Epic Volleyball Session Recap
It was an epic afternoon and evening of volleyball, with the 2nd session of The Cardinal Classic getting underway at 4:30 yesterday, and not wrapping up the final point until approximately 10:30 to finish two matches.
The first match saw a barn-burner between upstart, and unranked, Dayton, against the #7 team in the country, Florida. Yours truly arrived about halfway through the second set and doing a double-take at the scoreboard, seeing Dayton having taken the first set 25-21, and leading in the second 15-13. The Flyers went on to win that second set 25-17. Florida would finally get their game in gear, though (and truth be told, I suspect a little bit of Dayton's adrenaline probably faded) and came back to win their way through the rest of the match, 14-25, 23-25, 14-16. With the exception of that third set, Dayton was either beating, or at least playing extremely closely with a top ten team. This was after they played Texas A&M to 5 sets on Friday, and beat Pitt in scrimmage play last week in 5 sets.
The Cards got their own epic match underway against the aforementioned Aggies a little late due to the extended Dayton/Florida match.
The first two sets were...I'm trying to find adequate words to describe it..."a train wreck" comes to mind. The squad was just not executing on even basic volleyball skills out of the gate. Despite the Keystone Cops routing, the Cards were able to keep the sets reasonably close, losing them 25-19, 25-20. A scary moment early in the 2nd set contributed to the overall despair as Tori Dilfer took a hard driven shot from Texas A&M to the head and immediately dropped to the floor. It was quickly apparent that she was not passed out, but clearly had taken a series hit. The Louisville Athletic Trainers were immediately on the scene and attended to her. Upon getting to her feet a wave of nausea clearly came over her and she was hustled to the sideline for further attention. Concussions obviously do happen in volleyball, and they can be very serious. Dilfer will presumably be in the concussion protocol and will not see play again until she clears it, of course. Fortunately Louisville has another very capable setter in true freshman Shannon Shields, as we have been discussing UofL's use of the 6-2 offense over the past week or so. With Dilfer's unfortunate departure, the Cards dropped back into a much more typical 5-1 offensive pattern. Shields almost immediately took advantage of the change by slamming a shot over on the 2nd hit with big power after she rotated into the front row.
Near the end of the 2nd set, indeed I would pinpoint it as starting on the Aggie's set point, things started clicking for the Cards. The Aggies had about 6 or 7 set points available to them, but it was like a light switch had flipped for the Cards. They were executing well, and forced an Aggies timeout. The Texans would go on to win the set, but the momentum had clearly shifted.
The teams would battle back and forth in the third set, culminating in a pair of kills starting at 25-22. Finally, the UofL squad got settled in well and cruised to solid, though certainly not easy, wins in the last two sets to take the 5 set match 19-25, 20-25, 25-22, 25-18, 15-9. One couple of amusing, and perhaps a little frustrating, plays in the match, both involving Claire Chaussee. Late in the match, a poor pass by the Cardinals ended up with the ball over near the UofL bench. It was chased down and bettered back towards the court. Claire Chaussee had also chased the ball towards the bench, and yet found herself probably best positioned to get back onto the court and get at least a marginal swing on it. Alas, despite his best efforts to get out of the way, the line judge ended up being right in Chaussee's path. You can picture the slim (but, of course, very fit) Chaussee running into, and even trying to shove out of the way, the line judge to try to get to the ball. No hard feelings from anyone, of course, and the officials did rule that the interference justified a replay of the point. The other incident was earlier in the match, as a Chaussee was lining up for a big left side swing, she ran out of her shoe. Quite literally, her shoe was left at the 10 meter line. Unfortunately, that really screwed up her swing and prevented her from making the play. Adding on to that, on Friday, Claire took a hit from the ball on her thumb that apparently bent back her thumbnail. They taped her thumb up to protect it a little bit during the match Friday and it was taped again last night. The tape, however, prevented Chaussee from being able to untie and retie her shoe laces! Team Mom Melanie McHenry to the rescue, though, and all was made right with a few grins and chuckles.
Those first two sets...oof. I'm not sure what came over this Cardinal team. On the plus side, however, the Cards were able to pull it back together and get settled down and return to the level of play that this highly talented team is capable of. Ultimately the night goes into the win column, and certainly the squad can take some comfort in demonstrating that sort of resilience to be able to take that sort of battering, dig themselves a two set hole, and still be able to not get completely flustered, re-center their minds and find a way to get it done in the 3rd set, and improve on it more in the 4th and 5th.
This is a team that is still figuring out their identity, still learning how to communicate effectively within the squad, and generally still needing to gel as a team. 9 of the 16 players on the roster did not set play on the court as a Cardinal last year (5 true freshman, one of which is expected to red-shirt this year; 2 transfers; 1 that took a red-shirt last year; and 1 that was the team manager last year)
We lost in 3 sets to Florida on Friday in the season opener. That was disappointing, but I haven't lost any sleep over it. I saw a lot of promise in the play, and the three sets were reasonably competitive against the #7 team in the country. Last night, the first two sets were, well garbage, the team got battered, both literally and figuratively, early in the match, but they were able to take support and encouragement (and shoe tying abilities) from each other, and maybe most importantly, trust each other to do the right thing and play through the adversity to figure out how to make it work. I see great promise in this team, and though it may look a little rough right now, it is the first weekend of the season for a team that has had major renovations and has only really been playing together in earnest for a few weeks. I am hopeful that they will find the rhythm together and have a great year. The talent is surely there.
All 3 major fall women's sports are in action again today on Floyd Street. Field Hockey gets things underway with a noon pass-back at Trager Stadium against UMass. UMass was, of course, Coach Justine Sowry's previous coaching gig before returning to UofL where she had previously served as assistant coach under Pam Bustin, now at Duke.
Volleyball will finish out the Cardinal Classic with a noon first serve against the aforementioned Dayton Flyers. Expect Dayton to come out with a monstrous chip on their shoulders. They're now sitting at 0-2 on the season with their play here in Louisville. Both matches have been 5 set barn-burners that could have easily gone Dayton's way with only one or two calls falling differently. Add that to Louisville being the team that eliminated the Flyers from the NCAA tournament last year in the first round in Illinois. Dayton did win their scrimmage match, also in 5 sets, against Pitt last week. So this is a team that has shown that they are capable of performing at a much higher level than I think most give them credit for, and they have ample reasons to come out this afternoon raring to knock of the Cardinals. Do not underestimate this team, they are dangerous.
The Floyd Street nightcap is down the street at Lynn Stadium where Women's Soccer will get underway against Eastern Michigan at 7:30. Starting out the season 3-0 is a great start for the Cards kickers. We have discussed, on the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour, that the Cards could be 6-1 or maybe even 7-0 before jumping into conference play against the very good UNC Tarheels.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
Speaking of the CCRH, we were back at it again at the WCHQ studios on Mellwood. Paulie, Case, Jared and myself were all there on the mics, and we were graced with the (a bit camera and mic averse) presence of Jared's girlfriend Katy.
We had some great recaps and analysis of the Field Hockey, Women's Soccer, and Volleyball seasons to this point, and we invite you to check it out on Facebook Live: