early advantage. They quickly built leads of 10-2 and 19-4 before wrapping up the first set at 25-10. The Irish generated some momentum late in the frame, but they fell by 15 in set one for the second time in three games.
Louisville, led by Amaya Tillman and Claire Chaussee (four kills each), hit .600 in the opening set. Graduate student middle blocker Kaylyn Winkler delivered back-to-back kills late for the Irish. But Notre Dame hit .000, with seven errors to neutralize their seven kills. Louisville was magnificent defensively, recording nine digs without making a single reception error.
The second set was a different story, as Notre Dame extended its rhythm from the end to the first, finding themselves in an early 6-6 tie. The Irish matched Louisville stride for stride, leading 9-8 and tying the game as late as the 19th point. Clinging to a mere 23-22 advantage, Louisville delivered the final verdict at the net, making consecutive blocks on Irish attacks to take the set 25-22.
Notre Dame continued to scuffle with a .047 hitting percentage, while sophomore outside hitter Paris Thompson provided four kills. But the Cardinals regressed significantly from set one. They hit only .122 with eight attack errors, as Notre Dame made 15 digs to Louisville’s 17. Racquel Lazaro again led the Cardinals with seven assists after 10 in set one, also contributing a team-high five digs. Junior libero Hattie Monson paced the Irish defensively with seven digs. Sophomore setter Phyona Schrader also added six assists.
Though the second set was a scare, Louisville quickly got back on track. Notre Dame kept it reasonably close, trailing 13-8 at one point. But the Cardinals consistently tallied two points for each one the Irish managed. Tillman finished off the visitors with three kills in the final five points, securing a 25-14 third-set victory and a Cards sweep. Louisville out-killed the Irish 16-6 and out-blocked them 4-1, posting a stellar .250 hitting percentage to Notre Dame’s -.024.
Tillman ended the set with seven kills, followed closely by Chaussee, who racked up six in both the second and third sets. Freshman outside hitter and Kentucky native Lucy Trump delivered four kills for the Irish, and Monson made eight more digs. Neither effort was enough for a Notre Dame team that has now lost nine consecutive sets.
Overall, Notre Dame hit just .009 with four blocks. Trump dished out a team-high seven kills, while Schrader and Thompson each had five. Schrader also led the team with 16 assists. Monson recorded a team-best 17 digs. Freshman libero Maisie Alexander contributed eight, one shy of a career-high.
Louisville hit .266 on the night with 12 blocks, as Chaussee and Tillman combined for 28 kills and 33 points. Tillman, the ACC leader in blocks, totaled two solo shutdowns and six assisted denials. Lazaro also amassed 30 assists, as the Cardinals extended their home win streak to seven games. Notre Dame and Louisville will meet again in South Bend on Nov. 23.
Next up: Irish host Duke
Interestingly enough, Notre Dame’s next opponent, the Duke Blue Devils, must also face the Cardinals in Louisville Friday evening. Duke is 12-9 this season with a 3-7 conference record, sitting just half a game behind Notre Dame at 11th in the ACC. The Blue Devils are coming off a four-game homestand which ended in a 3-1 loss to North Carolina, dropping Duke’s home record to 10-3.
Now, the Blue Devils enter a four-game swing on the road, where they have gone just 1-5 this season. The Irish are looking to stop the skid on an upcoming four-game home set. Since beginning ACC play, Notre Dame has embarked on a four-game losing streak, a three-game winning streak and now an active three-game losing streak.
Duke, coached by all-time program wins leader Jolene Nagel, is hitting .195 this season. Gracie Johnson has spearheaded the Blue Devil attack, ranking second in the ACC with 4.27 kills per set while hitting at a .205 clip. She has finished among the team’s top three in kills during each of her three full seasons at Duke. Lizzie Fleming and Kerry Keefe have also been efficient, posting at least two kills per set and hitting percentages north of .300.
UCLA transfer Devon Chang has orchestrated the offense, placing third in the ACC with 10.18 assists per set. Nikki Underwood leads the group in digs with 3.46 per set (min. 30 sets played), while Rylie Kadel has posted 1.15 blocks per set.
Notre Dame, coached by newcomer Salima Rockwell, is hitting .178 as a team and showcases a much more balanced attack than Duke. Though the Irish have three players with over two kills per set, none of them are hitting better than .200 and not a single member of the team is above .290. Schrader leads the team with 7.94 assists per set and has racked up as many as 54 in a game this year. Monson is still among the ACC’s top-five in digs per set (4.28), steadying a youthful Irish bunch.
The ACC matchup will take place at 1:00 p.m. ET this Sunday. The game is available on ACC Network Extra.