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Friday, December 24, 2010

Cardinal fans have many things to be celebrating

-David Watson is thankful


by David Watson
Special Correspondent to CARDINAL COUPLE

There is a favorite Christmas song of mine this time of year. It's called "It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year" and if you listen to your local radio station that plays non-stop Christmas music this time of year, you'll be likely to hear it. I'll admit that it mirrors my thoughts of this time of year also. The Christmas holiday season is my favorite time of the year. It probably started when I was a little boy. I grew up on a small farm outside of Louisville and my brothers, my parents and grandparents always made a big production out of the Christmas season. This has transferred over to my current situation. My wife and children do the same and enjoy the magic of the Christmas season with my large extended family. Still lucky enough to have my parents, parent-in-laws and three out of my four grandparents around to join in. The majority of us will gather later today at that same farmhouse to spend a couple of days for Christmas.

Cardinal fans have many things to celebrate and be thankful for this time of season also. Since this is a women's sports blog, I will devote the majority of this article to that aspect of Louisville sports. I must mention, though, the successes of the Louisville men's Soccer team and the thrilling ride Ken Lolla took us on in December. Can't forget the 'strong' football Cards and the Beef O' Brady bowl win, either. Rick Pitino has another winner in men's basketball and they finished the 2009-10 season well, too. Baseball is rolling under Dan McDonnell and the upcoming season in Jim Patterson Stadium looks to be a fun and victorious one. I'm thankful for the great memories these teams brought me over the last twelve months and can't wait to see what the next twelve offer.
Jeff Walz has given Cardinal women's basketball many things to cheer about in his career at Louisville and the past twelve months have been pretty remarkable. Despite the disappointing end to the 2009-10 season, those few who were left on the injured and decimated Lady Cards squad fought till the end and brought pride and joy to Cardinal fans who watched them battle night after night in the always tough BIG EAST while out-numbered, out-talented and under-staffed. Realize that a half dozen of their losses were by six points or less and they finished the season with only eight healthy players. Gwen Rucker played two sports. Shelby Harper was a walk-on. Brandie Radde had re-joined the team in mid-season. The news started getting better when we looked at the first five recruits that were ready to become freshmen Cardinals. All top notch players and a top ten class by themselves. Then, the word came out of Portland, Oregon that #8 in the nation Shoni Schimmel was ready to don the red and black. The number changed to a top 5 class. The Cards also picked up a talented and wonderfully charming center from UNC named Cierra Warren. Wait till you see her on the court next year, Lady Card fans! Next, the best player in Kentucky girls high school hoops, Sara Hammond committed to Louisville over Connecticut. Also on the way, another standout in Quaneisha McCurty. And, the promise of one or two more. Finally, the beginning of the season and the Lady Cards did not disappoint. A gutty performance in a sold out KFC YUM Center against Tennessee. Another capacity crowd for the remarkable win over Kentucky. The freshmen gaining starting roles and Schimmel dazzling fans with her wizard skills on the court. Transfer Tia Gibbs playing lights out. Monique Reid scoring with ease and skill. Automatic Becky Burke from past the three point circle. I could go on and on. I'm very thankful for this current group of Lady Card basketball players and look forward to their quest to be the best in the BIG EAST.

It was a young and inexperienced group of Cardinal women's volleyball players that opened the season for Leonid Yelin this fall. There was promise, though. Outside hitter Lola Arslanbeckova returned and Gwen Rucker had made the decision to concentrate solely on volleyball. Anastasia Artemeva showed promise. It started slowly for the team, barely over .500 after twelve matches. Then, with a few adjustments and the improvement that comes with experience, they kicked it into high gear. Defeating BIG EAST powerhouse Cincinnati in the regular season. Finishing second in the conference standing. Winning the BIG EAST Tournament for the third straight year. Advancing to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The future looks very bright in 2011 for Cardinal Volleyball. Lola, Gwen, Anastasia return along with Emily Juhl, Caitlin Welch and most of the 2010 squad. Cardinal Arena is going to be a crazy place next year and I can't wait for the excitement. Thank you, Volley Cards for the fun and success.

Pam Bustin geared her field hockey team toward great goals in 2010 and they didn't disappoint. A grueling early schedule paid dividends when Big East play began and the Cards made it to the BIG EAST tournament as a #4 seed. The incredible win over UConn at Trager Stadium in the regular season featured the largest crowd ever to watch UofL Field Hockey. Nicole Youman led the ladies to a successful season and was someone to be very thankful for during her four years as a Cardinal. Even though Pam has left to take over the Duke program, she is replaced by a very experienced and knowledgeable head coach in Justine Sowry from UMass. And Sowry has a lot of talent returning for 2011. It's going to be a great season for TEAM CARDINAL and I'm thankful that Cardinal fans get to see great talent in a state of the art facility.

Sandy Pearsall gave us exciting times with her 2010 Louisville Softball team. All-American Melissa Roth behind the plate, Kristen Wadwell on the mound, hard hitting Chelsea Bemis and a host of other Slugger Cards started out with a roar in 2010 and ended up 41-19 overall and 16-6 in the BIG EAST. They came in third in the BIG EAST regular season and second in the BIG EAST Tournament. They played four games in the NCAA Tournament before bowing out to Tennessee in Knoxville. Sandy's team isn't satisfied with these lofty accomplishments. They have Bemis, Colby Wherry, Alicja Wolny, Jordan Trimble, Kristin Austin, Katelyn Mann, Chelsea Leonard and Tori Collins just a few of the stars returning, plus a wealth of new talent. The Cards will be a force to be dealt with when it all gets started in March.
Be thankful and excited about the successes Louisville had in women's soccer, rowing, track and field, lacrosse, golf, tennis, cross country, swimming and diving this year as well. Know that all of these squads are prepared to give the fans bigger and better in 2011.
And if you live in the Louisville area, be thankful that you are in the best college sports town around. Take time to make the short drive to see these events, these teams. I no longer live within a short drive to witness these events. Each trip to Louisville to watch a sporting event is a celebration for me and my family. My oldest daughter wants to be the next Monique Reid or Becky Burke, Shelby Harper or Shoni Schimmel (it changes daily). My youngest is determined to be the best women's soccer player in the history of the school. We'll find out about that in a dozen years or so. My son wants to be the guy that breaks all the passing records for Louisville football. I'm a pretty lucky (and busy) guy with these dreams of my children.
I'm thankful, also, for the chance to write for such a great site as CARDINAL COUPLE. A chance meeting with Paul at a women's basketball game last year developed into a great friendship and I wish I had the time to contribute more to this wonderful daily update of UofL women's sports. Me, my wife and kids (so far) are Cardinal fans and she's an alumni. I'll admit that I was a attendee of another school southwest of Louisville but 100% 'birdbrained' now.
I hope the rest of your 2010 is a great one. I hope that your 2011 is the best year ever for you and yours. And, I hope that'll you'll support, enjoy, attend and cheer on the pursuits of all of the University of Louisville athletic teams in the next 12 months. We'll see you at some of them. We'll be depending on you to pull them through in person at the ones we can't make.
David Watson is a free-lance journalist, part time claims adjuster and full time husband and dad in a small town in central Indiana. He writes for several trade publications, monthly newsletters and (thankfully) for us here at CARDINAL COUPLE when he isn't out looking at banged up automobiles. His wife is a registered nurse specializing in elderly care. You can contact him here at: Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to your and yours, David and thank you for sharing with us this Holiday Season.
Now quit reading this and get out there and get those last minute gifts! Pick me up some egg-nog and where's my country ham?

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