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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Predicting Fall Sports Outcomes -- WEDNESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Jared Picks the Outcomes for the Fall Sports

I have talked in the past briefly about each of the fall sports as well as questions or concerns facing each team.  A few of the other writers have broken down the seasons and what they think will be the outcome for each team and I thought I'd take a stab at it.  Bear with me as I make try to stay afloat with my guesses for volleyball, women's soccer, and field hockey...



Dani Busboom Kelly's inaugural season was a breakout year for the Cards.  One season removed
from a sub .500 record Louisville managed to stun just about everyone when they claimed the ACC title.   Well, actually they split the regular season title with Pittsburgh, but had the head-to-head tiebreaker.

The 24 wins was the second-most in the last five years, one behind the 2015 season. Their 18-2 conference mark was par with the 2015 ACC Championship year.  Sadly, the Cards bowed out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament when they were swept by Northern Iowa.

Six players either graduated or transferred following the conclusion of the season with three of them playing a key role.  Coach Kelly has some big shoes to fill on the front line.  There are some returners that have a good chance to step into that role as well as the newbies that are joining Louisville in the fall.

Louisville's non-conference schedule is highlighted by a trip to NCAA Runner-Up Florida.  The Gators are a powerhouse and protect their home court well.  Kentucky will make a visit to Cardinal Arena after sweeping the Cards in Memorial Coliseum last year.  USC is another big name in volleyball and has a reputation of playing in a dominant Pac-12 conference.  Louisville will also visit West Lafayette for a mini tournament hosted by Purdue, and the Boilermakers are a tough team to take on as well.

ACC play doesn't get any easier.  UofL will play at NC State and at Pittsburgh this year, two of the Top 4 teams from last year.  Miami and Florida State- third and sixth from last year- will visit Cardinal Arena.  Louisville lucks out and plays four of the top teams in the conference last year once and will face most of the bottom half twice throughout the season.

My prediction: 22-7, 15-3 ACC

The road/neutral site matches against USC, Purdue, and Florida will damage the Cards early on.

Kentucky will continue their dominance over Louisville in volleyball.  NC State and Pitt will get revenge on their home courts from last year and Notre Dame will sneak away with a win at home late in the season.  However, the Cards will remain undefeated at home during conference play and will only falter in Cardinal Arena once- a five-set battle vs the Wildcats.  Their 15-3 conference mark will be just shy of taking the conference title, but they'll earn a bid to the Big Dance where they will fall in round one.

Women's Soccer

A lot of talent fills the roster for the lasses at Lynn Stadium.  Last year went well until conference play started and the Cards went 3-5-2 and finished 10th.  Non-conference went well including an upset in Lexington over UK on a rainy night.

Louisville has never seemed to make it over the hump since joining the ACC, where the soccer world is split between us and the Pac-12.  In order to find the success they have lacked lately they'll need to find ways to earn three points in more outings in the conference.

Kentucky is the big name on the list when looking at non-conference matches.  A messy, rainy night may have helped the Cards earn a fluke win last year in a sport where the Wildcats have had the Cards number.  The non-conference schedule is weak.  No non-conference opponents finished the season ranked in the Top 50 last year.  Louisville finished 74th, by the way.  Remember when they broke the Top 25 after starting 5-1 last year?

Once ACC play hits things have the potential to crash and burn, but Louisville's talent also has another year of experience under their belts, or boots.  Having to visit every ACC opponent in the state of North Carolina, who also happen to hold four of the top five spots from last season, is brutal to have on the schedule for any team.  They should still be able to snuff out some wins at home and possibly one or two on the road.

My prediction: 8-6-3, 3-5-2 ACC

Things will look great in the first half of the season as things are smooth.  Karen Ferguson-Dayes will have her team scratching their way to the Top 25 after a half dozen games.  The rivalry match-up and a road trip or two could cause some minor bumps but fans will have that early season hope again.  When conference play hits the good will halt.  A few key losses from last year's team will begin to show as the players to fill the void cannot keep up with the level of play in the ACC.  Final Four team Duke and their buddies a few miles down the road are both on another level when it comes to collegiate soccer and we won't see another 2015 Thursday night shocker.  Louisville just isn't ready for the ACC in soccer and they will need a couple more years to adjust.

