Only 32 NCAA volleyball teams are still in contention for the 2021 NCAA Tournament title, and three of them are from Kentucky.
No. 1-seeded Louisville, No. 7 Kentucky and Western Kentucky each won their first matchup of the 64-team tournament to advance, with second round games scheduled for Saturday.
The commonwealth is a strong volleyball state, with UK as the defending NCAA champions and U of L as the current top team in the nation. In last season’s NCAA Tournament, which took place in spring 2021 due to the pandemic, the state of Kentucky was the only with three schools (UK, U of L and WKU) to advance to the round of 16.
Here’s how the three programs fared Friday:
No. 1 Louisville volleyball stays undefeated
Excuding last season’s shortened campaign, Louisville became the first team to enter the NCAA Tournament with an undefeated record since 2013, and the Cardinals stayed perfect at 29-0 with a 3-0 sweep of Illinois-Chicago Friday evening at L&N Federal Credit Union Arena.
“I thought it was a really fun atmosphere tonight. You could just tell it was a little different, which is a good thing for the NCAA Tournament,” Louisville coach Dani Busboom Kelly said.
Outside hitter Anna DeBeer, a former Assumption standout, hit .458 and tallied a team-best 13 kills as top-seeded U of L handled the Horizon League tournament champions 25-11, 25-20, 25-11.
Claire Chaussee added 10 kills and Aiko Jones had nine, while setter Tori Dilfer dished out 35 assists and libero Elena Scott, a Mercy graduate, added 17 digs.
Louisville was scheduled to be back in action, again in Louisville, Saturday at 6 p.m. in an all-Cardinals matchup against Ball State (30-3), which has won 20 in a row, including a 3-2 win over Michigan in the tournament’s first round.
Defending NCAA champion Kentucky advances to the round of 32
In front of a crowd of 2,878 at Memorial Coliseum, No. 7-seeded Kentucky swept Southeast Missouri State Friday night 25-15, 25-14, 25-19.
Sophomore Madi Skinner paced the Wildcats with 13 kills, senior Alli Stumler added 11, and freshman Emma Grome racked up 45 assists. Freshman Eleanor Beavin, a Mercy grad, led UK with 16 digs, and sophomore Bella Bell had seven blocks.
The Wildcats (25-4) lost one conference match this year, at South Carolina on Nov. 4, and have not dropped a set since then; they’ve won nine-straight matches and 27-straight sets.
UK will next play Illinois, which is the first team “receiving votes” outside of the most recent AVCA Top 25. The Illini (21-11) topped West Virginia 3-1 Friday in Lexington to advance to the second round.
Background: Earlier this season, Cardinals edged the Wildcats in thrilling match
WKU sweeps, advances in Atlanta
Louisville may be undefeated, but WKU is one of only a handful of teams to have just a single blemish on their season record. The Hilltoppers have lost once, to Ole Miss back in September, but have won each match since — including running the table in Conference USA — to improve to 28-1 on the year.
They swept South Carolina Friday 25-20, 25-13, 25-19 in Atlanta, Ga. as Lauren Matthews and Kayland Jackson led the attack with 13 and 12 kills, respectively.
It’s the third-straight season that the Hilltoppers have advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s round of 32. Next up: Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets will be the host, but Saturday’s match is not expected to be a cakewalk for the ACC team. Although Georgia Tech is seeded No. 8 in the NCAA Tournament, it is rated No. 13 in the AVCA poll, only four spots ahead of No. 17 WKU.
This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: How did Kentucky, Louisville and WKU do in NCAA volleyball tournament?