2021-22 CARDS WBB SHOULD COME BACK STRONG
I was recently engaged in conversation with a friend about Louisville Athletics and the subject turned to Cardinals Women's Basketball. This friend asked me what I thought about the returning team for Jeff Walz and his staff for the 2021-22 season and how I thought that they would do in conference and overall.
I smiled and told my friend words to the effect of: "There is strength in numbers and there is confidence in the talent level from my viewpoint when I look at this squad." So, let's take a early look at who will be hooping in up for the Red and Black later on this year.
Louisville has 13 players listed on the 2021-22 roster. Changes from last year? Let's look at departures first. The first one would have to include Dana Evans, who graduated and is now playing for the WNBA's Chicago Sky. she was a guiding force and top scorer for the Cards and will be missed, but, you can't keep them forever. Also gone are Elizabeth Balogun and Nyah Green, both have landed at Duke University and should have interesting careers for relatively new head coach Kara Lawson in Durham. We also saw Malea Williams enter the transfer portal but I honestly have no idea where she landed.
Lose four, gain four would be one way to look at the changes in the squad. The Cards picked up do-it-all forward Emily Engstler from Syracuse. The junior will be a welcome addition to Louisville's front line and was the leading rebounder and fourth leading scorer last year for "Q". Also new on the roster is guard Chelsie Hall, by way of Vanderbilt The graduate transfer played in a shortened season for the Commodores because of the pandemic, but led the team in assists and was the second leading scorer. She looks to be a welcome addition to the guard contingent.
Incoming freshman Payton Verhulst had an amazing career at Bishop Miege HS in Kansas and has already been on the court with several Cards in FIBA 3X3 hoops. She's also on the USA U 19 squad. Certainly a bright and promising future ahead for this freshman guard. The multi-talented Sydni Schetnan also joins the Cards and the 6'5" forward will boost the Cards front line and provide strong rebounding and scoring skills. She'll also spend time with Louisville's Volleyball squad. These two are excellent "gets" for Walz and staff and have meshed well with the returning Cards.
When you look at who is back from last year's 26-4 Great Eight squad, there are plenty of reasons to smile. Cards guards Hailey Van Lith, Kianna Smith and Mykasa Robinson combined for 67 starts last season. Their defensive skills, scoring prowess and assist-making were a key to last year's UofL successes and the trio should easily accomplish more of the same in the upcoming season. Sturdy and dependable backups Norika Konno and Ahlana Smith ensure that the Cards lose nothing in skill and talent wise when they enter the game and Merissah Russell had some highlight moments last season and has gained valuable experience playing for the Canadian FIBA Americup squad. In short, the backcourt for UofL looks very strong, talented and should pose a variety of problems and headaches for opponents.
Returnees on the front line are also a reason to be very optimistic about UofL's chances. Cardinal fans saw great efforts and outstanding play from Olivia Cochran and Liz Dixon and the duo should return with even more skills and abilities. Ramani Parker also came on strong for the Cards at the end of the year and provides a very viable option on the rebounding and scoring needs for Louisville.
Overall, in a preseason prediction, the Cards easily fit into a "Top 10" squad classification and with the additional of the talented transfers and freshmen I consider them "Top Five" in the nation. Along with NC State, they're the "ones to beat" in the ACC and Louisville should provide many exciting moments in a couple of months for the Cardinal Faithful.
I know, from chats and conversations with some of you, that you are very excited to see the 2021-22 Louisville women's basketball team in action. I know many of you are excited to be able to return to a full capacity KFC YUM! Center and cheer on this squad. I can assure you, the players feel your same excitement and emotions and we'll keep you updated on the progress and the season slowly begins to approach and emerge for us
You can rest assured that the players are dutifully and energetically working on their games and are looking eagerly forward to what lies ahead for them.
I do hope you've enjoyed this late June, pre-emptive look at the possibilities and scenarios for Cards WBB in 2021-22.
Is it November yet?