How Will WSOC Fare This Season?
As Daryl wrote yesterday, the fall sports have posted their schedules in full as we prepare for the summer slump to end. Women's soccer will be first on the list, as their season opener will be on August 14th against Ball State. The schedule doesn't currently list any exhibition games, so it will be interesting to see if those are added later on or if there is some other reason they are being excluded. Assuming they play a couple of those, the (Fall) 2021 UofL Women's Soccer season should start inside of a month. As such, it seems like a good time to take a look at the schedule and see what Louisville might be able to do.
Unlike years past, there is no spring exhibition season to lean on. There were, however, three spring games in which Louisville had all of their 2021 roster available except for the freshmen. The only player that participated in the spring that did not return for the fall, I believe, is Nadege, L'Esperance. The Cards were scheduled to play five games in the spring but COVID cancellations ended the spring season short. The Cards went 1-2 in the spring, defeating Dayton 1-0 before losing to both WKU and Auburn by the same score. Obviously, Louisville is dealing with two huge losses moving into the next era. Emina Ekic was the offense most of the time for the Cards, which is why she's still playing in the city at the top level in the US. The other loss is L'Esperance. Nadege played more of a holding midfield role but her link between the defense and offense was critical in much of Louisville's defensive and offensive setup play. It will be interesting to see whether the formation changes with both of these players gone.
That brings us to the newly scheduled games. They'll be tough to predict without much information about the new iteration of this team, but I'll give it a go anyway. The Cards will play seven non-conference games, with six of them at home. This has become pretty typical for Louisville, given the amazing facility that they have in Lynn Stadium. I'm going to give the Cards 5-2 here. They've been very good in the non-conference over the last few seasons, but I think the road game against St. Louis and the home game against Michigan will come as losses. I'm more confident in the record number than the actual predicted games, though, so if they manage to drop a game to Ball State or Western Kentucky instead, I'll take my correct numbers and run.
The ACC schedule is much harder to predict. Louisville has been sorely in the upper-middle class of the conference for the last few years, and I definitely don't see that changing this season. I'd be pleasantly surprised if I'm proven wrong. The Cards do have a bit of a generous schedule this season, though. They avoid North Carolina and don't play anyone twice. That said, they do still get FSU and Virginia, so it won't be a cakewalk. Their home and away split does fall pretty nicely, though, so lets take a look. Note that I won't be predicting any ties because ties in college soccer are largely random.
The first two games are on the road against Miami and Syracuse. Assuming the Cards are riding a high from a decent non-conference schedule, this should be a good start to the conference season. Both of these teams are ones that Louisville has not had any trouble with recently, and I feel good about that not changing. 2-0 with two road games out of the way. The conference home opener is against Florida State and I don't feel good about that one at all: 2-1. Next is an interesting game against Wake Forest. The Cards won that one 2-1 at home in 2019, and the two teams didn't play last year. This is one of the tougher games to pick, but I don't think the Cards will lose back to back games at home: 3-1.
The next stretch will be tough, and I've got Louisville losing three of the next four. The Cards go on the road to play Notre Dame before returning home for NC State and Boston College. I think BC is the only win in that group, and then comes a road game against Virginia... Yeah, right. That puts Louisville at 4-4 with two games remaining. Clemson has been a challenge at times, but I think they find a way to win that one before losing to Duke on Senior Day.
All in all, that would give Louisville a 10-7 (5-5) record on the season. For what feels like it is likely to be a bridge year, I wouldn't hate it. The real question is whether 15 points would be enough to make the ACC tournament. At that record, I think the Cards would need a good showing in the ACC tournament to make it into the NCAA tournament. Of course, ties can screw all of that and a poorly placed equalizer can result in a drop in points to knock the Cards out of the ACC or give them a bad draw. With just 35 days until the season opener, I'm beginning to get excited about the year ahead.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
I'm back in the booth today, joining everyone else who had a challenging Coaches quiz without me. As it's the summer, we'll stumble along through our topics as usual, but we'll do our best to bring you the joy and excitement of Louisville women's athletics. Tune in to the Cardinal Couple YouTube Channel at 11AM for the live show or check out the replay or podcast after the show ends.
Until next time, Go Cards!