Jones, Louisville make NCAA volleyball history but fall short in final
With Jamaica’s Aiko Jones solid at the net, the University of Louisville made history a week ago simply by reaching the NCAA women’s volleyball final. However, the bid to win the title fell short.
Jones hammered 32 kills in the round of 16, the quarterfinals and the semi-finals combined to help Louisville overcome Baylor University, the University of Oregon and the University of Pittsburgh.
They were outplayed by the University of Texas 22-25, 14-25, 24-26 at the end of a tournament contested in Omaha, Nebraska.
Eight kills by Jones and a third set fight back were in vain but head coach Dani Busboom Kelly praised her history makers, including the Jamaican. “And we talk about Aiko, who didn’t play club volleyball, who grew up in Jamaica. She might be fifth year, but she didn’t play thousands of games like Logan Eggleston. She got here and played her first game – and what she can do on this stage,” Kelly glowed after the final.
Louisville lost in the semi-finals last year.
The semi-final was a grudge match that sent Louisville to the NCAA final for the first time. Jones supplied 12 kills as Louisville prevailed in a five-set thriller against their Atlantic Coast Conference rivals, 25-18, 23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 15-2.
Jones’ teammate Claire Chaussee bludgeoned Pittsburgh with 25 kills. The teams were facing each other for the third time this season, with the score level at 1-1.
“A historic moment for our programme. But, man, going into this match, we knew we were going to have to work really hard,” Kelly said after the deed was done.
Pittsburgh and Louisville are the joint Atlantic Coast Conference champions.
“I’m just proud of how we came out in game five and finally we didn’t let them back in that set,” the relieved coach added.
Jones, a redshirt senior, walloped eight kills and made two blocks as the Cardinals swept Baylor aside 25-23, 25-16, 25-17 in the round of 16 clash, played in Louisville, and in the quarterfinals, she produced 11 kills, two aces, three digs, and a block in a 25-23, 23-25, 13-25, 27-25, 15-6 Louisville victory over Oregon.
She revealed the team’s mindset when they were on the brink of elimination at 1-2 in sets.
“I think we scared ourselves,” Jones recounted, “and I guess we scared the whole city of Louisville, but the look in our eyes at that moment was like ‘This is not us. What are we doing? Whenever we take a timeout and go back on the court, we need to flip a switch.’ Everyone was on the same page; we are not going out like this.”