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Saturday, November 13, 2021

Volleyball Prevails; FH, WBB Stumble in OT -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Let me first start by apologizing for how late you'll be reading this. If you tuned in to the site at your normal morning time, it probably wasn't quite up yet. Next, a reminder that the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast is off this week due to today's football game being at noon and last night's volleyball match preventing us from recording early. Finally, a note about the order of the event coverage. I went back and forth on what order to put yesterday's games in due to their varying degrees of popularity and importance. I ultimately landed on the best option being to just put them in chronological order, so that's what I did.

Field Hockey Loses to Harvard in Opening NCAA Game

Any hopes that Louisville may have been kicked into gear by their lackluster offensive performance in the loss to Virginia in the ACC tournament were dashed yesterday when the Cards failed to score in their loss to Harvard in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Louisville finished the season 6-2 in overtime games, losing both postseason games outside of regulation after going undefeated in such games in the regular season. Such a regression to the mean seemed inevitable, but yesterday's loss was much more disheartening than the shootout against Virginia. Ultimately, the Cards finished 16-4 overall, tying the program record for wins in a season. Louisville seemed assured of a record breaking year when they finished the regular season with 16 wins, but it was not meant to be.

Yesterday's match played out unlike most others we have seen from Louisville this season. The Cards were unable to apply pressure at the start of any period, bucking the trend of coming out much hotter than their opponents after breaks. On the other hand, Harvard was not able to do much out of each break either, as the match was mostly even from an offensive perspective. Statistically, that was borne out as well. Louisville lost the total shots battle 10-7, but both teams finished with just two shots on goal. Louisville gave up more penalty corners as well, being awarded just four, compared to Harvard's six. However, neither team converted any of the ten. 

Louisville was not without opportunity, as they were awarded a player advantage twice in the final quarter with Harvard earning a pair of yellow cards. In the combined time that the Cards had an advantage, they were unable to muster a goal, even having to defend for much of the first power play during a four corner sequence for the Crimson. Louisville's best chances came in the second and third periods. In the second, Louisville had a penalty corner saved and the rebound bounced to Alli Bitting. Unfortunately, her put-back attempt went wide. In the third, they saw a sequence that began with an open play shot that was saved and earned they managed to get a shot on each of the ensuing penalty corners. The first was blocked and the second was wide, keeping Louisville out of the cage. In the fourth quarter and overtime, Louisville was able to manage just one shot in the fourth quarter off of a penalty corner, and it was blocked before reaching the end line.

In 18 regular season matches, Louisville was held to fewer than two goals just six times, and they were shutout only once in the 2-0 loss to Iowa. They scored 43 goals in those games, averaging 2.4 per game. Even taking out their two biggest lopsided wins, Louisville averaged just under two goals per game at 1.875. The Cards played about 145 minutes in the postseason and were able to score just one goal in the pair of losses. The defense was able to hold fast, keeping Louisville in the games and giving them opportunities to win in regulation and overtime. Unfortunately, the offense, as we saw at other times throughout the season, dried up. It was especially frustrating to be unable to score in overtime in both matches, as the Cards dominated the 7v7 format in the regular season.

Louisville's 16-4 season is nothing to scoff at. As I mentioned, it ties a program record for victories, and it's more impressive to know that the record setting wins came entirely in the regular season. However, that is also what makes the season so disappointing. The Cards came into the season trying to figure out how they would replace the production they lost from last year, and they showed right out of the gate that they would be able to do so. They played the entire season with a freshman goalie as the expected starter sat for the year with (presumably) long Covid effects. The odds were stacked against this team performing at the level that they did, yet they spent the entire season ranked in the top five nationally and won the ACC regular season outright by going undefeated. To go from that kind of performance in the regular season to what happened in Syracuse and Ann Arbor stings.

The Cards will carry that sting into next year. They'll have more seniors to replace, as they honored quite the group at Senior Day, but much of this team will return. Hopefully, they will carry not just the losses that ended their season, but the victories that got them to the heights that they reached. Viewing this season as a failure likely won't help them do better next year, but viewing next season as redemption or unfinished business might. I hope they recognize the success that they had this year and use that as motivation to build on. The Cards will continue their quest for their first national title in 2022.

