Volleyball Falls in C-USA Finals
Nov. 24, 2003
NEW ORLEANS, La. - The University of Memphis (30-6) volleyball team's season came to a probable end with a 3-0 loss to No. 17 Louisville in the finals of the Conference USA Championship Tournament, Monday.
"We did not play our best game of the season tonight and that's what it would have taken to beat a team as talented as Louisville," Head Coach Carrie Yerty said. "This experience was a great thing for our program, to make it to the conference finals is indicative of the type of persistence this team has. I think next time we get the opportunity to play in a championship game, we'll be more poised."
The Cardinals' previous C-USA and NCAA Tournament experience showed through early on in the match. Memphis shot out to a 6-3 lead early in the first game and tried to hang on until the Cardinals tied it at 13 all. The two teams battled back and forth and Memphis seemed to prevail on a pair of kills from Neba and Barnett, and when Nance and Barnett went up for a block, the Tigers took the lead 23-19. But Louisville started an 11-5 run that saw them fight off three Tiger game points. The Cardinals tied the game at 29 on a Nellans attack error and went ahead, 30-29, on a tip to the line. The Cardinals would not fail on the lone game point that they faced, tooling a kill to take game one, 31-29.
Memphis got a preview of what was to come as both teams came out and battled early on in game two trying to establish the pace of the game. Louisville eventually prevailed and went up 10-7 and the Tigers battled back to tie the score at 11 all a Watts' service ace. The score would knot up eight more times to 19 all on a kill from Nance, but when Gilkey was called for a blocking error and then hit a ball out of bounds, the Tigers found themselves down 21-19 and unable to rally back any further before Louisville closed out the match 30-23.
After the 10 minute break, the Cardinals came out and dominated all phases of the third game, as Memphis mustered just 13 points, its lowest scoring total in any game Memphis has lost this season.
Tiger freshman Melissa Nance was a bright spot for Memphis, downing nine kills and hitting .467 in the championship game. Junior outside Tiara Gilkey, who was named to the all-tournament team, was the only Tiger to hit double-digit kills with 10. Her third kill in the first game marked her 1,000th career kill. Junior Heather Watts was also named to the all-tournament team.
With the loss, Memphis falls to 30-6 and has probably put the wraps on its 2003 season. Louisville receives the league's at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, and Memphis, despite becoming just the second team in C-USA history to reach the 30-win mark, will have to await the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee's decision to see if Memphis' regional schedule is enough to earn an at-large bid.