Dec. 4, 2009
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -
Freshman Lola Arslanbekova's match-high 20 kills and team-high 16 digs were not enough as the University of Louisville fell 3-1 to No. 11 ranked Minnesota in the first round of the NCAA Volleyball Championship Friday night in Knoxville, Tenn.
"I thought it was a good match against a well-coached team," said U of L head coach Leonid Yelin. "Both teams had momentum at one point or the other in the match. There is so much on the line in the NCAAs. In the conference tournament you don't want to lose but you know you can still survive and play in the post season. But once you are here, the pressure is so much more. "
Minnesota took the match 25-20, 24-26, 26-24, 25-22 to improve its record to 25-8 and earned the right to advance against the winner of the Tennessee/Duke match. U of L ends its season at 21-11, going 9-2 in its last 11 matches including the BIG EAST Tournament Championship.
U of L, the fifth ranked blocking team in the nation, out -blocked the Gophers 17-7 led by Lecia Brown's eight with teammate Gwen Rucker adding six. The Cardinals hit .214 as a team with senior Justine Landi joining Arslanbekova in double digit kills with 13 and four blocks.
"Our team practices blocking first and foremost," said Landi. "Our game always goes well when we get the block going. It is rare when we lose when we outblock the other team like that."
The Cardinals built a slender lead in the first set when they went up 11-10 on a Rucker kill. The Gophers responded immediately with a three point run to go up 13-11 and the Cardinals were not able to retake the lead although they got within two at 22-20 on two straight Landi kills. Minnesota scored three straight for the 25-20 win. U of L was led by Lola Arslanbekova's four kills and had three blocks, led by Anastasia Artemeva's two. U of L hit .200 to UM's .341.
Minnesota seemed to take its momentum into the second set as they built a five point lead at 15-10 with two straight Gopher blocks. The Cardinals tied at 19 on two straight Rucker blocks and took their first lead on the next point when Tabitha Love hit long. UM responded to the challenge and actually got to set point at 24-22 but two Lecia Brown
kills tied the set at 24 and a Brown block gave the Cardinals set point. U of L setter Gosia Lech
tipped a ball for set point to even the match at 1-1 going into the break. Arslanbekova had seven kills and seven digs in the set to pace U of L. The Cardinals hit .214 to UM's .146.
In the third set, U of L used a five point run to take a 17-13 lead midway but the Gophers battled back to tie at 23. U of L got to set point on two straight kills by Justine Landi but the Gophers tied at 24 on a kill by Lauren Gibbemeyer and then reached set point on an error by Landi. UM's Christine Tan aced the Cardinals to take the third set. Despite out-hitting the Gophers .270 to .182 and outblocked them 6-0, the Cardinals fell 26-24.
"I think the third game was the pivotal moment in the match. If we had won that one the momentum would have stayed with us," said Landi. "We played so hard and just a few little things happened here and there. The freshmen were in there battling even with no experience at this level. I was very proud of them."
Yelin echoed Landi's thoughts when he said, "The most critical was the third game when we had them and didn't finish. The momentum switched and we fought like hell to get it back."
The fourth set went back and forth until UM put together a little three point run to go up 19-15. U of L came back to within one at 23-22 on a kill by Landi. Two straight kills by UM tipped the set and match to the Gophers.