WBB Falls to Arizona in Sioux Falls 61-59

Louisville women's basketball wasn't afforded the luxury of a tune-up game to open their 2021-22 campaign, and the 22nd ranked Arizona Wildcats made sure to give the Cards a challenge to open the season. Louisville hung tough throughout the game, but poor shooting ultimately led to the Cards' downfall as they made zero field goals in overtime, missing opportunities to both take the lead late and tie the game at the death. 

Louisville opened the game's scoring with the first two baskets, leading 4-0 in the first two minutes. The four-point lead would match Louisville's largest of the game, though, as it would stay close throughout. Louisville wrapped up the first quarter with a 9-8 lead in what was a mostly uneventful opening period. From the start, it became clear that Louisville was not shooting well, and fans could only hope that the ball would start finding the bottom of the net. It didn't.

The second quarter saw Louisville's offensive woes continue early, but the same could not be said for Arizona. The Wildcats gained the lead on a pair of free throws on the third possession of the quarter and would hold onto it for the next twenty minutes. Arizona stretched their second quarter lead to seven at one point, despite Louisville shooting for their best quarter percentage in the game in the second at 42%. Fortunately for the Cards, Arizona went cold, and Louisville's two baskets over the final three minutes of the half brought the deficit down to three. 

The third quarter saw Arizona maintain a cushion of anywhere from 3-6 points for the majority of the quarter. Louisville was able to keep pace at the free throw line, but were once again ineffective from the floor. Arizona shot their best from the floor in the quarter, but Louisville was able to force turnovers and get to the line, ultimately cutting the deficit to just one as they entered the fourth.

From there, Louisville seemed to find a jolt. The Cards grabbed the first score of the quarter, regaining the lead for the first time since the beginning of the second quarter. The two teams traded buckets (and the lead), before Louisville stretched to a four-point lead with six minutes remaining in the game. With momentum on their side, Louisville looked to be in a position to put this one away and escape an ugly game. The next sequence proved extremely costly. When Arizona missed a three-point attempt, Emily Engstler came down with the rebound, giving Louisville an opportunity to go up by six, a full two-possession game. However, Engstler was stripped of the ball, and Arizona scored on the ensuing possession, bringing the Cards' lead down to two. On the next offensive possession, Olivia Cochran missed a lay-up. Louisville was able to turnover Arizona, again giving them a chance to extend the lead, and Hailey Van Lith turned the ball over instead. Arizona tied it up. 

Instead of a 50-44 or 52-46 lead, Louisville was locked in a 48-48 tie. The game would go on to tie three more times in regulation, with Louisville having to play from behind on the final two efforts. Hailey Van Lith went to the line with 13 seconds remaining and tied the game at 54, but Arizona was given plenty of time to find a winner. The Wildcats managed to find a jumper with three seconds left, but it was off the mark. A pair of offensive rebounds saw two more attempts at a game winner, before the third and final offensive rebound was caught out of bounds. Jeff Walz called a timeout to advance the ball, and Louisville had 0.9 seconds for a final play. MyKasa Robinson found Engstler for a three-point attempt, but it fell well short and the teams headed to OT.

As I've already noted, Louisville shot 0-5 in OT, but they still had a chance to win. The Cards took a 58-56 lead on a pair of Van Lith free throws with 3:41 remaining, and Chelsie Hall got a steal on the ensuing Arizona possession. With another opportunity to extend their lead late, Louisville found themselves wanting. Hall committed an offensive foul to turn the ball over, and the Wildcats made Louisville pay. Arizona ran the full shot clock on their next play before missing a lay-up. I counted Arizona's center of occupying the lane for approximately an eternity, but it went uncalled and she pulled down the offensive rebound. With a fresh 20 seconds on the shot clock, Arizona went back to work, and found a three-pointer to give them the lead rather than the tie.

Robinson was fouled while attempting a put back, which saw her head to the line for two. She made only the first, and the score was tied once more. Arizona scored on their next possession, and Louisville was down two with 1:45 to go. On their first attempt to tie, Liz Dixon was whistled for an offensive foul. Arizona ran the clock out before missing a three and Louisville had another shot. On this one, Chelsie Hall was blocked. Again, Arizona attempted to run out the clock, this time to their own detriment. A missed lay-up failed to find the rim, and the shot clock expired before the put-back went in. The play was reviewed but the call stood. Louisville had 9 seconds left and Jeff Walz called a timeout to advance the ball once more. The play he drew up saw Van Lith find her way into the paint, but a clattering block saw a foul uncalled, and Olivia Cochran's second effort was tipped away. Louisville fell 61-59.

