Nov. 15, 2012
MILWAUKEE — The University of Pittsburgh volleyball team (17-13) begins its quest for the 12th Big East Tournament title in program history as the seventh-seeded Panthers take on Marquette (24-5) in the quarterfinals of the conference championship this Friday evening at 7 p.m. EST.
Pitt earned the seven-seed by winning three of its final four league games to finish with a conference record of 7-8. The Panthers ride a three match winning-streak into Milwaukee where they will play tournament host and second-seeded Marquette.
The Golden Eagles finished the regular season with an overall record of 24-5 and a league record of 13-2. Their only two conference losses came against No. 10 Louisville, who is the top-seed for the second-consecutive year. Marquette defeated Pittsburgh 3-1 earlier this season at the Al McGuire Center, the site of this weekend’s competition.
Quarterfinals, Friday, Nov. 16
Match 1: No. 4 Connecticut vs. No. 5 Cincinnati, 11 a.m. ET/10 a.m. CT
Match 2: No. 1 Louisville vs. No. 8 St. John’s, 1:30 p.m. ET/12:30 p.m. CT
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: Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner, 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, 4 p.m. ET/3 p.m. CT (LIVE – ESPNU)
PREVIEWING THE MATCHUPS:
Louisville (25-3, 14-1 BIG EAST) has earned a spot in the BIG EAST Championship every year since joining the league in 2005 and has made it to the final in six of the last seven BIG EAST Championship matches. The 2012 regular season title marks the team’s fourth in eight years. The Cardinals have also won five BIG EAST Championship titles; the third most of any BIG EAST program. They are led by the BIG EAST Preseason Player of the Year, senior Lola Arslanbekova. Arslanbekova leads the conference in kills (4.99 per set) and points (5.39 per set). Louisville will play the eight seed, St. John’s (20-11, 7-8 BIG EAST), on Nov. 16. The Red Storm finished in a three-way tie with USF and Pittsburgh at 7-8 but lost to both teams in regular season play to earn the eighth seed. It is their first postseason appearance since 2008 when they reached the semifinals before losing to Notre Dame. The last time these two teams met in postseason action, St. John’s swept Louisville in the 2007 final to hand the Cardinals their only loss in a BIG EAST final. It was also the Red Storm’s first and only championship title in program history.
The No. 2 seed belongs to Marquette (24-5, 13-2 BIG EAST). The Golden Eagles have only two losses in conference play this season, both against Louisville. They have received votes in the last seven AVCA Coaches Poll and lead the league in hitting percentage (.280). Last season Marquette reached the semifinals before dropping a 3-2 match to the eventual BIG EAST Champions, Cincinnati. This is their fifth postseason appearance since joining the league in 2005. They are 3-4 in the tournament and will face the seventh seeded Pittsburgh Panthers (17-13, 7-8 BIG EAST). The Panthers are riding a three-game win streak and won their final two BIG EAST regular season matches against Seton Hall and Villanova to earn a spot in the Championships. Pittsburgh is the all-time winningest program in the BIG EAST Championship with 11 titles and has made its fifth straight appearance in the tournament.
Notre Dame (20-7, 13-2 BIG EAST) grabbed the three-seed in the bracket. The Fighting Irish have the second most championship titles in the BIG EAST with eight and have made 18 consecutive appearances. The team last won the title in 2004 but has been in four final matches since then, including a 3-0 loss to Cincinnati last season. Notre Dame had an 11-match winning streak snapped on its final regular season game against Marquette on Nov. 11. They are matched up against the sixth seed, USF (16-13, 7-8 BIG EAST). The Bulls return to the championship after one year removed. This is their sixth appearance in the tournament since joining the conference in 2005. Friday’s match will mark the first time these two teams met in postseason action. Notre Dame swept the only meeting in regular season play on Oct. 28.
The first quarterfinal match features the No. 4 seeded Connecticut (19-11, 10-5 BIG EAST) Huskies against the No. 5 seed, Cincinnati (11-18, 9-6 BIG EAST) Bearcats. The Huskies started the season 3-4 in BIG EAST play but have won seven of their last eight to finish 10-5 and clinch the fourth seed. It is their first appearance in the tournament since 2009 when they lost to Cincinnati in the first round, 3-1. The Bearcats, the reigning BIG EAST Champions, faced the toughest schedule of any BIG EAST school this regular season with 10 of their 29 matches against top-25 teams, including two against Louisville. They have lost two straight conference matches heading into Friday’s contest.
The championship match will be televised Sunday afternoon on ESPNU at 4 p.m. EST, with an automatic berth to the 64-team NCAA Championship field on the line. All quarterfinal and semifinal matches will be streamed live on www.bigeast.tv.