A Brief Preview of Field Hockey
If the title looks familiar to you, let me say thank you for frequenting Cardinal Couple. Last week, I wrote a short piece about the upcoming women's soccer season. I called it a preview, but it ultimately became just some opinions about how the team might perform with the changes that have been made to the roster. With a lot of news about field hockey on and off the site this week, I figured it would be a good time to do the same thing for the field hockey team that I did last week for women's soccer. Admittedly, I know quite a bit less about field hockey than I do about soccer, but I have followed the team with interest since coming on as a writer at Cardinal Couple.
First, a quick look at some more honors that came in for UofL field hockey players. Four players on the team have been tabbed as potential future USA players, as Taylor Stone, Katie Walsh, Carter Ayers, and Meghan Schneider have been invited to Olympic Development camps. They'll join Ayeisha McFerran as players hoping to represent their country (McFerran is already on the World Cup roster for Ireland). I mentioned it last week, but these opportunities to train with the best players in your age group in the entire nation are incredibly helpful in the development of skills and understanding of the game. UofL Coach Justine Sowry is an incredible coach and teaches her players all kinds of things, but she would likely be the first to tell you that having additional training from other sources is nothing but helpful in situations such as these. Congratulations and good luck to these players.
Last year's season ended with a first round knockout in the NCAA tournament. After an overall 12-6 regular season record and a deep conference tournament run, it would not be unfair to say that a first round exit was a bit disappointing. However, the loss came at the hands of a good Northwestern team, and Louisville showed fight, losing only in overtime. Louisville's performance in conference last season (4-2 and a run to the semifinal game) is a much better indicator of their future success this season, as the ACC is widely considered the best field hockey conference by far. Louisville will hope to build on the experiences and success that they had last season going into a new year, in which much of last year's team returns.
Let's first look at the schedule. Outside of the conference matchups, which we already know will be rematches, Louisville plays seven games against non-conference opponents that they played last regular season. This includes rematches with Ohio State, Michigan, and Northwestern, who accounted for 4 of the 8 Louisville losses last season, and a game that counts against Miami (OH), with whom the Cards played only an exhibition last season. Following the alumnae game on August 18th, Louisville will dive straight into the meat of their schedule starting the very next day. They'll open the season with Michigan, Indiana, and Ohio State (all rematches), a breather game against UMass Lowell (which will need to be taken as seriously as any other game), and then a rematch against a Delaware team on the road that won the national championship two years ago (Card won last season 3-1 at home). If the Cards aren't awake to start this season, they could find themselves in an early hole. If they're chomping at the bit, ready to improve on their last year, though, they could open the season 5-0 with some impressive wins already under their belts.
Louisville will play a total of 19 regular season games, including the standard 6 against conference opponents. This schedule appears to be every bit as beefy as last season, if not more. Coach Sowry will need to get her team ready from the very beginning, as there is no time to ease into the schedule. Fortunately, she has a team of very experienced players that should be ready to answer the call. Of 16 players on the current roster (which does not include incoming freshman), 9 are juniors and seniors. These include the previously mentioned McFerran, Stone, Ayars, and Walsh, and adds in the influential Whena Munn and backup goalie (who was huge early last season) Hollyn Barr. The Cards did see four major losses last year with Abby Grimes, Marigrace Ragsdale, and Nicole Woods graduating and Minout Mink returning home after deciding the international life was not for her. Though the players filling these gaps have plenty of their own experience, we won't truly know the impact of these losses until the season is underway in earnest. All four players played in 22 of 22 games last season with Grimes, Ragsdale, and Woods all starting at least 21. The four players were all in the top 6 in team goals, and Mink was the team's leading goal scorer. These players will be missed to be sure, but only time will tell exactly how much.
Fortunately, the team stands to weather the departures. Every returning player on the roster saw at least 100 minutes last season, so the experience and knowledge of Coach Sowry's system is there. For better or worse, that majority of the schedule comes against teams that these players have faced before, so there is familiarity in the opponent as well. While the opponents know just as much about the Cards, there is benefit to newer players being comfortable with an opponent while trying to cement their roles. Louisville could have some bumps this season, but I would be shocked to see less than a .500 conference season and a .600 season overall. Those numbers may not be enough to get into the NCAA tournament, but those are only floor numbers for me. I believe that with the experience that this team returns, the ceiling is much higher. It all starts at the alumnae game on August 18th. We'll find out then.
The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
Once again, Jared has chosen his job over his hobby and will abandon us at the station for his job at the bank. What a jerk, amirite? In all honesty, we look forward to Jared's return to the studio for the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour. Until then, we'll press on without him. Paulie, Jeff, and I will return to the studio on Mellwood and may or may not be joined by a special guest (Paulie really doesn't keep me as in the loop as you might think). Tune in to WCHQ FM at 11 AM for the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour on any platform that you listen to radio. WCHQ is available at 100.9 FM when in the signal range, but can be listened to anywhere on the WCHQ app or wchqfm.com and you can watch the show on Facebook Live on the WCHQ FM Facebook page.
Until next time, Go Cards!