Field Hockey

This team is coming off one of their best seasons in recent years.  They took third in the ACC regular season, but had the chance of taking the title in their final conference match of the year.  In the ACC Tournament, Louisville not only won their first ever ACC Tournament game, but advanced all the way to the finals, falling 1-0.  Their 14-8, 4-2 mark was plenty to earn them a spot in the NCAA Tournament.  They fell just short in their opening game.

Last season's top scorer has gone back home to Europe but Justine Sowry believes their are plenty of players ready to fill the void.  Having Ireland's top goalkeeper healthy and back in action will take pressure off of the defense and the Cards can focus more on an aggressive style of play.

Coach Sowry loves to play an intense non-conference schedule that includes teams like Delaware, Northwestern, California, and Miami (OH).  You could include Michigan too but they are just an exhibition.

ACC play will not be kind.  Six of the seven ACC teams found themselves in the 18-team NCAA Tournament.  That's one-third of the bracket for you mathematicians.  The six-game conference schedule is split in half in terms of road and home games.  In ACC field hockey anyone can win at any location.

My Prediction: 11-5, 4-2 ACC

It will be a slight drop from the 2017 season, but still one to keep the Cards ranked and in the NCAA Tournament.  Louisville stunned then-reigning champ Delaware last season and the Blue Hens are out for revenge.  UofL lost to Northwestern twice last year and they are the only Wildcats on the schedule this year so they will find a way to take down the flock in the red and black.  Duke will be playing with the ACC semifinal in the back of their minds when they come to visit and won't be playing nice.  North Carolina is the best candidate in the conference to take national championship this year and will stop at nothing to get there.  Sowry's squad is used to tough opponents and can play with anyone in the country and will pull out some hard-fought wins.  Expect to see them make it to the ACC semifinals at least and even win their first round game in the NCAA Tournament.

This analysis does not reflect the views and opinions of the other writers at Cardinal Couple and reflect solely on my prediction for the 2018 season.  How do you think the Cards will do in these sports this year?  Feel free to compare and contrast your schedule with mine.  And maybe we'll see some goose eggs in the losses column for these teams this year!

Injuries, freshman development, star-player performance -- all of these can come into play over the course of a season. No way of knowing any of this in advance. The ACC is tough but the Cards will give it all they've got for these three stellar coaches.

What Day Is It? 

Some fun days to celebrate today! It's national Hot Fudge Sundae Day, so hit the local ice cream
purveyor place you like and treat yourself or a friend to one (or more) of those decadent, delicious treats. Afterwards, why not hit an amusement park for a up and down trip? It's also national Carousel Day.  If you have a sensitive stomach, feel free to reverse the order on these.

Happy Wednesday and Go Cards!

- Jared -


  1. I think FH just might do a little better than Jared's prediction. They have maybe the best goalie -- definitely one of the top five goalies in the NCAA in McFerran and, if you can keep the opponent from scoring, it makes your chances of winning pretty good.

    Also consider that Stone and Ayars are returning as defensive backs. This might be the best defense in the ACC.


  2. I also think I'm selling the pessimistic prediction for soccer. They were *in* a lot of their losses last season and while we'll be seeing a new look defense from the Cards this year, I think they are in a much better position from a full team cohesion perspective. Nearly all of the attack returns with significant experience gains in the midfield (where I'd argue the team struggled most last year).

    I'd be surprised to see less than .500 in conference play, but I've been wrong many times before.

  3. As coach Ferguson-Dayes mentioned in her interview with Paulie, 13 freshmen is a whole bunch on a roster that probably doesn't have more than 30. It'll be an adventure for soccer but their first four games look pretty easy until they get Michigan. Maybe time for them to mature a bit. I'll give soccer a 10-win season, one better than last year and if they can beat Kentucky again, maybe even 11.

    Nick O

  4. I'll just add in: sell vball short vs KY at your own peril.

    Skinner lost a couple of *major* offensive assets (Kaz Brown being a-number-1), and UofL took the spring match. I will definitely agree that it'll be a 5 set barnburner (as was the spring match) in Cardinal Arena.

  5. I’m hoping to see all three perform better than my predictions and I’d give field hockey the best chance at really impressing me. Defensively, they will be a brute force that will be nearly unstoppable. They just have to put up the offensive numbers to afford a goal or two for McFerran. Wanting a shutout every game is asking a lot. Mercedes Pastor is the best bet on offense and Coach Sowry has had plenty of positive things to say about her.


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