A Slight Preview of the 2018 Season
As World Cup season is upon us, I've been thinking a lot about soccer; even more than usual if you can imagine it. I've always truly enjoyed soccer. I've played it since I was three. It was my primary sport in high school and my favorite sport during college intramurals. I even joined an indoor soccer team with some friends from work. That story ended rather unfortunately, with my ankle injury, but it hasn't dampened my love of the game. I attend as many Louisville games as I can, but I've still not made it out to a Louisville City game. I've been watching World Cup games all this last week, and I'm hoping to attend games in 8 years when the Cup comes to the US.
So much soccer, especially in the dead period, makes me think about the future of UofL soccer. Louisville is coming off of a season in which they performed decently. They finished the season with more wins than losses overall, on the road, and at home. Their only sub .500 record came in conference, and don't forget that Louisville plays in a conference that is pretty good across the board at women's sports. There were games that the Cards may have been able to win that they didn't. There were games maybe they should have won that they didn't. But there were also games in which they exceeded expectations.
In college athletics, it's hard to be patient and await results from a team. Professional teams have more time to develop, with their best players being in for the long haul. Every college player is on a ticking clock from the time they step on campus. Seeing a season without positive results feels like a waste, but this past season felt like one of development. Louisville had a very young core last season, one that hadn't gotten a lot of time together. That core is returning for another year, with the addition of some Gatorade Players of the Year, as Jared mentioned yesterday. It is unfortunate to lose a key defensive leader in Inger Katrine Bjerke or an offensive stalwart in Alison Price, as well as the other players that have moved on, but the Cards are poised to replace these roles. The team has grown over the offseason with an understanding of how their season could have ended differently last year.
While Louisville had a successful non-conference season last year, the level of competition may have contributed to the struggles in the conference season. A more challenging non-conference schedule would likely have marred the overall record for last season, it may have also brought the young team together more quickly. Nothing draws out the best in players like competition, and Louisville didn't get their true taste of consistent high level competition until conference play started. Louisville's youth showed through early, but the team came together as the season wore on.
We'll get our first opportunity to see how last year's freshman and sophomores have developed together and how the newcomers are onboarding when the Cards take on Morehead State in an exhibition game on August 11th. Louisville will be in action at home twice more in the next 8 days against Wright State and Xavier, two games which the Cards should be able to win. The non-conference schedule also includes the annual game against Kentucky, a rematch against Purdue, and a road matchup with Michigan. All three of these games come in a row, with two on the road, and will be the real litmus test for Louisville this season. That stretch of games will be similar to the type of stretches Louisville will encounter during the conference season, and success will bode well for the rest of the season.
With still over a month and a half before kickoff, there is a lot of time to continue examination of the future for the Cards. I'll be looking forward to the season getting underway, and I really think there will be more success for Louisville this season. Nothing we can do but sit and wait, as the team continues to prepare through the summer.
The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour
Jared is out today, but the other three fools are in the studio as normal and may be joined by a special guest. We'll power through the summer slump together and see what kind of quiz Paulie can bring to us this week. As always, the show is available wherever you like to listen to WCHQ (wchqfm.com, WCHQ app, WCHQ FM on Facebook Live, or 100.9 FM) at 11AM. Tune in for your weekly fix of goofiness mixed with some Louisville Women's Athletics.
Until next time, Go Cards!