Dani Busboom Kelly Begins Second Season as Louisville's Head Coach
First things first, the Cards are the reigning ACC Champs. Their conference record was matched by Pittsburgh last season, but Louisville held the head-to-head tiebreaker. They are the preseason Number Two pick for the 2018 season in the ACC this year, right behind Pitt.
There are several big name returners to the squad. Molly Sauer has made herself a household name. The libero from Assumption High School here in Louisville has been the Cards' best defender in all her years so far. She is accompanied by two other seniors, McCracken County product Jasmine Bennett and Puerto Rico native Wilma Rivera. Bennett has progressed into a powerful hitter and middle blocker. Rivera transferred in as a junior and was the top setter all year.
Other key returners include Amanda Green, Alexis Hamilton, and Melanie McHenry. Green transferred in as a red-shirt sophomore and is in her second season wearing the red and black uniform. She was on the Collegiate National Team that took the European tour. Hamilton is a rising sophomore that also hails from Assumption High School (this school has a good history of sending volleyball studs our way) and will play a big role on the back line. McHenry is a well-rounded player entering her junior season. You can put McHenry anywhere on the court and she can answer the call.
Coach Kelly's roster is stacked and is the size of a small army, totaling 19 active players. Nine of those players are new to the team from last year. Six of the new faces are freshmen. Two of them transfer in as sophomores, with one returning to her hometown where she graduated from Mercy. The final new face actually returns back to Louisville. Brianna Lester was a red-shirt her freshman year in 2016, transferred to Pepperdine to play basketball, and comes home to UofL to get back into volleyball.
Volleyball plays many more games than soccer or field hockey, which means you have more chances to see them play.
The Cards kick off the regular season as host to the Cardinal Classic on August 24 and 25. Their opponents include Tennessee-Martin, Southern Illinois, and IUPUI. They should start the year 3-0.
Labor Day Weekend will be a trip to Florida. No, the "Volley Cards" are not going to Orlando to watch the Louisville vs Alabama football game, but they will make a stop in the Theme Park Capital of the World. Coincidentally, I'll be half an hour down the road at Walt Disney World. Sadly, I won't be making the trip to see the Cards play. They'll then hit the road to Gainesville to face Florida and Southern California. Playing two of the best teams in the country away from home will be a challenge that Louisville might not be ready to face this early in the season. I expect the weekend to be 1-2, sending the record to 4-2.
September 7-8 will be a short trip to West Lafayette to compete in the Purdue Tournament. Besides facing the host Purdue, Louisville will also test their skills against Lipscomb and Xavier. The Boilermakers are not a team to overlook, especially at home. The Cards come out of the weekend winning two of three, improving their record to 6-3.
Before diving into conference play Louisville returns home to host Kentucky (Sept 14) and Chattanooga (Sept 15). The Cards are looking for revenge following a 3-0 in Lexington last year. They'll add two more to the wins column, moving up to 8-3.
A trip to Raleigh on September 21 to face NC State and Ms Wuf will be the Cards' first ACC test. UofL swept the Wolfpack last year and will win again, improving to 9-3.
They'll make the hop, jump, and skip over to Chapel Hill to take on North Carolina on Setpember 23. These two teams battled it out to the death at Cardinal Arena in the home finale after falling at UNC 3-2 early in conference play. UofL had to fight to come back in the fifth set to claim the win and secure their perfect home record in ACC play. Louisville will win this one a little easier this year, hitting the 10-win mark, going 10-3.
Headed south on their road trip, the Cards will take on Georgia Tech on September 28 and Clemson on September 30. Louisville swept both teams last year and will take the win in both again. After improving to 12-3 the Cards will finally break the Top 25.
Following the road stint we will get to see the Cards at home in conference play for four straight games. Duke will visit on October 5 and Wake Forest will follow on October 7. UofL swept Wake Forest last year and used a second half comeback after trailing 2-0 to defeat the Blue Devils in a five-set nail biter. Home court advantage will help the Cards add a pair of wins and move up to 14-3.