FRED Report

The FRED and CASE reports don't paint the prettiest picture, with the CASE report looking quite rough in the opener.

F - Free Throws: Louisville was awarded a whopping 30 free throws in yesterday's game, and they converted 25 of them, nearly double the number Arizona took. That was good for 83.3%, and a worse performance at the line would have seen this game end much earlier. Capital F.

R - Rebounding: The Cards lost the rebounding battle 41-40, but they won the second chance points battle 12-7. I really wanted to give the Cards a lowercase r for that second stat, but three of Arizona's second chance points were back-breaking and the Cards gave up three offensive rebounds in the final 10 seconds of regulation and overtime. No letter.

E - Effort: Louisville couldn't hit the broad side of a barn yesterday, but they hung tough despite a growing deficit in the second quarter. Their ability to get to the line kept them in the game and they won the following stats: fast break points, points off turnovers, second chance points, and bench points. They tied on points in the paint. The shooting really hurts, but Louisville never gave in, so I'm awarding a Capital E.

D - Defense: Louisville forced 17 turnovers and won both points off turnovers and fast break points. They also held Arizona to 36% shooting overall and only 61 points. Louisville was only able to muster two blocks and four steals though. Lowercase d.

Final Score: F_Ed

CASE Report

C - Care: Louisville turned the ball over 17 times, matching their opponent's number. This stat usually calls for the Cards to beat a percentage of the opponent's average. Since Arizona played one game before this, they do have a number to compare against. The Wildcats forced 16 in the opener, so that's No letter.

A - Assists: Given the number of turnovers and the lack of made baskets, Louisville is in trouble on this one. They finished with just six assists on sixteen made baskets, a 37.5% clip, and that yielded them an 0.353 Assist-to-Turnover ratio. No letter.

S - Steals: Usually a strong indicator of Louisville's performance, they struggled to pick pockets yesterday. Louisville finished with four steals, fewer than their opponent's seven and fewer than the benchmark of 7.5 No letter. 

E - Efficiency: I've alluded to the poor shooting, but the numbers were really quite grim. The Cards finished just 16-56 from the floor, 28.6%. They were 2-11 from three, giving them an 18.2% clip there. That equates to just 31% from inside the arc, an abysmal number.  Given that they scored 24 points in the paint, that shows Louisville effectively could not hit a jumper in addition to struggling on layups. Arizona's six blocks played a factor, but certainly didn't make the total difference. As I noted, Louisville found salvation at the free throw line. Lowercase e.

Final Score: ___e

Louisville opens their season with a loss for the first time since 2015 when they lost to Cal 75-71. Louisville went on to start the season 1-4 before going 15-1 in conference play and finishing the regular season 25-6. They'd drop their first game in the conference tournament and went on to lose to DePaul by one in the second round of the NCAA tournament. I don't suspect this Louisville team to start quite so slow as they did in 2015, but they'll need to find some rhythm on offense fast. Next up, the Cards are at home on Tuesday against Bellarmine.

Volleyball Sweeps GT to Remain Undefeated

In the only game played at home, Louisville volleyball eschewed the drama of overtime (mostly) by sweeping Georgia Tech to move to 24-0. They couldn't miss out on all the fun of extra play, though, as it took them 27 points to put the Yellow Jackets away in the third set. Louisville ultimately came away with the 25-21, 25-21, 27-25 victory, fighting off a pair of GT set points in the third to complete the set comeback and the sweep.

Georgia Tech came into the L&N Federal Credit Union Arena ranked 14th in the country and gave Louisville an extremely close match, despite the final score line showing a sweep. The Cards trailed early in the first and third, losing the race to ten in the final set. In the first, Louisville was able to take a four point lead twice throughout, but GT tied the set at 20 before the Cards rattled off a 5-1 run (four kills and a block) to squash GT's comeback attempt. The second set was the only one in which the Cards never trailed, but they were also unable to stretch to a lead larger than three points before Anna Stevenson's final kill made it 25-21. 

