For the second straight season, and the second time in program history, the Louisville volleyball team is headed to the Final Four.
The Cards bounced back from a disastrous third set, held off a match point in the fourth set, and then fully showcased both the skill and the resolve that has defined their recent success in a thrilling 25-23, 23-25, 13-25, 27-25, 15-6 win over third-seeded Oregon.
A raucous crowd of 8,749 fans witnessed Dani Busboom Kelly’s team creep to within two wins of the program’s first national championship.
Could not tell you the last time I had that much fun at a Cards game. Just an unreal atmosphere.— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) December 10, 2022
(Va almost didn’t make it) pic.twitter.com/mKjM93Kalt
The Cards will face either Wisconsin, who knocked them out in the national semifinals last season, or Pittsburgh, who they split their season series with and shared the ACC title with this season, in Omaha on Thursday.
Louisville was led by Assumption High product Anna DeBeer, who earned regional MVP honors after recording 17 kills and 10 digs against the Ducks. ACC Player of the Year Claire Chaussee added 13 kills and nine digs, while Aiko Jones tallied 12 and five, in addition to a pair of aces. Both Chaussee and Jones earned All-Regional honors.
Louisville had cruised into the regional final with a trip of three-set sweeps, but Oregon, which was arguably the hottest team in the country going into Saturday, pushed the Cards in a way they hadn’t been pushed in a while.
“We hadn’t been against such a great team that was just offensively going off like that,” said Busboom Kelly. “I’m just proud that we were able to gut that fourth set out. With our culture and grit, I always think we can out-team anybody. I thought that’s what it came down to in set five, we just out teamed them.”
For DeBeer, the win and the MVP honors were especially meaningful given that she had been forced to miss a healthy chunk of the 2022 campaign with a knee injury.
“I don’t even have words for it,” DeBeer said. “I mean, it’s definitely been a tough season. But I couldn’t be more grateful for the support my teammates and coaches have had for me. And they’re the ones who pushed me and even our trainers getting me back out on the floor and getting healthy again. I’m just extremely blessed. And to know that we have the opportunity to play a game again and had the chance to get to this regional, it was insane to me. It’s been a dream ever since I was young. So, I really just have no words.”
I’ll say this: It’s been a long time since I’ve had that much fun watching a Louisville sporting event in person. This team is special, and that crowd was special.
Can’t wait for Thursday night.