The University of Louisville volleyball team will travel to Cincinnati, Ohio for the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge matches on Sept. 7 and Sept. 8. The Cardinals will face the No. 11 Purdue Boilermakers and the No. 20 Illinois Fighting Illini during the two-day tournament over the weekend.
Louisville will enter the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge in the AVCA Top 25 after being voted in at No. 24.
The No. 24 Cardinals will take on No. 11 Purdue University on Sept. 7 at 4:30 p.m., ET. The Boilermakers will enter the match with an overall record of 5-1 on the season. Thus far, Purdue has tallied quality wins over No. 25 Northern Iowa, George Washington, Pittsburgh, LSU, and Rice. The lone loss for the Boilermakers came at the hands of No. 7 Washington this past weekend at the Tiger Classic.
Purdue knocked the Cardinals out of the NCAA Tournament last season and will be led by senior outside hitter Ariel Turner. Turner was named as a unanimous preseason All-Big Ten selection. Turner is the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and was a first team All-American. She led the Boilermakers with 4.84 kills per set and 5.46 points per set in 2011. She also ranked third nationally in points and sixth in kills. Val Nichol will look to help the Boilermakers on offense as she ranks second on the team this year with 45 kills through six matches. Annie Drews will also contribute as well, as she has notched 21 kills on a .514 attack percentage.
Next up for the No. 24 Cards will be No. 20 Illinois on Sept. 8 at 4:30, p.m., ET. The Fighting Illini will enter the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge with an overall record of 2-3 and will play Cincinnati before facing Louisville. Illinois has had a difficult schedule up to this point in the season. The Fighting Illini have losses to No. 10 Dayton, No. 12 Pepperdine, and No. 15 Iowa State. Entering the tournament this weekend, Illinois will have wins against No. 15 Iowa State and Ohio on their résumé.
The Illini were the 2012 NCAA National Runner-up and will be lead by Jennifer Beltran and Liz McMahon who were both named to the preseason All-Big Ten team. A two-year starter at libero, Beltran ranks fifth on the Illinois career digs list with 1,262, having posted the top single-single digs marks for the program in the past two seasons (623 in 2010 and 571 in 2011). The 6-6 McMahon made a splash as a freshman, starting on the right side. She was named to the all-tournament team at the BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge last year. She hit .407 with 14 kills combined in the first two rounds of the NCAA Tournament last year as well. Outside hitter Jocelynn Birks will also be a contributor for Illinois as she has posted 68 kills so far this season.
The Cardinals will return home for the Louisville Tournament on Sept. 14 and Sept. 15. The tournament will be held at the KFC Yum! Center and will include matches against Middle Tennessee State, UNLV, and Miami.