We’re now just one week away from the 2019 women’s soccer season getting underway with an exhibition game against Butler next Saturday night. In the past few weeks, I’ve talked about specific players and how I think the team stacks up. Yesterday, Paulie aired his interview with Coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes about the upcoming season. The interview managed to make me even more excited about the season, but there was one thing that stuck out to me. I provided some of the questions for the interview, and I’m a bit concerned about the defense this year. Coach KFD didn’t quite assuage my doubts with some of her responses. There is still plenty to be excited about, but the defense is definitely something to keep an eye on as the season develops. With all of that said, let’s go ahead and take a look at the upcoming season.
A "Pre-Cap" of Last Year and This One
Last year, Louisville finished 12-7 overall, 6-4 in the ACC, and bowed out in the first round of both the ACC and NCAA tournament. It’s hard for me to sit here and predict that the Cards will do better than that this season, especially considering the big hole in the back line. However, the 10 returning starters will be eager to build upon last season’s successes. That makes it hard for me to predict that they’ll do worse, too. I’ll make a stand now and say the Cards finish with at least a matching record to last year, going 12-5 overall and 6-4 in conference.
The Cards start this year with a road game against Ohio State, before rattling off 7 straight home games, including every other non-conference game of the season. Because of the Cards’ success last year at home, I’ll predict that the Cards match their 6-1 non-conference mark from last year. I believe the loss will come in that first game of the year, as the road environment proves too much to overcome the new look central defense. I think it will be close, as most games should be for the Cards given their offensive talent, but I just don’t know enough to see the season starting off without some hiccups.
The Cards take on two teams they faced last year, Morehead State (exhibition) and Dayton. The two games ended in 4-0 and 1-0 victories, respectively, and the Dayton game was on the road. Interestingly, Louisville doesn’t play Kentucky this year, but they’ll replace the Cats with two other local rivals in Indiana and Vanderbilt. Vandy finished last year at 16-4-1, going undefeated at home. They lost in the first round of the SEC tournament and the second of the NCAA tourney. That said, Louisville gets the ‘Dores in the last game of the non-conference schedule, so they’ll (ideally) be a well oiled machine by that point. Indiana finished last year 8-8-2 without making the Big Ten or NCAA tournament.
St. Louis and Eastern Michigan round out the non-conference schedule for the Cards. I don’t see Louisville having any particular trouble in these two home games, but each team brings its own challenges as the women’s soccer landscape is fairly even across the board. Just like any other night, Louisville will have to bring their A-game to the field, or risk being surprised in a sport where one goal can make a difference.
The Conference Matchups
In the conference schedule, Louisville will face a matching slate to last year with two replacements: Boston College takes the place of Virginia Tech and Clemson switches with Pittsburgh in 2019. Virginia Tech provided one of Louisville’s two home losses last season on the last day of the regular season, so perhaps the Cards will be happy to see them drop off of the schedule. As such, three of the Cards four conference losses remain on the schedule. Pittsburgh was the first conference game of the year and it saw Louisville take a 2-0 win in Pittsburgh. The Cards will hope to pick up two wins out of these swaps.
Duke, North Carolina, and Virginia are very good teams. Duke and Virginia both made it to the Sweet 16 of last year’s tournament before being knocked out, and North Carolina advanced to the final game before losing to ACC foe Florida State. Fortunately, Louisville will not face the Seminoles this season. However, Virginia was Louisville’s first home loss last season and the Cavaliers later knocked off the Cards in Charlottesville during the ACC tournament. That away game this year will be very challenging. North Carolina and Duke both come to Lynn Stadium this year, but North Carolina defeated the Cards 5-1 last year and will be looking to avoid an upset like the one from two years ago. It is also Louisville’s first conference game of the year and the last game of the 7 game homestand. Duke may be a game that Louisville can surprise people in, but it will be a battle on a day that may turn into Senior Night for the Cards.
The remainder of Louisville’s games were all victories last season, but that isn’t likely to be repeated. Syracuse, Miami, and Notre Dame all become road games, and I could see one of those being an issue. Wake Forest and NC State have been consistent challengers for Louisville since joining the ACC as they occupy similar statuses in the league table. NC State is the other game that may turn into Senior Night, but it is on Halloween, so that may be enough festivity for one game.
If the Cards can manage to earn six wins again (Boston College, Wake, Clemson, NC State, and two of Syracuse, Miami, and ND get you there) then eighteen points should be plenty to make it to the NCAA tournament. Of course, picking up all seven of those games or grabbing one of the big upsets, even as a swap, would also be nice. Twelve wins should also see the Cards into the NCAA tournament, where they would be in a position to make noise. Given how the defensive line shapes up over the season, this team could be very dangerous to anyone given their strong goalkeeper play and what should be a fantastic goal scoring offense. This is going to be a fun year.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
I’m back in the studio after a quick break last week and Paulie, Jeff, and I will bring you the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour. Jared and Daryl are off doing banking and brunch (not at the same time) but we’ll surely soldier on. We’ll likely discuss a number of the interviews Paulie has done this weekend, look at how the WNBA season is continuing on, and look ahead at the upcoming fall sports seasons. Who knows, maybe we’ll even get one more Worldwide quiz this summer. The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour is brought to you by WCHQ FM and is available at 11AM on 100.9 FM, wchqfm.com, the WCHQ App on your smartphone or tablet, or via Facebook Live.
Until next time, Go Cards!