University of Louisville redshirt-freshman Aiko Jones had a career-high 23 kills to lead the University of Louisville to a 3-2 upset of No. 2-seeded Texas to advance its first Elite Eight appearance  of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament Friday evening in Austin, Texas.

Louisville will play the winner of the No. 7 seed Florida versus No. 7 seeded Minnesota match Friday at 8 p.m. on ESPNU.

“That was pretty huge win for us, and just amazing that our team came into this environment, and with a program like Texas,” said Dani Busboom Kelly, UofL head coach.” That’s probably the loudest crowd we have ever played against. Just us to come out and win Game 1 and not lose any steam was really impressive. We’ve been talking a lot about if we get into Game 5, we’re pretty tough to beat, and we have a lot of confidence in what we put in, the work we put in physically and our training to be great in big moments.” 

Louisville won 25-22, 25-22, 17-25, 18-25, 15-12 improves to a 22-9 record on the season.  The Cardinals hit .235 with seven blocks and five aces. Junior Anna Stevenson added 14 kills, hitting .393 with four blocks. Claire Chaussee had eight kills with Tori Dilfer adding 47 assists, two aces and two blocks. No. 4-ranked Texas hit .320 with 11 blocks and eight aces. The Longhorns were led by Micaya White’s 20 kills. Logan Eggleston had 17 kills and six blocks.    

The Cardinals took their first lead in the first set at 6-5 on block by Anna Stevenson and Aiko Jones. The Cards spread their lead to three at 9-6 and forced Texas to call an early timeout. The break did not quell the momentum as UofL went on a 5-2 run to go up 12-8 after another block by Jones.  After two straight kills by Jones, Texas burned its last timeout went UofL went up 17-12.  Buoyed by a rowdy crowd, the Longhorns made a run to pull within three at 18-15 with a 3-0 run.  The team traded points and Louisville called a timeout to when UT come within one on a Cardinals service error at 22-21.  Texas aced the Cards to tie at 22 but the Cards scored three straight to take the first set 25-22. The Cards got the set point after a challenge call that went in their favor.   UofL hit .381 with four blocks and two aces. Jones had 6 kills and hit .778.

The Cardinals thought they had stirred up a hornet’s nest when the Longhorns came out and took a 10-4 lead early in the second set.  UofL chipped away at the Longhorn lead and took its first lead at 21-20 on a miss by Texas. UofL got to set point at 24-21 on a kill by Anna Stevenson but UT countered with a kill by Brionne Butler. The Cardinals scored set point when Aiko Jones connected on a set by Tori Dilfer  for the 25-22 win.  UofL hit .393 led by Aiko Jones’ six kills. 

The Cardinals stayed close in the third set but after tying at nine, Texas reeled off four straight to go up 13-9 after three straight Cardinal miscues. After Dani Busboom Kelly called timeout, the Longhorns kept up the pressure and the Cards burned their second timeout down 18-11.  UofL scored three straight and cut the lead to four after a kill by Chaussee at 18-14.  The Cards fell 25-17 despite .353 hitting, but recording only one block.

“I think we expected Texas to play better,” said Busboom Kelly. “We blocked them quite a bit in Games 1 and 2 and we didn’t get any blocks in Games 3 and 4. That’s just their physicality. We were relying on our block and when they started going over the block, we had to adjust our game plan and the backcourt had to pick it up. They really rose to the occasion in Game 5 and our defense took over from the back row because we weren’t touching much on the clock at that point.”

In the fourth set, Texas powered out to an eight point lead at 19-10 on a kill by Micaya White. The Cards were hitting .333 but the Longhorn offensive arsenal was hitting at a lethal .555.  Texas called timeout after a kill by Claire Chaussee cut the lead to five at 23-18. But the Longhorns scored twice for the 25-18 win. 

“It’s an incredible feeling. I really don’t have many words right now, said Jones. “But after winning games one and two, we had a lot of confidence going into Game 3. Didn’t go our way. Didn’t go our way in Game 4, either, but I think no matter what the outcome was going to be, we were going to go downswing and we were going to go down as a family. I think that’s what our strength was and what brought us through. It’s sweeter to know we won that way and we didn’t let what was going on on the other side of the net or the crowd break us apart. It’s sweeter to know that was going on.”

Playing in their eighth five setter of the season, the Cardinals were in familiar territory, hopping on the Longhorns early, taking a 5-2 lead on a kill by Jones which sparked a Texas timeouts. The Cards added a 4-1 lead to take a four point lead at 9-5 on a kill by Chaussee.  Up 12-7, the Cardinals had to withstand a furious comeback attempt by UT, which cut the lead to two at 12-10 on an ace by Brionne Butler before Busboom Kelly called timeout.  Eggleston aced the Cards coming out of the break  but Jones got her 23rd kill of the night to go up 13-10. UofL got to set point on a miss by Micaya White and UofL had an 14-11 lead. Jones had a rare miss for Texas’ final point and Anna Stevenson put the match point down from the middle.

“Yeah, I was dying. But we just were going in, trying to like enjoy every moment and love it,” said Stevenson. “I was like, I don’t know. I was just thinking, like just go hard and enjoy this, because it might not happen again.”  

Nancy Allison Worley
Associate Director, Sports Information
University of Louisville Athletics

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