The No. 1-seeded University of Louisville volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Championship’s Sweet Sixteen with a 25-19, 25-21, 25-23 sweep of Purdue on Saturday night at L&N Federal Credit Union Arena. The Cardinals will now host the NCAA Regional at KFC Yum Center Dec. 8-10.
“I’m really proud of our team. I felt like we had a lot of pressure on us to get to the KFC Yum! Center and that’s the first time we’ve ever really played with that type of pressure,” said UofL head coach Dani Busboom Kelly. “We responded so well. I thought our middles, Amaya (Tillman) and Phekran (Kong) were phenomenal, and they really took over that match. When your middles are playing great in December, good things usually happen. It was an exciting win. I am really excited to get the opportunity to play at the Yum! Center and see how many fans we can get in there this year.”
The Cards, who have yet to drop a set through the first two matches of the NCAA Tournament, notched their 20th sweep of the season and fifth straight to move to a record of 28-2.
UofL hit .246 as a team with four aces and 10 blocks. Outside hitter Claire Chaussee led the way for the Cardinals, registering 12 kills, four blocks, three digs, and two assists. Amaya Tillman finished with 11 kills, hitting .600, and adding two blocks in the win. PK Kong added a match-high six blocks to go along with seven kills, while Raquel Lazaro contributed with a match-high 39 assists and five digs.
Purdue, which finished its season at 21-11, hit .76 with no aces and three blocks. The Boilers were led by Eva Hudson’s 12 kills.
The Cards will take on Baylor in the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament on Thursday, Dec. 8 at the KFC Yum! Center. Times are yet to be determined. Baylor defeated Stephen F. Austin State (25-13, 25-18, 25-25) in the first round and Rice in the second round (16-25, 25-22, 25-23, 14-25, 15-11) to advance to the Sweet Sixteen.
Set by Set Recap
The Cards were able to gain some separation early in the set behind Amaya Tillman. With Louisville holding a 4-3 lead in the beginning stages of the set, Anna Debeer had a dig that led to a Tillman kill off a Lazaro assist. On the ensuing play, Tillman had another kill to expand the UofL lead to 6-3. After each team scored two points apiece, Tillman and Lazaro would team up for a block, followed by another Tillman kill, set up by Lazaro, giving the Cards a 10-5 advantage. Eventually, the Cards were able to go on a 5-1 rally to secure their biggest lead of the set, 20-13, and force Purdue head coach Dave Shondell to call a timeout. The match ended as Phekran Kong was able to slam the final kill of the set and give the Cardinals the 25-19 victory. Chaussee was able to tally five kills through the set along with Tillman, who added four kills on four swings.
After ending the first set, Kong was able to put Louisville on the scoreboard first with a kill to start the second set. Louisville was able to extend their lead to 12-7 behind a 7-2 rally which was both sparked and capped by a Chaussee kill, forcing Shondell to take his first timeout of the set. An ace by Lazaro gave UofL an 18-14 lead as Purdue burned its final timeout of the second set. Out of the timeout, Louisville was able to score one point before a quick 3-0 Boilermaker rally brought them within two points of Louisville, 19-17. The Cards were able to quell the momentum the Boilermakers were building as Anna DeBeer and Chaussee each had a kill to give themselves a 21-17 cushion. After a Purdue point, Aiko Jones was able to get back-to-back kills for Louisville and get the lead up to 23-18. The Cardinals were able to close out moments later off an attack error made by the Boilermakers and secure a 25-21 win.
Purdue was able to take their first lead of the match to start the third set, as the Big Ten Freshman of the Year, Eva Hudson, had a kill to conclude a 4-0 rally to start the set. Trailing by four, Jones was able to halt the Boilermaker rally with a kill. Tillman put the Cardinals back on track, registering three kills through the team’s first seven points and helping tie the set at seven apiece. With a kill, Kong helped UofL its first tie the set 8-8, followed by a block with Jones to give them a 9-8 edge. The Cardinals forced a Boilermaker timeout after an ace from DeBeer followed by a Jones kill to take a narrow 12-10 advantage midway through the third set. Out of the timeout, Purdue went on a 5-1 rally as Louisville then quickly took their first timeout of the set trailing 13-16. The Cardinals were able to bounce back, going on a 6-1 rally and regaining the lead at 20-18. With the set up for the taking at 23 apiece, Kong and Chaussee teamed to block Hudson to set up the final play of the match, which was an attack error by Purdue’s Hudson, as Louisville was able to survive the final set 25-23.
#8 Purdue at #1 Louisville
NCAA Tournament Second Round
Post Match Press Conference
Louisville Head Coach Dani Busboom Kelly
“I’m really proud of our team. I felt like we had a lot of pressure on us to get to the KFC Yum! Center and that’s the first time we’ve ever really played with that type of pressure. We responded so well. I thought our middles, Amaya (Tillman) and Phekran (Kong) were phenomenal and they really took over that match. When your middles are playing great in December, good things usually happen. It was an exciting win. Really excited to get the opportunity to play at the Yum! Center and see how many fans we can get in there this year.”
(About the fans today and a message for them to show up next week)
“Well, I’m speculating, but it might be during the day so everybody needs to take a long lunch and get down there. It’s going to be a crazy regional. There are so many good teams this year. The parity is unbelievable. So, we are going to need every fan that we can pack in there to beat an awesome Baylor team and advance. Josh Heird told me they might have to open the upper bowl, so that’s our goal. Sell enough tickets to open that upper bowl.”
(About Baylor’s game against Rice)
“I didn’t watch it. To be honest, I watched just a few points but I know Baylor has a lot of size and they are used to success. I think they were in the Sweet 16 last year and the Final Four not too long ago. So, they will not be intimidated by the moment. We expect them to be great.”
