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Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thursday Cardinal Couple - Basketball Scheduling and Volleyball Commentary

Basketball Non-Conference Schedule

While Fall sports haven't even started, we're already starting to get some preparations under way for basketball over the winter.  The non-conference portion of the schedule was announced yesterday and its quite an impressive lineup. Thanks to a tournament in the mix, it may be even better than what you see at first glance.

The season opener begins with the Cal Bears returning the favor of the west coast visit we made last year by coming into the KFC Yum! Center on November 15th.

A week later is the first road game, although its not a long road trip, has the Cardinals playing the friendly folks down at Western Kentucky.  Of course, there have been many ties between UofL and WKU, and not just in Women's Basketball, but its great to see that good relationship continue.

The next trip is where things get interesting.  On November 27th, 28th, and 29th, UofL will be participating in the Gulf Coast Showcase in Florida.  Because this is a bracket type of tournament setup, we only know, at this point, the opening round opponent for the Cards, and that's Marist.  The subsequent two round opponents will depend on who wins and who loses in the various games.  All teams will play three games, with consolation rounds making up the games for the various losers.  If UofL beats Marist, they will play against the winner of the LSU and Purdue game, both teams with significant WBB history, though neither has been really at the top echelon of play in recent years.  Beyond that, the other teams participating in the tournament are Dayton, which we know from personal experience can surprise, Maine, Standford, and Missouri State.  While Missouri State is no powerhouse, one would be wise to keep an eye on them.  Stanford, under Tara VanDerveer, has frequently found their way to the narrow end of the NCAA brackets.

The Big Ten/ACC Challenge starts December, with the Cards heading up north to chilly Lansing, MI to play Michigan State, before returning home to a bout with Valparaiso at the KFC Yum! Center.

The annual matchup with UK will be December 10th, no doubt in Memorial Coliseum, rather than Rupp Arena.  At least the lack of Air Conditioning shouldn't be an issue in mid-December.

Returning home, IUPUI and Dartmouth come to visit on the 13th and 15th.  Next a road trip to slightly warmer climes, heading down to take on Tennessee Tech and College of Charleston.

After a brief Christmas break, UT-Martin comes to Louisville on December 28th.

A rare late-season non-conference games finishes off the slate on February 15th with former conference foe, and always tough, USF coming to the 'Ville.

Jeff's Take

Overall a decent non-conference schedule that will serve as a good warmup for what will, of course, be an extremely challenging conference schedule in what is undoubtedly the toughest women's basketball conference in the country at this point.  I'm looking forward to another chance to meet up with Dayton in the Gulf Coast Showcase, assuming that comes to pass, though a possible game with Stanford is an interesting possibility (in the bracket setup, it'll be one or the other, it can't be both, and it could be neither).

I always enjoy when Western and UofL play in any sport.  The relationship between the two schools is good, and there's so much cross-pollination between coaching staffs (again, in multiple sports) that its always fun to see how they'll match up.

Watch out for Michigan State, and, of course, the Kentucky game is always a challenge, especially in Memorial. These two games will give the Cards a good measure of where they stand as a team before really digging into conference play.

Volleyball Commentary

Since Paulie covered my typical Tuesday article, he also stole a bit of my Volleyball thunder, which is fair enough, but I did want to share some of my thoughts on the sport as it nears.

A few quick my mother pointed out in the comments Tuesday, I do really enjoy watching curling as well, and I don't really have my bike connected to Twitter...I usually just update Strava from it.

Paulie's commentary about our passing needing to be better is certainly right on target...and we talked about it plenty last season.  Yes, Katie George is back, and no, she won't be wearing her Miss Kentucky USA crown out on the court.

I can't wait to see Erin Fairs playing in Cardinal red after she spent three years pretty much owning the volleyball courts in the state of Florida.

In the middle, I don't really think of Maggie DeJong as a backup to Tess Clark.  Generally a middle blocker will only play half of the rotation while the libero plays the back row portions of the rotation.  While the libero is in the back row for the first middle, the second middle is working their way across the front row.  In our line-up last year, and I expect the same this year, Tess and Maggie played the middle positions with only one being on the court at any time and pretty much evenly split.  The change from last year will be that, instead of Roxanne McVey swapping for them at libero, I expect it to be freshman, and 2nd year Junior National Team member, Molley Sauer in that role.  That means that Jasmine Bennett will really be the backup middle, with a possibility of Janelle Jenkins sliding over to fill in at middle like she did some last year when DeJong missed several games with a minor leg injury.

I hope to see some significant playing time for returners Gabbie Wiley, Roxanne McVey, Eleni Georgiafandis, and Lindsay Palmer, and I suspect we will for McVey, but the court is getting a might bit crowded for Wiley, and Georgiafandis.  The chance to see a lot of Palmer would come if they decide to do a two setter lineup like we did a few years ago with Katie George and Hannah Kvitle.  Honestly, I don't think this is terribly likely, so I expect we'll really only see Lindsay for some serving duties and some fill-in minutes when the coaches need to chat with Katie George for a few minutes.

Kali Eaken transferred after a year at Kansas State (and after winning just about every high school award in that state her senior year), but she red-shirted the year, so she will have a full four years of play here at UofL barring injury.

I do expect better things out of this Volleyball team than they accomplished last year.  With only two graduates and two transfers out, and none of them being a core part of the team, the bulk of the experience and play returns, and it's bolstered with some excellent additions.

Your first chance to see the team in action will be August 22nd for their Red & Black scrimmage at Cardinal Arena (time is still listed as TBA, but you can likely look forward to an afternoon start time).  The home opener is September 4th in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge at 7pm vs Minnesota (come early and catch some of the Wisconsin vs North Carolina match) and the 5th vs Wisconsin, also at 7pm (Minnesota vs UNC is the opening act that night).


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