A 1-2 weekend certainly isn't what Coach Anne Kordes had planned for the home opening weekend for Volleyball, but that's the result we're looking at now. After dropping the 4-set match to what is looking like a very good Santa Clara team Friday night, the wide-netters split the day yesterday.
They started the day with Stony Brook, a 10am start, some of which you heard in the background of The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour if you tuned in. Another 4-set affair, the Cardinals were victorious in this outing, 27-25, 25-8, 22-25, 25-19. Take a second and look at the scores of those first two sets. The tale is also told in the set hitting percentages. In the first set, Stony Brook hit a passable .225, and then in the 2nd set, that dropped to a dismal -.200. UofL told much the same tale in the 3rd and 4th sets, taking the loss in the 3rd after hitting only .088, and bring that back up to a respectable .316 in the 4th to finish the match.
photo by Bryan Eaken
UofL has, in recent years had some excellent middle hitting, leaning on Tess Clark and Maggie DeJong for the past two years, and this year seeing Jasmine Bennett joining Clark in the middle. The team has had a tough time getting the middle attack firing on all cylinders. This is partly the legacy of Katie George's graduation. With a new setter running the show, the hitters have to get on the same page with Kali Eaken on timing and placement of those quick sets in the middle to be at their most effective. Clark seems to have taken the worst of this as Bennett has clearly inherited her father's leaping ability. With great hang time, and a longer, lankier body type, Bennett is able to adjust on-the-fly and make something out of a set that may not have been in the ideal spot and time. That having been said, Clark and setter Kali Eaken really started connecting in the Stony Brook match which bodes well for The Cards for the rest of the season. Clark hit a very impressive .593 with 18 kills in the match. As Eaken continues to fine tune the connection with Clark and Bennett, expect the Louisville middle attack to get even more potent.
photo by Bryan Eaken
Other performers in the match were Morgan Miller, hitting .333 with 11 kills on 24 attempts. Miller isn't a big power hitter, but she can get the job done through finesse and placement at times. That attack becomes more potent through experience and practice to develop the wisdom to be able to read the defense and place the ball appropriately. Janelle Jenkins tallied 9 kills on 23 attempts for an acceptable .261. She made contributions in other ways as well, getting in on 5 blocks and picking up 9 digs. Molly Sauer continues to do Molly things, with 18 digs for the 4 sets, and Gabbie Wiley showed why she's getting time in the defense, picking up 11 digs. Don't forget that Wiley, as a Defensive Specialist having to substitute traditionally, only gets about half the court time that Sauer does as the Libero with the freedom to enter and leave the match freely in place of Clark and Bennett. Freshman phenom Melanie McHenry put down 11 kills on 30 attempts for a .200 average.
The nightcap saw the matchup between UofL and Auburn. Auburn, sporting a couple of Louisville-native players, brought a good crowd in support, along with a never-give-up attitude similar to that seen by The Cards in Bowling Green State last weekend. Also similar, the need to go to 5 sets.
The Cards started this one off with a bang, taking the first two sets 25-15, 25-17, but then the wheels fell off, falling to the Tigers 14-25, 25, 22-25, 8-15.
UofL started off with a team hitting percentage of .483 in the first set. Beyond that, well, things just aren't very pretty. The team average dropped to .161 in the 2nd, .000 in the 3rd, showed a meager spark of life in the 4th at .219, which was pretty well extinguished in the 5th at .136.
Kordes has been looking to her team to serve aggressively this year, but last night the results weren't great. While they did tally 5 services aces, they suffered 10 service errors to do it. Of course, the point of serving aggressively isn't just to get aces, but as much to force a bad pass by the other team, taking them out of system and making it impossible to attack aggressively. In general, the aggressive serving has done exactly that, but in a couple of cases so far this year, such as with Auburn, the opponent has been able to scramble to deal with a poor pass and, if not return a super-aggressive attack, at least put enough pepper on it to keep the Cards on their toes as well. The difference in this match was that, in the first set, Auburn wasn't having much success in this, but started to put it together better and better as the match went on.
photo by Bryan Eaken
The stats sheet for this one didn't have much to be excited about. The bright spot, again, is in the middle. The Cards were out of system quite a lot, which effectively prevents utilizing the middle attack, but when they were able to get there, it was pretty effective. Jasmine Bennett topped the kill percentage with .333, 8 kills on 18 attempts; with Tess Clark close behind with .308, 12 kills on 26 attempts. Janelle Jenkins also topped double-digits with 12 kills on 41 attempts, for a .146 average...not exactly something to write home about. Melanie McHenry put 14 away, but with 8 errors on 48 attempts, worked out to a .130 average...that's a lot of squandered opportunities.
McHenry may have been more valuable to the Cards as a defensive player in this match. While Molly Sauer got the team high digs with 20, because of course she did, McHenry followed with 16. Gabbie Wiley again covered a lot of floor defensively, accounting for 11 digs, matched by Kali Eaken. Of course, having your setter taking digs is not ideal, so while it's a good accomplishment for Eaken, for best results overall, she should have fewer.
They're Not Getting Any Easier
The road ahead for the Kordes Krewe doesn't look to get any easier. Next weekend is the ACC/Big Ten Challenge in North Carolina. The host, currently 12th-ranked North Carolina, along with the currently 21st-ranked-but-probably-unranked-after-tomorrow Cards will match up against current number 2 and number 6, Wisconsin and Minnesota, respectively. After that, is the Battle for the Bluegrass as Kentucky comes to the KFC Yum! Center. Kentucky is currently 4-2, with losses to a quite good Southern California team, and a head scratching 3-0 loss to Northern Iowa.
Frankly, for the Cards to get wins against any of these three upcoming matches, they'll need to clean up the errors and just generally tighten up their gameplay. The Eaken to Clark/Bennett pipeline is starting to get on the same page, but we'll need solid passing to enable Eaken to bring it into its full effect.
Field Hockey is Rolling
Another great with for the Sowry Sticks, with UofL Field Hockey winning decisively over Brown by a score of 7-1. With a 22-4 shots advantage, and 16-2 shots-on-goal advantage, it's easy to understand why the Cardinals came out on top of this one. Scoring credits go to newcomer graduate student Lizzie Gittens with two, and then a spread attack with one each to Shannon Sloss, Minout Mink, Lotta Kahlert, Taylor Stone, and Annie Himsworth.
Field Hockey will be in action again today at 1pm against the Richmond Spiders. We'll need a win, or have to burn down Trager Stadium, just to be sure.
Radio With Background Noise
The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour broadcast from yesterday is up on the SoundCloud. You can listen to me say "Uh" a lot, as well as revel in the background ambiance of a morning volleyball match at The KFC Yum! Center.
Really, I think the broadcast went pretty well, but I was definitely distracted by trying to do 4 or 5 different things at once.