Claire Chaussee (Gr.) – Outside Hitter
Amaya Tillman (Sr.) – Middle Blocker
(Just for you two (Claire Chaussee and Amaya Tillman), the way the way things went, you got off to a good start and really controlled things, you had a little bump in the third set trying to cut back but how did you feel about how things went overall?)
“Overall it went great, like Dani (Busboom Kelly) said, when we can pass well and get our middles involved, it opens a lot for everyone else. I’m just proud of middles. They were up in every way that they could be. Crazy digs would come up and PK (Phekran Kong) and Amaya (Tillman) would be up. It was just really cool to see them do so well tonight.”
“I would honestly give kudos to our backcourt defense, just because they got some crazy balls up. Elena (Scott) had 20 something digs. We wouldn’t be able to get those kills without our backrow.”
(On the mentality going into the match)
(With a team that you have played before and beaten, does that let you know you can do it? At the same time, they always have a psychological advantage to try to come back and beat you. Were they better or different?)
“I think it is fun playing somebody you have already play because you know that they are going to come out with a chip on their shoulder and they are going to be coming full force at you. I think we handled it really well, just the pressure. A lot of people said it was a trap match for us to lose and we really rose to the occasion.”
(On playing at the KFC Yum! Center)
“I think it’s super exciting. Having this be both of our last matches in L&N (Federal Credit Union Arena) is really sad but exciting knowing that we get to play in the Yum and we are going to fill it. The Louisville fans are going to be so good. We are excited.”
Tillman: “Especially to see the turnout when we played Notre Dame there, actually having a regional there is going to be really cool. It will be a really cool experience.”
(About how well Louisville plays out of system and remains comfortable out of system)
“When we have people in the back row that can just get these amazing digs that most other people couldn’t. It just makes you want to be fearless and just swing at everything you can. Especially in the tournament, there’s nothing to lose, and just being aggressive and that’s what we do in practice and that’s what they teach is to just be aggressive. So I think that’s why we’re so successful out of system.”
Purdue Head Coach Dave Shondell
Coach Dave Shondell Opening Statement
“Obviously, I am sorry to see our season come to a close. This was a group that we, as a staff, totally enjoy being with in the gym. We never want to see this day come. It’s been a special group, the way that they cared about each other, and sacrificed for each other as so many teams do, but when it’s your own team, it becomes personal to see those things. Tonight, we just didn’t settle in until midway through the match. When that happens, sometimes you’re playing on the road against one of the top seeds in the country. We thought we were ready, but we just made way too many errors in the first two sets to be able to compete, and that’s the sad news. The good news is I think that we showed people that we’re here, that we can compete with one of the top seeds in the country. We just have some things to learn, but I’m proud of my team. Best of luck to Louisville, and I look forward to the future.”
(About the senior class a little bit and the leadership that they’ve provided, Maddie Shermerhorn)
Yeah, we have two grad seniors that selected Purdue to finish their careers, that’s Grace Balensiefer, who stepped in to really a substitution role for other setters that have been hurt, and Hannah Clayton, who did a great job. Both of them, just amazing. We couldn’t have asked for two better people to come in with experience on a team that was a little limited with returning playing time. And then the five seniors, Maddie Cook, Maddie Shermerhorn, Maddie Chin, Ava Torrance, and Emma Ellis. We recruit wonderful people to Purdue. The university does that on its own people, you know, want to come to Purdue because they know it’s a great place. It’s a place of great integrity, and so the athletes that we get understand that, and they grasp that, and these five that are in Maddie Cook’s class were just unbelievable. And I think what Maddie alluded to a little bit is that most of them are all top 50 recruits in the country, but because of COVID and players staying and competition, they never had a spot handed to them. Every day they had to work for that spot, and they sacrificed what a lot of people wouldn’t do. They would be on the portal, as they call it now, and they never went to the portal. They stayed at Purdue, and they were loyal, and I just couldn’t be more proud of them, but also just proud of the culture of our program, that encourages them They’re also going to be better people. Sometimes we feel like when things get a little rough, we want to leave, and trust me it’s been rough. Anybody that plays in the Big Ten plays high level division volleyball, it’s tough. But I have so much respect for all these seniors and what they’ve done, and our program is going to continue to roll because of that. We lost 90% of our team last year. I mean, most of you, I would think you would know that if you’re here in the media room. We lost 90% of our offense and defense, 100% of our serving. and yet we bounced back and we’re in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, continuing a legacy that is Purdue volleyball.
One last one for Dave, Lourdés Myers came off the bench today and had a great evening, what did you think about what she brought to the table for the team?
Well, I thought she was a difference maker in the match. Louisville’s a big, physical team, and we just felt like she would be someone that could come in and match up with them if she was fired up and ready, and she was. And we’ve got Raven Colvin, one of the best middles in our league and in the country. And Hannah Clayton’s a fifth-year kid that’s got so much experience and provides so much functionality to our team. It was just hard to get a lot of opportunities in our league, you know, and we’re playing in a league where every match is a war. And so, you know, sometimes coaches play too tight to the vest, and they don’t give young people opportunities, but she was ready tonight, and she did a great job. She’s a redshirt freshman and has tremendous talent. I’m looking forward to seeing what she becomes.
Eva: I just think this team is so close knit, it is awesome to be a part of it and a part of them. Being a scared little freshman, they totally took me in. (Madeline) Koch here is always the first one to smile at you and pat you on the back every day. It is just awesome to see smiles when you walk into practice. I am going to be so sad when I don’t see them next year, but I know they will do great things.
Madeline: “My position is one those where there is a rotating spots for a lot of girls that are fully capable. We have each other’s back, and I know my teammates, on and off the court are talking to me all the time and have confidence in me. It was nice to go out with those girls.
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