There aren’t many words that appropriately sum up the magnitude of this season. The moments, the memories, the accolades, the home crowds; there’s so much to be proud of. Obviously the end result wasn’t what we wanted, but in no way did you fail. In fact, you did the exact opposite.
I remember trying to piece together coherent thoughts just hours after the devastating loss to Wisconsin in the Final Four last December. The last part of that letter read, “the road to Omaha starts now”. But you didn’t just make it to Omaha, you became the first ACC team in history to appear in the national championship. Regardless of the outcome, I believe I speak for the fanbase when I say that our gratitude cannot be quantified.
As we all know for various reasons, it’s been a tough past couple years being a Louisville fan in general. Although the future of this athletics department is extremely bright, the fan base has consistently turned to you to keep spirits high. What did you do? You continued to rise to new heights.
Another ACC championship, nearly sweeping conference awards, another Final Four, you name it. From consistent sellout crowds at L&N Arena to nearly 10,000 people in the Yum Center, it’s safe to say that this fanbase is just scratching the potential of its volleyball fandom. What I’m about to say is no disrespect to any of the other athletics programs within the university. In fact, multiple things can be true. As much as Louisville is viewed as a men’s basketball school, a baseball school, etc…let’s call it how it is:
Louisville is a volleyball school too.
To Alexa, thank you for choosing to stay home and represent the Cardinals. You have been such a reliable part in the outstanding team defense that was put on display constantly over the years.
To Nena, you rose to the occasion and stepped up in big ways throughout the season when the team dealt with significant injury. Thank you for all of your contributions over the years, and for the clutch moments through this season.
To Raquel, it was obvious that you had big shoes to fill. Coming into a program that just lost one of the most beloved players in program history at the position, is not easy. And what did you do? You won the ACC Setter of the Year, and played a pivotal role in getting this team to the national title game. CardNation will forever be grateful.
To Amaya, the DPOY, your play at the net will be sorely missed. Especially on defense, where you consistently put a lid on the net. We’ll miss your energy, passion, and electric play in the middle. Simply put, this chapter of Louisville volleyball doesn’t get told without Amaya Tillman.
To Claire…oh Claire. I’m not sure there will ever be words, other than thank you. After last season I wasn’t sure how you were going to top the production. But you did, and won ACC Player of the Year and received First-Team All-American honors. To say you will be missed, is a grave understatement. One of the best to ever do it in the 502. All of the big-time moments on big-time stages…hang #9 in the rafters.
And to Paul, thank you for all your hard work as a manager over the past couple years.
To Aiko, forgive me for my ignorance if I am misguided. If you have already announced a decision on next year, I must’ve missed it and I apologize. Regardless of what you decide, this program is in a better place because of you. And if you decide to return, well, you already know what the goal is. From Texas in 2019 to now, it’s been incredible to watch you continue to grow each season.
To Anna, Elena, Ceci, and Alexa: I said it last year and I’ll say it again, don’t think that they didn’t notice. The younger volleyball players from the Louisville area watched you all play on the biggest stage on national television. You may not recognize immediately, but the impact on this community cannot be understated. Louisville isn’t just a volleyball school, it’s a volleyball CITY.
To PK, Ayden, and the rest of the team, the work that you all put in this season has not gone unappreciated. After all, 2/3 of the earth is covered by water, the rest is covered by the Cardinal defense. Thank you all and I can’t wait to see what next year holds.
To Dani Busboom Kelly, the coaching staff, and the returning players, all I can say is thank you. We’ll be right back next season, but I’m sure you all are already aware of that. Keep knocking on the door, because you’re on the ultimate collision course with a national championship, and this fanbase will be supporting you every step of the way.
The road to Tampa starts now.
Dalton Pence, just another volleyball fan