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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Analyzing Fall Sports -- Louisville Field Hockey -- TUESDAY CARDINAL COUPLE


One majorly important thing you need to know about Louisville Field Hockey, if nothing else, is that the "Stick Girls" return keeper Ayesha McFerran...the best goalie in the USA. Bold words? Not really. She was named the MVP keeper in the recent World Cup, where she and Ireland finished a very unpredictable second to perennial power The Netherlands. She is the only three-time All American goalkeeper in Cardinal history. 

Of course, any good defense is not about just one player and the Cards return backs Carter Ayars, Maria Gomez, Ann Marie Habelow, Isabella Leeker and, if needed back there...Taylor Stone, who head Field Hockey coach Justine Sowry would like to use a bit more at mid-field this year, if possible. Megan Schneider can also go defensive back or mid-field, which gives Sowry a ton of options back at the last line of defense. Talented goalie Hollyn Barr, a junior, also returns, in case McFerran needs a bit of time to adjust to the return from Ireland and promising freshman Sam Minrath (Louisville Christian Academy) has the unique opportunity to learn the keeper spot from two of the best in a probable red-shirt situation. 

The "middies" as their sometimes called, are deep and talented. Katie Walsh (Louisville Ballard H.S.)  is the standout there, and she was a member of the 2018 USA National Team. Mercedes Pastor comes back after a season where she was injured and red-shirted. She gets high marks from all who have seen her play. Bethany Russ saw valuable time in the mid-field role last year as well, as did Alli Biting. A group of talented freshmen will vie for remaining spots...Biz Allgeier, Mackenzie Karl, Taylor Orsi, Carmen Pichea, Caitlin Cunningham and Erica Cooper are also options in the midfield for UofL. 

Whena Munn is a returning forward for the Cards and she'll run at the attack spot with Madison Walsh (no relation to Katie), Kathryn Schneider (Megan's younger sister) has shown great promise in the spring also. You can probably expect Sowry to insert a few midfielders, as needed, into the "attack" or forward spots. 

The roster breakdown is four seniors, three juniors, eight sophomores and eight freshmen. Five of the student-athletes are from Kentucky and they're all from Louisville. Three from Assumption H.S and one each from Ballrd and Christian Academy. There are also five student-athletes from Pennsylvania, two each from Virginia, California and Missouri on the roster. One each from Delaware and Massachusetts. Internationally, UofL has a player each from Ireland, Australia, Argentina, New Zealand and Spain. 

We'll miss watching Minnie and
Jared's predictions about her...
Significant losses of players who has eligibility left would be Minout "Minnie" Mink (The Netherlands) and  Marisa Martin-Pelagrina (Germany) who returned to their home countries to pursue academic opportunities there. The Cards lost starters Marigrace Ragsdale, Nicole Woods and Abby Grimes to graduation. 

The Cards were 14-8 last year and fared 4-2 in ACC play, tied for second. They advanced to the ACC Tournament finals, narrowly losing to North Carolina 1-0 and were knocked out of the NCAA Tournament by Northwestern 3-2 in overtime. 

Preseason rankings in women's Field Hockey are as hard to come by. I had no success in locating them, so I'll base my predictions on last year's stats and Cardinal success against the foes.

This year's schedule has 18 games, plus the annual Alumni game and a scrimmage against Michigan. The Alumnae game kicks things off on Saturday, Aug 18th. and the Field Hockey team travels the next day to face #3 Michigan in a exhibition scrimmage. The regular season features two Big 10 opponents to kick things off.

August 24th sees Louisville with a Friday trip to Bloomington and Indiana. Louisville handled the Hoosiers 4-1 last year and I see the Cards winning again against them in 2018. 

Ohio State comes to Louisville on Sunday, August 26th. The Cards fell in Columbus last year 1-2 but I see Louisville turning the tables on the Buckeyes this year with a win at Trager Stadium. 

Louisville plays nine matches in September and will start things off against U-Mass Lowell in Richmond, VA. Cards should have no trouble here to improve to 3-0

UofL travels to Delaware on Sept 3rd and despite the Cards win last year against them in Trager, the Blue Hens finished 7th in the nations with a 15-4 record. I hate to do it, but I give the Cards a close loss against them. 

It doesn't get any easier on the 7th. with North Carolina coming to town. The Tar Heels finished 4th. in the nation in 2017 and the Cards split with them in matches. I'll go out on a limb here and say Louisville gets revenge for the ACC Finals loss with a win.

California is next on the 9th at Trager and Louisville should prevail over the Bears in this one. 

The home-stand continues when ACC foe Boston College visits for a Friday night contest.  Louisville won easily up in Chestnut Hill in 2017 and I'll take the Cards to do the same in 2018. 

A huge match on Sunday, Sept 16th. when Northwestern comes to town. They sent Louisville home from the NCAA in 2017 and downed the Cards earlier in the season as well. The motivation shouldn't be any problem for Sowry's squad in this one and I'll go with Louisville and a close win. 

Louisville ends September with three road contests. First stop is at Wake Forest for a September 21st, Friday night match. The Cards bested the Demon Deacons in Trager last year with a 3-2, shootout victory. Expect another tight one in Winston-Salem but I'll go with Louisville winning. 

Sunday the 23rd. finds UofL in scenic Boone, NC against Appalachian State. They did not meet last year and the Mountaineers were 8-11 in 2017, so I'm giving the Cards their second road victory in three days. 

The road trip and the September schedule ends in Charlottesville, Va with a Saturday test against Virginia. The Wahoos finished 2017 as the #5 team in tha nation and knocked off the Cards in Trager 2-1. Unfortunately, they'll probably give Louisville their second loss of the season in another close one. 

October brings one more road game to start the month in Muncie, IN with a rare Wednesday game versus Ball State on the 3rd. The two did not meet in 2017 and with a 5-12 2017 record and a new head coach for 2018, these Cardinals are in a rebuilding phase. Louisville takes the contest. 

Michigan State visits Trager on Sunday Oct. 7th. They didn't face each other in 2017 and MSU struggled through a 8-11 season. The Cards continue their mastery over Big 10 opponents by sending Spartie back to East Lansing with an "L". 

Pam Bustin was the Louisville Field Hockey head
coach before Justine Sowry. 
Another huge match in Trager on Sunday, Oct 12th. when Pam Bustin brings her Duke Blue Devils to town.  Duke embarrassed the Cards 5-0 in Durham during the 2017 regular season but Louisville got revenge in the ACC Tournament semi-finals with a 3-2 shootout win. Duke finished 2017 as the #2 team in the nation with a 16-3 record and this one was a toss up game for me. Literally. Louisville was 'heads" and Duke was "tails". The coin landed on "heads" give the Cards the win. Good coin, good coin! 

The October home-stand ends when Miami (OH) comes to town on Sunday, Oct 14th. They did not meet in 2017 and the Red Hawks had a 12-9 season. The Cards keep the winning streak alive with a win. 

To the road to end October and UofL's first stop is Syracuse for a Friday, October 19 match. The Cards took a two-overtime, 2-1 win over the Orange last year in Trager. Another tough one to predict, but, I'll give the Cards another nail-biting win. 

Sunday October 21st finds Louisville in Albany playing the Great Danes and the Cards didn't play in 2017 and the New York State foe finished 12-7 on the year. Louisville avoids the bark and bite and gets off of the Alumni Turf pitch with a win. Fun fact: Albany's head coach is Phil Sykes. We're not related, that I know Sykes' are mostly North Carolina rooted...but I'll be pulling for him and the Great Danes to have a great year. 

Another Sunday match ends the regular season. This one is in Kent, OH against Kent State on Oct 28th. The Golden Flashes were 9-10 last year but 6-1 in the MAC. They also played their first 11 games on the road in 2017, including a 5-1 loss to Louisville at Trager. The Cards end the regular season with a win and sweep October with a 7-0 record. I hope. 

So, let's recap. Maybe I'm a bit ambitious here, but I've got Louisville Field Hockey at 16-2 and 5-1 in the ACC. That ought to be good enough for at least a top five ranking when the Cards travel to Chapel Hill, NC for the ACC Tournament that starts Nov 1st. 

Remember, when you've got McFerran, you've got a lot. If the opponents can't score, their likelihood of winning drops dramatically. Not many will score on Ayeisha this year.

You know the routine. Sound off in the comments section with your thoughts. 



  1. That's a bold prediction, Paulie. I'll say they take a couple more ACC losses and finish 14-4 and 3-3 in the ACC. I gotta get out there this year and watch Ayeisha do work.

    Curtis "A 'keeper' also" Franklin

  2. It is a bold prediction but they just might be able to pull it off from what I've read. A lot of top 25 potential team on the schedule but as wrestler Ric Flair said: "You have to beat the best to be the best."

    -- The Real Joe Hill --

  3. Hey, Ho! Dave-O here!

    A very nice look at the FH Cardinals, Paulie. Maybe a bit optimistic, like others have mentioned here, but 14-4 is quite possible going into the playoff I would easily think.

    Defense is everything. This comes from a guy whose daughter played offense for four years at a DI school. If you have a crew that can keep the ball out of the net, it makes life on the pitch for the attacks and middies much easier.

    Her coach borrowed a phrase from Alabama football coach Bear Bryant. "offense sells tickets but defense wins championships."

    If the Cards are that strong defensively, as you suggest, Louisville just might get to participate in the Final Four that is in their house/turf again this year.



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