Louisville Press Conference
MILWAUKEE, Wis. - Senior Gwen Rucker set a BIG EAST Championship record for hitting percentage to lead the top-seeded Louisville Cardinals (26-3) to a 3-0 sweep over the No. 8 seed St. John's Red Storm (20-12) in the quarterfinal round. The Cardinals won by scores of 25-15, 25-23 and 25-18 and have advanced to the semifinals on Nov. 17 to face Cincinnati (12-18).
Rucker recorded an .867 hitting percentage, a BIG EAST Championship match record and an overall BIG EAST single-game record. She tallied 13 kills on 15 attempts without recording an error to lead the Cardinals to the semifinals.
Louisville, ranked No. 10 nationally improved to 19-2 in BIG EAST Championship matches. They will face the No. 5 seed Cincinnati Bearcats at 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT on Saturday. With the loss, St. John's is 5-6 all-time in tournament play.
Arslanbekova added 13 kills and six digs for the Cardinals. Freshman Katie George dished out a team-high 20 assists and junior Hannah Kvitle tallied 16. Junior Caitlin Welch led the team defensively with 13 digs. As a team, Louisville hit .407, the fifth-best hitting percentage by a team in BIG EAST Championship play.
The Red Storm were led by freshman Karin Palgutova's team-high 12 kills. Sophomore Aleksandra Wachowicz joined her in double-digit kills with 11 and senior Sabina Piegza dished out a match-high 24 assists.
The Cardinals controlled the tempo from the beginning. Arslanbekova, the BIG EAST Player of the Year, tallied four kills in the first set as George and Kvitle dished out five and three assists respectively. Louisville took the first set, 25-15.
St. John's came out strong in the second set as both teams went back and forth throughout. Trailing 14-13, the Red Storm scored the next two points to take their second lead of the match. Louisville eventually pulled ahead by three and made the deficit too much to overcome for St. John's as they fell short, 23-25. Rucker tallied nine kills in the set on 10 attempts to record a .900 hitting percentage and Arslanbekova added five kills of her own.
The third and final set was all Louisville. After going ahead 9-8 in the match, the Cardinals never looked back and pulled away to take the set (25-18) and match (3-0).
Quarterfinals, Friday, Nov. 16
Match 1: No. 4 Connecticut, 2 vs. No. 5 Cincinnati, 3 (25-17, 17-25, 25-20, 23-25, 15-8)
Match 2: No. 1 Louisville, 3 vs. No. 8 St. John's, 0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-18)
Match 3: No. 3 Notre Dame vs. No. 6 USF, 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. CT
Match 4: No. 2 Marquette vs. No. 7 Pittsburgh, 7 p.m. ET/6 p.m. CT
Semifinals, Saturday, Nov. 17
Match 5: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 5 Cincinnati, 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT
Match 6: Match 3 Winner vs. Match 4 Winner, 4:30 p.m. ET/3:30 p.m. CT
Championship, Sunday, Nov. 18
Match 7: Match 5 Winner vs. Match 6 Winner, 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT (LIVE - ESPNU)