After No. 11 Louisville clinched the second set against Boston College volleyball (0-2) by a decisive margin, it looked as if the Cardinals would not only sweep the match, but also sweep the weekend series against the Eagles.
The first set was a battle between the two schools, with Louisville (2-1) ultimately coming out on top. BC started out strong in the match, holding the Cardinals close as the two passed the lead back and forth before the Eagles took a small 16-13 lead.
The hot start was quickly negated by a 6-0 run from the Cardinals, a series of events that triggered a timeout call from head coach Jason Kennedy. But as would happen time and time again during this game, the attempt by BC to kill Louisville’s momentum was for naught with the Cardinals securing the first point off the break.
Senior Clare Naughton fought to keep up with the Cardinals, securing a solo block against Louisville sophomore Amaya Tillman to kill her opponent’s momentum. But despite this strong effort by Naughton and the Eagles, the Cardinals took the first set, 25-21.
In Friday night’s game, Kennedy cited the source of the Eagles’ struggles as not having enough stamina to maintain their hot start against the Cardinals. The same could be said during the first half of this match. While the Eagles fought hard to compete in the first set, the team’s inexperience began to show as the Eagles cracked under the pressure of a ranked opponent.
The visiting Cardinals fought back, negating BC’s lead and going on a six-point tear to take and hold the lead against the home team for the remainder of the set.
Despite the close score of the first set, the second set wasn’t as favorable for the Eagles. After two back-to-back bad breaks to start the set, Kennedy called a timeout to put a stop to Louisville’s early momentum.
And yet, the break gave no such halt to Louisville’s run with the Cardinals securing the first two points following BC’s timeout. Sophomore Gabby McCaa made the kill to stop Louisville’s run and put the Eagles on the board in the second set. But while Izzy Clavenna scored the second-straight point for BC to cut the Cardinals’ lead in half, Louisville responded with another run to increase its lead.
As with the first set, once the Cardinals regained the lead from the Eagles, they kept it. In a set including an 11-3 run for Louisville, BC was limited to 14 points against its opposition. And as the Eagles were shut down once more by the Cardinals, it looked as though they would be swept for the second straight game.
Kennedy gave the white shirt to Anna Murphy in the third set, giving the freshman libero a shot against one of the hottest teams in the ACC. And Murphy didn’t disappoint. After the Eagles’ discouraging display in the second set, the freshman put in the work to prevent BC from getting swept for the second straight match. Murphy led BC with 11 digs in the game, extending the length of rallies in the Eagles’ favor.
With Murphy at libero, the Eagles were able to neutralize the Cardinals long enough to put up a fight. Similar to the first set, the two teams went back and forth with points. Naughton shined in the third set, making kill after kill against Louisville to keep the Eagles within reaching distance of their ranked opponent. Naughton made six kills against the Cardinals in the third set, and led BC with 16 overall kills in the match.
An attempted kill by Louisville late in the set went wide, and after a brief review by the officials, the call on the court was point BC, giving the Eagles their first set win of the season. But before BC could celebrate, Louisville head coach Dani Busboom Kelly signaled a challenge on the play, claiming the ball was tipped out by BC blockers. The challenge succeeded, giving the point to the Cardinals, tying the game at 24-24.
The Eagles continued to fight for a set win, exchanging points and extending the set. Multiple service errors made by the Cardinals gave BC easy points to remain in the game, but kills by Louisville freshman Anna DeBeer prevented the Eagles from capitalizing on these errors. And yet, a service error by Cardinals’ freshman Ceci Rush and an attack error forced by Amaka Chukwujekwu secured the set for the Eagles holding off a weekend sweep by Louisville.
But the third set comeback wasn’t enough to push BC to an underdog victory. The Eagles got an early run against the Cardinals, going on a 5-1 run to take an early lead. And similarly to the second set, Louisville shut down the Eagles midway through the fourth set, preventing the home team from scoring crucial points. The Cardinals quickly responded to BC, going on an 11-2 run of their own and taking a decisive 13-7 lead.
After that, the game was over for the Eagles. While BC went on a 7-1 run to tie up the game at 14, the small victory was short-lived. The Cardinals put the final nail in the coffin, scoring 11 points to close out the game, only giving up points from a kill by Alayna Crabtree and a service error to boost the final score to 25-16.
The Eagles’ schedule for the remainder of this modified season won’t be getting any easier. As of Saturday night’s game, BC was the only team in its pod to not be nationally ranked—in addition to Louisville, Pitt is no. 10, Syracuse is ranked at no. 5, and Notre Dame is no. 6. But if they can continue to fight tooth and nail like they did in the third set, the Eagles have a solid chance to win against these tough competitors.
Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics