The Louisville volleyball team began the season unranked but after an 11-1 start and three wins over top-25 teams, the Cardinals are ranked No. 10 in the AVCA Division I Coaches Top-25 Poll. It is the highest ranking by a BIG EAST member since 2005.
Louisville's top-10 ranking marks just the fifth time a BIG EAST school has been ranked in the top-10. Notre Dame did it three times - in 1995, 1996 and 2005 - and the Cardinals, since joining the BIG EAST in 2005, have reached that feat twice. Louisville's top-25 presence also marks the first time the BIG EAST has been ranked in the polls since Cincinnati ranked No. 21 on Nov. 21, 2010.
In 2005, Notre Dame and Louisville ranked No. 5 and No. 6 respectively. The Fighting Irish spent nine straight weeks in the top-10 from Sept. 26 to Nov. 21 and were ranked as high as No. 5 on Oct. 31. Louisville spent 13 consecutive weeks in the top-10. They ranked as high as No. 6 on Oct. 24, the school's highest ranking in program history. The Cardinals maintained that position for five straight weeks.
The Cardinals have been ranked in the top-25 a total of 90 times in program history, which ranks in a tie for 39th all-time among Division I programs. The only BIG EAST team to earn more spots in the poll is Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish rank 25th among all Division I schools in the poll, having been ranked 140 total times.
First-year head coach Anne Kordes appreciates the top-10 ranking but is more focused on the team's RPI.
"This has been a huge preseason for us," said Kordes. "Being No. 10 in the polls is great and while all the fans live and die with the polls -- don't get me wrong being ranked helps recruiting too -- but you have to remember that with the NCAA Committee it is all about the RPI. We structure our schedule to maximize RPI increases while we can."
"Last weekend, we had three wins over schools that should win their respective conferences and that helps us, the weekend before we managed to knock off two Big Ten schools (Illinois and Purdue), which can do nothing but pay dividends for us in the weeks to come."
Louisville's first four weeks of nonconference play were extremely competitive and featured a quartet of top-25 teams. The Cardinals' only loss occurred on Aug. 25 against No. 3 Penn State. Since then, they have won nine straight with wins over No. 10 Kentucky (3-1), No. 11 Purdue (3-0) and No. 20 Illinois (3-2). They also defeated a Miami team (3-1) that missed the top-25 by eight votes with a 9-1 record.
The Cardinals received votes in the preseason poll and jumped into the top-25 on Sept. 3 to claim the 24th spot. After defeating No. 11 Purdue and No. 20 Illinois in consecutive days, Louisville leaped 12 spots, the largest jump of any school in the polls this season.
The team is led by the reigning BIG EAST Player of the Year, senior outside hitter Lola Arslanbekova. Arslanbekova has been named BIG EAST Player of the Week twice thus far. She leads the conference and ranks seventh in the nation in kills per set (4.66). Senior middle blocker Gwen Rucker leads the league in blocks, averaging 1.27 per set and junior middle blocker Brook Mattingly ranks second in the BIG EAST with a .393 hitting percentage.
The Cardinals also rank eighth in the country in attendance and have averaged 2,748 fans in 10 matches at the KFC Yum! Center.
Louisville begins BIG EAST play this week against DePaul (5-7) on Friday and will have one remaining match against a top-25 team when they play host to No. 9 Texas on Oct. 8.