In the third, both teams came out of halftime intent on victory. Louisville was looking to assert their dominance and complete the sweep, while GT intended to take a set off of the top-ranked Cards and extend the match. Each team may have been just a little too amped up, as both hit for their lowest set percentage in the match, and service errors plagued both sides. The Cards finished the third set with 8 errors, despite just two of GT's four total blocks coming in the set. Georgia Tech won the race to ten, but Louisville beat them to both 15 and 20 points, the latter coming with a three-point lead. GT stormed back, using a 5-1 run to take the lead. The Cards settled down and won the next two points, making it 23-22. GT, though, won two straight of their own, setting up set point. Louisville fought it off with a big kill by Stevenson, but yielded another kill to give GT a second shot. Again, it was Stevenson who came up with a big kill. An Anna DeBeer ace gave the Cards match point, and Stevenson and Tori Dilfer combined for the game winning block. 

It has become a trend, it seems, that if Louisville is playing on match point, Anna Stevenson is looking to win the match. She has slammed home numerous match winning kills while last night's match added to her list of match winning blocks. Louisville would have returned a number of well performing players from last season, but the decisions by Stevenson and Dilfer to extend their eligibility have given Louisville a massive boost this season.

On the match, Louisville once again returned to form at the net, winning the blocking battle 12-4. Their average has dipped a tad, but they are still blocking at a fantastic clip of 2.9 per set, while their opponents manage just 1.7 per set. Louisville's strength this season has been putting the ball on the floor on the opponent's side, regardless of situation. They have hit around blocks, shown a keen ability to tool blocks (looking at you Claire Chaussee), and done well to get into position, both individually and as a team, to send the ball right back where it came from.

The Cards also won the serving battle, finishing with seven aces and just five errors. GT had just two aces and erred three times, with two coming in key situations in that third set. We've talked a lot about Louisville's service game over the years, as they are frequently unable to keep the errors in check. However, their service point ratio has been creeping up steadily throughout the year. Louisville is averaging 1.7 aces per set this season, while their opponents average just 0.6. On the other hand, Louisville has erred just 189 times, compared to their opponents' 187 total service errors. Louisville's 136 total aces means they've given up 53 points while serving. This seems like a large number in the wrong direction, but it gets put into perspective when you account for the fact that Louisville's opponents have just 51 aces this season. That means the Cards are winning the service battle on the year by a net 83 points, just under 3.5 points per match. 

I've mentioned Anna Stevenson and Claire Chaussee already, and they were the two that led the team offensively last night. Stevenson finished with 12 kills, while Chaussee added 11. Chaussee finished with a 0.360 hitting percentage, behind only Amaya Tillman. Tillman hit 0.429 by snagging six kills and no errors on fourteen attempts. Stevenson still functionally leads the team in hitting this season as she has hit 0.436 this year on 417 attempts. In raw percentage, she trails only Alexa Hendricks, who has hit 0.667 on just three attempts. Aiko Jones added eight kills and DeBeer had six. The final kill on the team went to Tori Dilfer, who scored it on an amazing diving dig that was returned over and found an open spot on the GT side.

Dilfer led the team in digs, finishing with 13 while still managing to assist on 34 of Louisville's 39 kills. Elena Scott had 10 digs, while DeBeer finished with 9 and Ayden Bartlett 7. Louisville's 12 total blocks were spread out, as Stevenson, Dilfer, Tillman, and DeBeer all grabbed solos with each of those four and Jones all having at least one block assist. 

The Cards looked a bit shaky at times when playing for the number one ranking on Sunday against UNC, but handled their first top-ranked match well. They've navigated the rigorous back end of their schedule so far, but the hits will keep on coming. Up next, the Cards will travel to South Bend to take on Notre Dame Monday night at 7PM. The Fighting Irish are just 10-13 this season Louisville and Notre Dame have seemingly never played a normal game in any sport so all eyes will be on two teams Monday night on the linear ACC Network channel.



  1. To many missed shots,what's up with liz Dixon, this is her year.
    Pick it up K Smith & Liz Dixon.
    Let's go Cards!

  2. These are absolutely wonderful team reports. They take much time and effort to produce -- the efforts are not appreciated enough but I love reading them! Paulie is a Louisville gem for leading this site.


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