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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Basketball in the Spotlight - Tuesday Cardinal Couple

Walz Visits Connecticut

ESPN has a full day planned of interviews and analysis of the coming college basketball season with the best coaches in the league.  The coaches are gathering on ESPN's campus in Bristol Connecticut today.  Some of those interviews and discussions will happen live on the air and some will be recorded for later use.

UofL coach Jeff Walz has been invited to be part of the illustrious group, along with Geno Auriemma (UConn), Cori Close (UCLA), Muffet McGraw (Notre Dame), Dawn Staley (South Carolina), and Karen Aston (Texas).  six players will also be highlighted: Diamond DeShields (Tenn), Kelsey Mitchel (Ohio State), Kelsey Plum (Washington), Leticia Romero (Florida State), Brianna Turner (Notre Dame), and A'ja Wilson (South Carolina).

Look for video from today to be played on the ESPN family of networks throughout the season.

Recovering From a Rough Volleyball Weekend

I spoke on the radio show Saturday about how positively I saw the matches from this weekend for
Volleyball.  The matchup Friday was against #11 Florida State, and the Cards wide-netters played 3 really good games against them.  While they only won one of them, the other two early sets were competitive and UofL showed some of the best play they've played all year.  Alas, while I'm talking about 3 sets here, the Cards and Noles did play 4 after UofL won the first set.  The 4th set?  Well, can we just forget that one happened?  One stat that kind of throws me for a loop.  After hitting .216 and .310 in the first 2 sets (again, UofL won the first), the Cards took FSU to 29-27 in the 3rd while only hitting .091.  That's certainly not something you see everyday.

The match Sunday was a hard-fought battle with Miami.  The Canes aren't really a powerhouse team this year, but they scramble really well.  This one went a full 5 sets with even more bonus volleyball in the 4th.  The match was a close back-and-forth affair with all sets but the first (25-16) being close results.  I don't think the Cards played as well Sunday as they did Friday, but I'm still seeing improvements.

At the beginning of the season, I commented about the lack of "connection" between setter Kali Eaken and the hitters, most noticeably with our middles Tess Clark and Jasmine Bennett, and especially most noticeably (I'm running out of modifiers, here) with Tess Clark.  Jasmine Bennett has more hang time and body length than Clark and can get to hits that are bit more off target.  I said that this would improve over the year, and it certainly has.

 Our biggest problem with our middle attack right now is that our passing and digging isn't solid enough consistently enough to engage our middle hitters as much as we would like.  Similarly, that means that our offense is consistently going to our outside hitters, and with an off-target pass, the opponent knows that, and can set up a solid double and occasionally even triple block.  This means that our outside hitters, such as Melanie McHenry, Janelle Jenkins, and Morgan Miller are hitting into established solid blocks and their numbers end up suffering.  UofL particularly suffers against teams that block well.  FSU put up 12 blocks and Miami 8.  Part of the saving grace against Miami is that they were scrambling and out of system as much or more than we were, so similarly, we put up 13.5 blocks against them.

I've harped on passing a digging quite a bit recently, and that's because I think it's a critical phase of the game.  We saw that in our play 2 years ago when we suffered in this area, and we're seeing it again this year.  There are some bright spots, though.  Molly Sauer's numbers haven't been as impressive as last year, but that is credit to the fact that she is trying to cover about half the court, stretching her skills and mobility to the limit.  I have been impressed by the contributions of Gabbie Wiley in this area.  Versus FSU, in a 4 set match, Gabbie Wiley picked up 17 digs.  That's a decent number for a libero in a 4 set match, and indeed matched Molly Sauer's number for the match, and Gabbie is "merely" a Defensive Specialist.  If you think about that, she matched Molly's numbers in only half the rotations.

There still is no real prospect for post-season play for the Volleyball team, with no ACC tournament, and unlikely to get an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, but this team is playing for pride, for the experience and learning, and looking forward to next year.  I had the opportunity to speak with many of the players Friday night after the match, and my take-away is that the team is understandably frustrated with the results and with their play.  They're working hard and improving, and right now, that's the best news I could hear for this team.

Injury Update

Janelle Jenkins has missed the past couple of weeks of play with a strained PCL.  The news, straight from Jenkins herself, is that she saw the team doctor Sunday before the match and was cleared to return to practice and expected to play this coming weekend.

Personally, I'm thrilled that she will likely be back out on the court to finish out her senior season.  Jenkins has contributed so much to this squad over her years that she deserves that.  The flipside is that it was encouraging to see the team play for the past couple of weeks without her, and in those weeks see some significant improvements and other players, such as Morgan Miller, stepping forward to prove themselves when the opportunity arose.  The team will lean on that experience of playing without Jenkins next year, and it's good they got a chance to try it out late in the season.

In short, I don't see any reason for UofL Volleyball fans to despair.  No, this season hasn't had the results we wanted, but the future looks bright.

I'll see you at the KFC Yum! Center at 7pm on the 9th when we take on another rebuilding team in Notre Dame.

-- JMcA


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  1. Great write up today, Jeff and let me take just a minute to tell you why I love Cardinal Couple and what they do. They're not trying to sell you anything. They put out interesting articles about all the UofL sports they cover and they do it every day. They put it out there free. That's worth a few dollars a year to me. Keep doing it, Cardinal Couple. I'll be proud to donate again this year.

    -- The Real Joe Hill --

    1. Thank you Joe! It is very much buddy...


  2. I would be happy to help out for 2017. Pay-Pal sent. The Deb Factor

  3. What a great honor for Walz! this just may be his year.

    Blue Lou

    1. WBB checks in at #5 in the AP poll

  4. Great opportunity to showcase the program.

  5. #5 AP.....Go Cards!
    The NCAA wbb championship is up for grabs this season.There no clear winner this year.


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