OMAHA, Neb. — Louisville head coach Dani Busboom Kelly smiled and beamed in the domineering overhead light during a press conference Thursday night.
Her Cardinals just defeated the No. 2 Pitt Panthers in a five-set thriller in the Final Four at CHI Health Center to earn a spot in the National Championship match against the No. 1 Texas Longhorns on Saturday, Dec. 17.
The victory for Louisville marks the best win in the series between both rivals and the biggest win in ACC history, as they are the first ACC school to make a National Title game.
Pitt and Louisville have dominated the ACC, especially since Busboom Kelly took over as head coach in 2017. Pitt won the 2018 and 2019 ACC Titles outright; Louisville won the 2020 and 2021 ACC Titles outright and both teams shared the conference title in 2017 and 2022.
Panthers head coach Dan Fisher won four of the first five matchups against Busboom Kelly, but she has won five of the past six, including Thursday night.
Busboom Kelly praised the rivalry for improving both programs for the better. Pitt and Louisville have now made back-to-back appearances in the Final Four, the only teams in Division I to do so.
“Yeah, the ACC keeps getting better and better and is attracting really great athletes and keeping really great coaches in the conference,” Busboom Kelly said. “And I think last year, we hear all the noise that, oh, the ACC isn’t as good and that was a fluke. For us and Pitt to make it back again is really impressive. And of course, I think it’s here to stay. And hopefully some other teams will keep getting better.”
Fisher described the rivalry between the two schools as a friendly one, despite the ferocity displayed in each match. Busboom Kelly concurred with Fisher and said having two quality coaches in the same conference benefits the entire collective.
“I like Dan off the court, but I don’t like coaching against him, though,” Busboom Kelly said. “I think that’s pretty friendly. But we were texting a little bit after Pitt beat Wisconsin and we just said congrats on the ACC. And I said, you know what we call it. We call it the Absolutely Crush Conference because us and Pitt, we go at it. We know both of us are going to be swinging away.”
The matchup also featured the largest crowd in any match between the Panthers and Cardinals with a recorded attendance of 16,735. The fact that ESPN broadcasted this match as well provided a national stage for the rivalry, letting the entire country see what the ACC is all about.
It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that these two teams will continue to fight each other for supremacy not only in the ACC, but Division I as well.
“But this rivalry means a lot,” Busboom Kelly said. “And I think it’s made both of our programs so much stronger. And there’s just a lot of respect between our programs. And that’s what makes it fun. It’s fun to know that we’re going to play them twice a year and it’s going to be a battle and we’re going to get pushed every time.”