Instead of a weekend of games the schedule will alter slightly the next week. Notre Dame will come in on Wednesday, October 10 and Virginia Tech will say hello to Cardinal Arena on Friday, October 12. Louisville defeated the Hokies 6-1 in two matches last year and defeated Notre Dame twice 3-2. UofL will enjoy playing at home to win two more, and improve to 16-3.
The Volley Cards hit the road again to head north. On October 19, they will take on Virginia and then visit the highly-anticipated game against Pittsburgh on October 21. The Cards routed the Cavaliers twice last year and should be well-rested after a week-long break to take that win. Pitt will have their revenge from last season as the Cards drop their first conference game. UofL will come out of the weekend 17-4.
A four-game homestand will be nice around the time midterms hit. Boston College comes to town October 26 and Syracuse will follow right behind on October 28. UofL beat both of them last year and will do so again this year. Their record goes up to 19-4.
The next two home games include Miami on November 2 and Florida State on November 4. The Cards and Hurricanes each defended their home turf last year while the Cards stole both games from the Seminoles last year. Late-season weariness will be enough to send both matches to five sets. Either Miami or Florida State will walk away with a win, stunning the Cards at home. Their record moves to 20-5.
November 9 will be a trip to Boston College with November 11 being a trip down the coast to Wake Forest. Louisville will beat both teams again for the second time that season to go to 22-5.
Louisville's final road game will be November 16 at Notre Dame. Despite a couple rough years lately the Irish have historically been good and will prove themselves to defeat UofL. The loss will be the sixth on Louisville's record of 22-6.
2018's finale will be at home when the Cards host Georgia Tech on Black Friday, November 23. The long break and final game of the season will result in victory for the Cards, who will win the ACC for a second straight year. Their final record: 23-6, 15-3.
This record is pretty par to last season, as Coach Kelly continues to work her gameplay style and recruits into her system. The 23-6 record and Top 25 ranking would be enough for an invitation to the NCAA Tournament, but winning the ACC will ultimately be how the Cards get in.
No first round exit this year for Louisville, who will make their fifth ever Sweet 16 appearance. The 2018 season will also lead to Louisville's 27th NCAA appearance and 26th conference championship, including their third in the ACC.
Louisville has a skilled team and will continue their recent dominance in conference play. They'e exciting to watch and undefeated with Case in attendance. Look for the Cardinal Couple contingent covering the chaos and competition on the court.
Your thoughts on the team? Talk about it in the comments section!
What Day Is It?
Here in Louisville, it is the first official day of going back to school for the Jefferson County kids. Be watchful on the roads today for children and buses and those friendly school crossing guards that always seem to jump out in front of you when there are absolutely no kids waiting to cross the street...
On a personal note I officially released my photography website yesterday www.jdaphotos.com. A few people knew about it in advance and I thank the rest of the Cardinal Couple crew for their input and advice in helping my construct the site. For you technology geeks (we're looking at you, Worldwide) I used Wix as my website building platform. Everything from format to layout to making sure everything linked properly was all done by hand, or mouse. I will continue using Flickr as my photo storage site but JDA Photography will be the official site to go to for pictures, including pictures from all women's sports at UofL. You can see UofL WBB from Senior Day, the Sweet 16, and the Elite 8 on there.
EDITOR NOTE: REALLY PROUD OF JARED AND THE WONDERFUL THINGS HE HAS CREATED AT THE SITE. GO GIVE IT A LOOK AND DEFINITELY KEEP HIM IN KIND IF YOU WANT THAT SPECIAL OCCASION OF YOURS CAPTURED IN PHOTOS. YOU CAN FOLLOW THE LINK BELOW TO SEE JARED'S FANTASTIC ARTISTRY:
Happy Wednesday and Go Cards!
- Jared -