Sept. 15, 2011
The University of Louisville volleyball team (8-2) will partner with traditional rival Cincinnati (7-4) to take on host No. 3 Illinois (9-0) and No. 14 Purdue (9-0) in the third annual BIG EAST/Big Ten Challenge. Louisville opens the tournament on Friday, Sept. 16 against Purdue in a 5:30 p.m. (ET) match before taking on host Illinois at 8 p.m. (ET) on Saurday Sept. 17.
The Cardinals are off to their best start since 2005 when the team ran out 20-0 record en route to a 31-3 finish. Lola Arslanbekova led the Cardinals to a first place finish at the Baymont Bobcat Classic last weekend when she took home MVP honor after recording 53 kills over three matches.
This is the third of a four-year cycle of this series which features Illinois and Purdue from the Big Ten and Cincinnati and Louisville from the Big East. Purdue (2009) and Louisville (2010) have hosted while Cincinnati will host it in 2012.
Ohio played in the first year of the Challenge at Purdue because Cincinnati had already committed to the State Farm Illini Classic . The Bearcats own the best record at 2-0, followed by Illinois (3-1), Purdue, (3-1), Ohio (0-2) and Louisville (0-4).
Anne Kordes is in her first year as the head coach of her alma mater, but has ties to Illinois. Kordes played at U of L for former U of L head coach Leonid Yelin and worked for Hardin at Illinois as an assistant coach. Kordes left Illinois to become the head coach at Saint Louis in 2004. Kevin and Mary Hambly and Jen Oldenburg joined the Illinois staff that year. Kordes posted a 146-75 record at Saint Louis, earning three Atlantic 10 Coach of the Year honors and leading the Billikens to the NCAA Tournament three times. Illinois is 2-0 all-time vs. Kordes, defeating Saint Louis in four sets in both 2008 (in St. Louis) and 2009 (in Champaign).
Purdue is 9-0 and ranked 14th in the nation after advancing to the Elite Eight in 2010, beating U of L in the second round of the NCAA along the way. The Boilermakers rank second in the Big Ten in hitting percentage (.299) and top the league in opponent hitting percentage (.101). Tiffany Fisher leads the conference in hitting percentage individually at .488.
Louisville and Cincinnati are receiving votes in this week's AVCA poll. The Cardinals are 8-2 with their only losses coming at Georgia Tech (3-2) and Kentucky (3-0). Cincinnati is 7-4 on the season after starting the year 0-3. The Bearcats had a seven-match winning streak snapped at Hawaii. Illinois is 8-3 all-time vs. Louisville and 6-3 vs. Cincinnati. Illinois has defeated Cincinnati two of the last three years in the NCAA Tournament second round. The Illini have won eight of the last nine against Louisville with the only loss coming in the 2004 NCAA Tournament first round.