Louisville celebrates is win

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (Dec. 15, 2022) – The Louisville Cardinals recorded a season-high 19 blocks Thursday night en route to a five-set (25-18, 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-2) semifinal victory over Pitt at the NCAA Division Women’s Volleyball Championships in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Cardinals (31-2) will face Texas (27-1) for the title Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET at the CHI Health Center. The match will be Louisville’s first-ever appearance in the championship match while Texas has advanced to the final seven previous times (losing to Kentucky in 2020), and they’ve won twice, most recently in 2012. The Longhorns advanced earlier Thursday with a 3-1 victory over San Diego.

In Thursday’s second semifinal, Louisville came out hard in the first set, scoring six consecutive points before Pitt got on the board. The Panthers tied the score at nine, but Louisville won eight of the next 10 points for a commanding lead. The two teams were evenly matched throughout the next three sets, and Louisville looked to have the match in hand late in the fourth, up two sets to one with a 22-20 lead. But Pitt reeled off five straight points to win 25-22 and push the match to the deciding set.

It was all Louisville in set five, however, as the Cardinals opened up an early 8-0 lead before going on to win 15-2. They were fired up by junior middle blocker Phekran PK Kong, who teamed up for a few key blocks in the fifth. She finished with a match-high two solo blocks and nine block assists.

“I knew we were going to have to work really hard,” said Louisville head coach Dani Busboom Kelly, who is also a member of USA Volleyball’s National Team Development Program Scouting Network. “Pitt is an incredibly hard team to beat. Even when you feel like you have them beat, they will always find a way back in the match. I was proud of how we came out for game five. Finally, we didn’t let them back in that set.”

Louisville outside hitter Claire Chaussee, who trained with the 2022 U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Team in June, led all scorers with 26.5 points on 25 kills and three block assists. Chaussee said her time with the CNT was beneficial.

“In California, I learned a lot, especially with the passing aspect,” she said “The coaches that were there taught me so much. With my passing I do the three-step shuffle now, and [learned to] just go after it. In big moments, you just have to go for it.”

Junior outside hitter Anna DeBeer, who was part of the 2018 U.S. U20 Women’s National Training Team, scored 21.5 points on 15 kills, five aces and three block assists. Senior opposite Aiko Jones scored 15 points on 12 kills and six block assists.

Louisville led Pitt in kills (62-54), aces (10-5) and blocks (19-8).

Outside hitter Courtney Buzzerio led Pitt with 14.5 points on 13 kills, one ace and a block assist. Middle blocker Serena Gray, who worked with the U.S. Women’s National Team coaches in the spring of 22, scored 14 points on 10 kills, two service aces and four block assists. Rachel Fairbanks, who won gold over the summer with the U.S. U21 Women’s Team, had 9.5 points on eight kills and three block assists, along with 29 assists.

Pitt head coach Dan Fisher also works with NTDP. He coached the 2022 U21 Women’s Team to gold and led the 2021 U20 Women’s Team. He also coached the U.S. Women’s National Team at the 2015 Pan American Games (gold) and the 2016 Pan American Cup (bronze).

Saturday’s championship match will be broadcast live on ESPN2.