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Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tuesday Cardinal Couple -- Volleyball impresses Worldwide...The return of Michelle

Volleyball Shows Life

Its almost certainly too little, too late, but the Cards Volleyball team showed some life over the weekend.

In matches against #21 Duke, and #7 North Carolina, the Louisville squad took a loss in both games, but showed spark and some great play that has been hinted at all season, but hasn't frequently made it to the surface.

The team finally came together and played like they were really capable of, starting in the third and final set of the match against Duke, Friday night.  After, frankly embarrassing, 25-15 and 25-12 losses in the first two sets, the Cards came out of the break and pressed Duke hard in the third set before finally falling to The Blue Devils in a 34-32 barn burner.

So what accounted for the Cards resurgence?  There are a few factors, I believe.

First, with Roxanne McVey out with mono, Gabbie Wiley moved over to the Libero position, and between the two matches may just have cemented her role in that spot barring a challenge next season from the just signed Molly Sauer out of Assumption.  Gabbie has shown that she's more mobile, and more consistent in her passing than Roxanne.

Second, we started getting some more effective blocking.  While it doesn't really show on the stat sheet, with UofL only marking 4 total blocks overall, we had a lot more tipped, deflected, and otherwise slowed shots due to blocking on the opposing hitters.  The blocking helps the defense get a solid pass on the ball and gets the offense in system for much higher effectiveness.

Third, I think the team was more relaxed in their playing.  Maybe we're seeing a bit of fatalism, and having accepted that there isn't going to be a post-season...I suppose it was still a possibility when the match was played Friday, but already a long-shot...the team came out with nothing to lose, and nothing really on the line except pride.  I'm sure that makes it easier to be loose and calm, rather than playing so tense and making mistakes.

Whatever the causes for the newfound play, it continued on Sunday against North Carolina.  This one was competitive, against the #7 team in the country, all the way through the match.  Again, the Cards took the loss, but there is no shame in this one at all.

All four sets were close battles, with 25-21, 20-25, 27-25, 26-24.  So a total of 3 points separated the overall scores.  Again, blocking helped, with Louisville outblocking UNC 7-6 in total blocks, and Tess Clark hit a blistering 16 of 26 for a torrid .615 hitting average.  Katie George found a team that apparently hasn't yet scouted her dump and was able to put five of nine down.

Overall, what I saw this weekend has me very excited for next year's season.  While there is one more match Wednesday evening at 4 p.m. against Pitt (on ESPN3, who has pretty much set up shop in Cardinal Arena here in the late season), the only thing really to be decided is final records and whether we go out on a win or a loss.

We lose Courtney Robison and Tara Gowan to graduation but with the returning talent, and newcomers coming in, I think this team has the potential to put a good season run together next year.  Nothing is guaranteed, of course, and our passing still has to get better, but I saw a spark of life this weekend, and a hint of what these players are really capable of.

Spend the time in the off-season wisely volleyers, I'll be back in my seats late August and ready to go, I hope you all are too.

The Hilltoppers Visit

Tonight we welcome WKU head coach Michelle Clark-Heard and Assistant Coach Candyce Bingham back to Louisville for what may prove to be the first real test of this year's Women's Basketball team.  Clark-Heard has proven that she can wring every last bit of performance out of her players in seasons past, and they are obviously familiar with Coach Walz's coaching techniques and tactics, so you know they will be prepared for what our team has to throw at them.

Tip is at 7 at the KFC Yum! Center.  I would say wear red, but WKU's colors are red and white, so maybe go with the black for this one.

This Hilltopper team is no pushover. They finished second in the Pre-Season WNIT. They'll probably win C-USA. Gooch and Govan are legit All-American candidates. 

Paulie will have the coverage tomorrow, but I will not be able to attend. Go Cards!


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