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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Sunday Cardinal Couple -- For Gwen Rucker, the other sport turned out pretty well.

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SUNDAY CARDINAL COUPLE


-Rucker will vye for USA A2 Team spot


-Belmont Stakes Day: a recap


Welcome to SUNDAY WITH SONJA! 


Today we look at Gwen Rucker. She'll spend the end of June training and competing with 47 other volleyball players in Columbus, Ohio in the U.S. Women's Volleyball National A2 Team Program. The middle blocker from Lexington makes her second straight trip to compete with the elite. 


These athletes were selected through the U.S. Women's National Team Open Tryouts held Feb. 10-12 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs, CO. Players in college who had college eligibility remaining for the 2012 season that were not selected for the Women's National Team were eligible for the A2 program. 


For Gwen, volleyball is one of two sports she has excelled at. Louisville women's basketball fans will remember the freshman who arrived on campus with Becky Burke and Monique Reid and eventually became the starting center for Jeff Walz's National Runner-Up squad during the 2008-09 season. She and Keisha Hines manned the middle during that magical run. 


She was also playing volleyball for Louisville. She continued both her sophomore year, but to compete successfully in two major sports on the collegiate level is a tough task. Gwen decided to concentrate on just one...and Louisville Volleyball is a much richer and successful program because of it. An injury last year slowed the net-menace Rucker down but opponents from the BIG EAST and nationwide knew and respected the skills of the 6'2" spike-stopper.  


How will I best remember Gwen? It was a crucial game for the Cards in the BIG EAST Conference Tournament. Against Rutgers...and Gwen was assigned the task of containing the powerful and domineering Kia Vaughn. The Cards were playing their hearts out and emotions were high. Then, the ESPN cameras focused on what we like to refer to as "The Staredown".


Gwen and Kia during a stoppage in play. The picture above says it all. No fear, no backing down and a senior and a freshman taking a moment to see who would blink. 


The Cards went on to win that game in double overtime 87-82. I remember where we were watching it (because of the horrible appetizer I selected and eventually sent back to the kitchen for another choice) and I remember Paul standing up and yelling at the screen something to the effect of "Don't hit her Gwen, we need you out there!" 


Louisville went on to the finals of the BIG EAST Tournament that year, losing to probably the best ever UConn squad Geno ever had. Almost a month later they faced that same UConn team again in the National Championship game.


Gwen Rucker has faced challenges throughout her 16 years of education. She has stared them all down and come out on top.


Cardinal Spirit. No one can beat it.


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Sonja by the lillies in front of the paddock.
Absolutely fabulous day at Churchill yesterday watching live racing and the Belmont Stakes. Enjoyed the day at the Turf Club with good friends Panera managing partner Archie Karel, his lovely wife Tina, their son Andy and a couple of hilarious and great golfing buddies of "the Arch". 

Even though he killed the show pool by not following Paulie's advice (use Brian Hernandez, Jr. on the turf. ALWAYS!) Arch was the congenial, affable and out-going host he is every year we're fortunate enough to spend Belmont with them.  



The "boys" were having a rough 'go of it' early with their handicapping skills and the most common phrase at our table was "Why didn't we have that one?" I was biding my time. The hare may sprint out there, but the tortoise always wins. 


I gave you the exacta and trifecta yesterday in the article for the Belmont. If you followed my (and not Paulie's) advice...you had a good day in the wagering department. As far as Dullahan goes, we hope that the NCIS team is investigating his disappearance.


Paul always goes to talk to Louie at Churchill
Sometimes, you just have to smile and say..."I guess I'm just lucky that way." (Those are great lyrics from Joe Walsh's new CD. Go out and buy it.) 


Our day was a fun one. We always walk a lot at the track and go around and visit our "friends in different places" when Paulie and I are out there. 
And we saw plenty of them. 


Cletus finally got the party
guests to leave by hurling
his shot put and discus at them.
We ended a great Saturday at Cletus's graduation party. Another fun event. Listening to Paulie and Donald discuss sports is like listening to sports talk radio. Donnie with the photographic memory and Paulie with the non-sequiters and brazen commentary. Hey, they're easier to listen to than Domine or Lachlan... 


A big "thank you !" to Chris and Linda for having us over and putting up with "the Big Guy" and his ramblings. How he got on the topic of wet hand towels next to bathroom sinks, I'll never know...


Some days are just good from start to finish and yesterday was one. I hope your Sunday is good from start to finish and I've enjoyed my Sunday with you!


See you next Sunday and thanks for reading CARDINAL COUPLE!
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5 comments:

  1. Classic stuff, Sonja. We know who the real handicapper is in the Sykes family. And a big thanks to Gwen Rucker for her contributions to Louisville Volleyball. That stare down photo is classic.

    Curtis Franklin

    ReplyDelete
  2. Is there any doubt now that John Velasquez is the best jockey currently riding? What he did with Union Rags on the rail was incredible. I would write more but I'm going to join Paulie in his hunt for Dullahan and widen the search to include the search for Optimizer.

    \\David Watson//

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. In Paulie defense, David...he did have two BIG hits earlier in the day on the Churchill card. He just couldn't figure out Belmont yesterday.

      Sonja

      Delete
  3. I really love your site. I'm a Women's Basketball season ticket holder and a life-long fan of thoroughbred racing. Oh, and I was sports editor of the Cardinal as a senior, so I can write a little also, even though I was a Math major. You guys sound like people that I need to meet sometime!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for reading and commenting, Mike! Being a math major and a racing fan must mean you can calculate exactly how much you've won or lost. Paul always grumbles "not nearly enough"
      or "you don't want to know" (depending on the situation) when I ask.

      Sonja

      Delete

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