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Saturday, October 21, 2023

Field Hockey Falls; Volleyball Comes Back -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Field Hockey Drops Stunner to Syracuse

After opening the season undefeated in non-conference play and opening Trager Stadium with a 7-0 record, Louisville field hockey has now lost three straight and two in a row at home. The latest in their unfortunate run is a 4-1 loss to Syracuse in which everything went the wrong way for Louisville. Head Coach Justine Sowry called it "a tough night" and said that the "bottom line" was that "Syracuse came to play." The unspoken part of a statement like that is that Louisville didn't. The Orange scored early and often, opening the scoring in the fourth minute and netting a goal in each of the first three quarters. The fourth goal came in the third quarter, just four minutes after the third. 

After the fourth goal, a scary moment saw Aimee Plumb take a hit from a ball above her shoulders. Play was stopped for a fairly significant amount of time as Plumb was attended to on the field before she was ultimately able to walk off. Unexpectedly, Plumb was able to return to the game to open the fourth quarter. We hope that she's alright and has no further issues moving forward.

After the injury, Louisville showed some signs of life offensively. Plumb had a shot in the fourth that was high of the cage, and the Cards would go on to have all eight of their shots in the game come in the quarter. Louisville forced four saves and scored their only goal off of a penalty corner. The Cards took three in the game, all in the fourth. Had Louisville had an ounce of that offensive effort in the rest of the game, things might have turned out a little bit differently. 

In the end, Syracuse outshot Louisville 16-8 (10-5) and took nine corners compared to Louisville's three. The Orange converted two of those while Louisville converted just the one. Despite Louisville's offensive explosion in the fourth, Syracuse still hung around, taking four of their corners in that quarter. Since Louisville won the fourth 1-0, that means Syracuse was 2/5 on corners in the first three quarters. Not great. Merlijn van der Vegt was on their game, keeping the Orange out of the cage on six occasions, but the onslaught was just too great.

The loss moves Louisville to 12-4 on the year and 2-3 in ACC play, and will likely take them out of the top-10 for the first time this season. Louisville fell out of the top-5 for the first time this week after the losses to Duke and Iowa. The Cards will look to get the train back on the tracks for the last leg of the season tomorrow against Appalachian State. Louisville will host the Mountaineers for Senior Day at 12PM, and the match will be available on ACC Network Extra. Tomorrow's Trager Center finale precedes Louisville's regular season finale against Boston College on Friday, the 27th. 

The ACC Championship begins on Halloween. A win against BC would move Louisville to 3-3 and should put them ahead of Virginia as the Cards own the head-to-head victory over the Cavaliers. If Syracuse also wins (they play Wake Forest), a three-way tie would likely not work out for Louisville. Since the ACC has made it virtually impossible for me to find the tiebreaker rules for the ACC Championship, I can't say exactly how it would work, but all three teams being at 3-3 would also mean the three are 1-1 against each other (Louisville beat Virginia beat Syracuse beat Louisville). All three teams would have beaten Wake, and Louisville and Syracuse would have beaten BC while Virginia knocked off UNC. Virginia would most likely have the edge, as they hold a +3 goal difference in conference play. Louisville is -3 and Syracuse is -4. Both would improve with wins, but either outscoring their opponent by enough to overtake Virginia is unlikely. 

Virginia will also be frustrated to be in this position at all, as they're hosting this year's tournament. After the loss to Louisville, Virginia looks set to win five of their last six games (they're at James Madison on Tuesday). The Cavs have won three straight, thumping Wake 5-0 on the road, winning at Duke, then knocking off UNC at home in their conference finale. Unfortunately, UVA's win over Duke came after a home loss to the Blue Devils nine days prior. The earlier game was the conference matchup.

Louisville has to take things one game at a time, though. They're still in a good position to make the NCAA Tournament, barring anything crazy, as even a loss to BC wouldn't be the end of the world. The Eagles are 11-5 on the year and they'll be competing with Louisville for a spot in the three-way tie for third as they sit at 2-3. The Cards can take a big step toward achieving their goals with a convincing win on Sunday over App State.

Volleyball Completes Reverse Sweep Over Wake

Louisville fans were left tracking last night's volleyball match via StatBroadcast as there was no video due to insufficient infrastructure at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons entered last night's match at 14-5 overall and 5-3 in ACC play and their arena holds around 700, so the lack of streaming ability, especially in this day and age, is surprising. Nevertheless, it was a night of early frustration for Cards fans as they could only watch the score go in directions not quite expected one point at a time without any context as to how the team was playing.

