Volleyball Schedule Preview
We saw the release of fall sports schedules this week, including volleyball, so you know I have to take a deeper look at it.
My initial thought was to look at the most recent RPI rankings from the end of last season to give some guide, but the RPI from the end of last season is...well, it's weird. I have to think that the odd ball seasons that teams had, with significantly varying numbers of games, is generating some results that really just don't make sense. You don't have to look past the top 3 in the RPI ranking from April 3 to see the absurdities. West Point is top ranked in the RPI with a 6-2 record, Towson is behind them in 2nd with a 6-0 record and Texas is in 3rd with a 23-1 record. So, yeah, I'm just going to close that tab and we'll work with coaches polls and some subjective opinions, here.
The opening weekend is a round-robin tournament in Tempe, Arizona. The threat of the weekend is hosting Arizona State. They come in off of a 6-14 season last year, but don't let that fool you, they only played conferences matches last year, which in the PAC-12 means they had a brutal schedule. They picked off a few wins against some very good teams. Overall, though, they tend to hang around in the lower ranks of the conference. Cal Poly didn't play at all last year, apparently, and Texas A&M Corpus Christi don't particularly impress with mid-major heavy schedule last year.
The next weekend is the home opener for the Cards. UofL vs Missouri is the big matchup in this tournament, and it's right at the beginning, on Friday night. Missouri clung onto ranked status at the end of last year, finishing at in the 25th spot. 16-8 last year with only SEC conference matches in the regular season is good, but not great. They should have a rematch of their opening round NCAA match against defending Summit League champs South Dakota, but I would expect Missouri to come out victorious on this one. The Norse of Northern Kentucky might not get much more than a participation trophy out of the weekend.
The Cards will close out the non-conference slate with an absolute barn-burner eight days. Starting with an always good Purdue team. Dave Shondell's squad always seems to put up a good fight against the Cards. They went 16-7 last year, but only one loss of those was to an unranked team, and the Boilermakers finished the season ranked 7th, finally succumbing in the NCAA tournament against eventual champions Kentucky.
The next day is the weakest squad of this eight day stretch, Xavier finished last season 7-7 with no post-season play. Both the Xavier and Purdue matches are on Xavier's floor in Cincinnati, which is potential road-trip material for sure.
Wednesday of the week, defending national champs Kentucky comes calling to L&N Federal Credit Union Arena. If you want to see this one in person, get your tickets early as I definitely expect it to be a sell-out crowd. And with likely more than 1,000 people in L&N Arena in mid-September, my advice would be to dress to keep cool as I suspect it will be a bit toasty warm in there.
The eight day stretch doesn't really get any easier, though. Finish it off Saturday on the road in Lincoln, Nebraska, to play Nebraska. John Cook's Nebraska squads are always good and playing on their home floor is particularly challenging. There should be plenty of Busbooms and Kellys there, though as Lincoln is home to the Busbooms, and Omaha, just down the road, is home to Coach Busboom Kelly's husband, Lane Kelly. 16-3 last season, the Nebraska losses came to at-the-time 5th ranked Minnesota, 11th ranked Ohio State, and 5th ranked Texas. Those teams finished the season ranked in 9th, 10th, and 2nd, with Nebraska rounding out the year in 6th. Their regular season was all in the Big 10 Conference last year, but playing in the B1G does match you up against some of the top teams nationally.
Next starts conference play. We know the lay of the land here, pretty well. We'll have home and home matchups against Georgia Tech, Pitt, Duke, and Notre Dame, with only single matchups against all of the rest of the teams. Now compare who we play twice against who finished the season ranked, Pitt at 8, (we finished 11), Georgia Tech at 22, and Notre Dame at 24. The bright side is it gives us more opportunities to play good teams and get better.
We host the Florida contingent, Miami and FSU, swing through Clemson and Atlanta, come back to host Syracuse and Boston College, travel to Blacksburg and Winston-Salem, then host Virginia and Pitt. That gives us a decent chance at being 9-0 in conference, with a cautious look at Georgia Tech in there, before we meet up with Pitt.
A road trip to RTP is up next, to visit the trio of Duke, NC State, and UNC, then finish out the season with mostly rematches; against GT at home, Notre Dame in South Bend, Duke at home, Pitt at Pitt, and then Notre Dame again back home.
Pitt is, as typical, the biggest threat in conference, but we definitely shouldn't look past Michelle Collier's Yellowjackets who have been doing great things of the past few years. Mike Johnson has Notre Dame back as a solid contender, with Charlie Niego, and Sydney Bent, back for their senior campaigns, and Caroline Meuth is still just a junior!
My subjective analysis is that Dani Busboom Kelly, with a bit of an assist from the conference office, has set this team up with a tough schedule with an eye towards preparing them for post season play. The last two seasons have seen a near-miracle run to the Elite Eight, and a not-so-much-a-miracle Sweet 16 appearance. Dani Busboom-Kelly has already talked about the goals continue to rise, and now including a Final Four appearance, and this team is capable of it. It won't be easy, it will take hard work, and maybe a little bit of luck, but the talent level is there.
We only graduated one starter, Libero Alexis Hamilton, with several good DSes waiting in the wings. We do have another DS coming in with the freshman class, a Louisvillian in Elena Scott (Mercy Academy/PNK). If I had to take a guess on who will be wearing the Libero jersey in late August, I'd put my money on Ayden Bartlett, but it wouldn't surprise me to see it on Alexa Hendricks either.
We've got a very good 6'0" setter coming in as a freshman out of the city of Pittsburgh in Paige Morningstar, but she will have to really shine to take the starting position away from Tori Dilfer.
For those of you that wanted height on the squad, we have a pair of 6'5" hitters coming to Louisville. Cara Cresse, out of Fort Wayne is a middle, but will have a tough time cracking the starting lineup with Amaya Tillman and Anna Stevenson returning. Sydni Schetnan will be on campus, but is not expected to play with volleyball this year. You'll have to head down to the KFC Yum! Center to check her out with Jeff Walz's WBB squad.
All in all, this could be a great year for UofL Volleyball with so much talent and a great schedule that should feature a lot of fun wins and quite a few tough games against top national talent.
The season kicks off with the Cal Poly match in Tempe, Friday morning at 10am, August 27th. The home opener is the next week against Missouri at 7pm on September 3rd.
WNBA Scheduling Note
A quick note on our WNBA players. Dana Evans played about five minutes in the Chicago Sky's game against the Washington Mystics. Myisha Hines-Allen is still sidelined with the Mystics, of course. Evans got an assist and a steal and took no shots. The Mystics won 89-85.
Kylee Shook and Jazmine Jones, with the New York Liberty play today at 2pm hosting the Connecticut Sun. This one is available on ESPN3 streaming.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast
A fun, and long, show yesterday for the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast. A full house, queens over jokers, for this one, well, one queen at least.
The topic was mostly a breakdown of the Women's Soccer schedule for the fall. We're expecting to do similar breakdowns of Field Hockey and Volleyball in the coming weeks as we get ready for fall sports to begin.
A lengthy but fun, and pretty close scoring, quiz. It takes a long time for us to get through the quiz when all five of us are on the call. Fun times below.
Case bested the field in the quiz and, in a rarity for the show, chose NOT to take the bonus question and still hung on to win by a mere 10 points. The engineer had the blueprint for a win, I suppose...