It was a fairly disastrous start for Louisville, as Wake jumped out to a 7-0 lead on just two kills. The Cards were on the wrong end of two unforced errors, a block, an ace, and a bad set (by Phekran Kong). Louisville finally got going when PK made up for that error with a kill and two solo blocks to make the score 8-3. Wake continued to keep Louisville at arm's distance, though, pushing their lead to 12-5 before a 6-1 run for Louisville made it 13-11. A kill by Wake Forest broke Louisville's second 3-point stretch and started a sequence of 10 side-outs in 11 points. Amidst that run, Coach Dani Busboom Kelly made an early decision to substitute Anna DeBeer out of the back row in favor of freshman Kamden Schrand for defense and passing. The Cards remained unable to make many inroads into Wake's advantage, and the set ultimately ended on a service error to give Wake the 1-0 lead at 25-21. It was Louisville's fifth service error of the first set.

The second set started with evidence that Louisville might have sorted it out and settled in on the road. Wake won the first point before a service error handed the ball to Anna DeBeer, who won three straight points including two aces. After traded points made it 5-2, Louisville's momentum evaporated when Wake won seven of the next eight points to take a 9-6 lead. The last two of those points were aces hit at  DeBeer, and Schrand took over the spot on the back row once more. After a short run to make it 14-14, Louisville looked like they would force their way into a tie in the match for most of the second set, with each team trading pairs of points and Louisville holding a lead as late as 21-20. The serving line came back to bite Louisville again, though, as an error and an ace saw Wake go up 23-21. Louisville could only trade side-outs before Wake won 25-23.

Up against the ropes, Louisville headed to the locker room at halftime. If you're a sunshine and rainbows person, you might imagine a Kurt Russell Miracle on Ice type of speech from DBK. Otherwise, you might think of something like Robert Loggia's tirade in Necessary Roughness. "Let's analyze what's been working for us... NOT A GD THING!" Whichever it was, it worked. Louisville came out in the third and jumped out to a 3-0 lead. A service error (what else?) broke their opening run, but the Cards would keep their heads down and ultimately work their way to a 13-7 lead. Louisville never allowed a run of more than two points from Wake Forest in the third, and they continued to apply pressure to take the third set 25-15. Though the Cards committed three more service errors in the third, they added four more aces, evening things out a touch. They had held off the upset for one set, but they still needed two more.

There was no drama in the fourth. Louisville was absolutely dominant on their way to a 25-5 set victory. The serving woes continued, as two of Wake's five points came from service errors, but Louisville's offense was electric. They committed just one error, on a block, and hit 0.52 in the set. Wake hit -0.25. Having won the last two sets, Louisville held all the momentum and finished the job. The Cards won the fifth 15-7, holding an 8-3 lead at the side change. 

Statistically, the match looks like Louisville was in complete control and that Wake stole a couple of sets, rather than Louisville needing to buckle down for the win. The Cards hit 0.338 in the match while holding the Deacs to 0.097. Louisville had 14 aces to Wake's 5 and 14 blocks to Wake's 6. The Cards committed just twelve total errors on the night, while Wake had 30. After halftime, Louisville had five errors. Wake had 20. What made it tough for the Cards was 15 service errors. That it didn't cost them the match is good, but it has to get cleaned up. Despite being subbed out, Anna DeBeer still finished with a double-double, adding 12 digs to her match-leading 17 kills. Charitie Luper was close behind, adding 15 kills while PK had 10 kills and five solo blocks. Ten of Louisville's fourteen blocks were solo.

Louisville lives to fight on, currently sitting in second in the ACC by virtue of Pitt having played an extra match. The Cards are at Virginia Tech on Sunday at 1PM. The match will be available on ACC Network Extra. VT is 2-7 in conference and just 12-8 overall. Pitt is off tomorrow, so Louisville can move back into a tie for first with a win.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

I'm out this week but the show must go on. The crew is sure to lament whatever is going on with field hockey while also discussing the effectively season-ending loss by women's soccer. Fortunately, volleyball prevented last night from being a total nightmare, so there is positive news to discuss. As always, you can check out the live stream of the show by going to the Cardinal Couple YouTube page and clicking on the live video. Jeff usually creates that about an hour before the show, which officially starts at 11 AM Eastern. If the live time doesn't work for you, there are plenty of playback options, so be sure to check out whichever is best for you!

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Until next time, Go Cards!


All photos by Jared Anderson

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