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Friday, May 31, 2019

A History of UofL Women's Sports: Chapter I -- FRIDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

To help get through summer I have decided to give a brief history of each women's sports team at Louisville.  There are 12 women's sports at UofL, giving me something to talk about for the next 12 Fridays.  Although folks might think we're experts here at Cardinal Couple we're far from it and constantly try to educate ourselves and stay updated on the women's sports.

A History of UofL Women's Sports: Chapter I -- Volleyball

With volleyball being the next UofL team to play this calendar year and the first to kick off the 2019-2020 school year I figured there's no better place to start!  So buckle up and hang on tight because here we go!

Louisville Volleyball had its inaugural season in 1977.  Susan Johns coached the Cards to a 4-18 record that season and went on to coach two more years after that.  After an 0-3 start Louisville got a 2-0 sweep for their first ever victory.

Scott Luster took over as head coach in 1980 and went five seasons in that position.  He guided the Cards to their first winning season in 1981, finishing 26-18.  He would lead them to two Metro Conference championships in 1982 and 1984 and their first NCAA appearance in 1982.

Bob McCarthy took was Luster's successor but had a short three-year career as head coach.  McCarthy never had a winning season and he was quickly replaced.

Don Hardin entered the scene in 1988 and oversaw the team for eight years.  UofL had a winning season every year he was there and won the Metro Conference from 1990-1994.  In his final season at Louisville the university moved to Conference USA.  Louisville went undefeated in conference play and advanced to the NCAA 2nd round that year. Hardin moved on to take over the program at Illinois and retired from there at the end of the 2008 season.

Leonid Yelin took over the program after Hardin left and reigned for 15 years, the longest of any Louisville volleyball coach.  His team had a winning record every season he was there and never lost more than 12 games in a season under his watch.  This is when Louisville started to become nationally recognized.  They won 10 conference championships between Conference USA and the Big East.  All four of Louisville's Sweet Sixteen appearances came under Yelin.  Yelin was also the first to heavily recruit foreign players- a major contribution to the program's success. Yelin supposedly "retired" from coaching at the end of the 2010 season, but took the job at Syracuse the next season and he is still the head coach for the Orange.

Anne Kordes replaced Yelin at the helm, becoming the second woman coach for Louisville volleyball and the first coach who was a former player on the team. Kordes came in from St. Louis University, where she had built the Billikins into a feared and strong mid-major program.

In her six seasons from 2011-2016, Louisville won four conference championships, including becoming the first women's team at Louisville to win an Atlantic Coast Conference championship. Kordes retired after the 2016 season to spend more time with her daughter and family.

She is heavily involved with KIVA Volleyball at the OVVC these days, a nationally recognized facility and program which her father helped inaugurate and establish.

In 2017, Dani Busboom Kelly became the seventh coach for Louisville volleyball.  In her first year, she guided the Cards to a conference championship.  The Cards have played in the NCAA Tournament both seasons under Kelly, who is set to begin her third season as head coach this fall.

Their current home is the newly renamed L&N Federal Credit Union Cardinal Arena, which saw a major revamp before the start of the 2017 season.  Cardinal Arena served as the home for the Cards the longest of any venues with the KFC Yum! Center serving as host for a couple years and a 43-20 record.  In the early days it was duPont Manual High School's gymnasium that was the home of the Cards, where they hold an 88-64 record.  The Cards in Cardinal Arena surpassed 200 wins in 2017.

Besides the main three home locations the Cards have also played home matches in the
Commonwealth Convention Center, the Kentucky International Convention Center, Louisville Gardens, Sacred Heart Academy, Seneca High School, Ballard High School, New Albany High School, Jennings County High School, Louisville Gardens, and Knights Hall (Bellarmine).  The KICC (2-3) is the only home site where Louisville holds a losing record.

A memorable game to note last season when the Cards had Notre Dame coming to town but power was lost several hours before the match in Cardinal Arena. A wild bit of venue relocation searching ensued before it was determined that Sacred Heart's gymnasium was available for the evening. The Cards won a memorable five set match in a fully-packed Valkyries gym. The power of social media got the relocation out to the season-ticket base and fans and they even gave everyone a free bottle of water!

Louisville has broken 5000 in attendance twice at home, both against Kentucky at the KFC Yum! Center.  Their largest Cardinal Arena crowd was in 1994 against Texas when 1253 people crammed together to watch the NCAA Tournament.  During an NCAA Tournament game in 2005, 14,438 people filled the Qwest Center to see Louisville take on Florida.

Over the years Louisville has formed rivalries with some foes.  Kentucky, Louisville's largest rival across the board, is 29-27 against the Cards.  Cincinnati was a big rival for a long time and just renewed its rivalry for the season, but the Cards hold a 41-11 edge, and is the most wins against any NCAA team.  Despite rough seasons early on Louisville has lost to just two schools more than 15 times: Kentucky and Notre Dame.

Despite having an arsenal of well-known players, several USA Collegiate National Team representatives, and nearly a dozen All-Americans in players such as Lola Arslanbekova, Gwen Rucker, Katie George, Caitlin Welch, Laurie Maxwell, and many more, only three former "VolleyCards" have made their way into the UofL Athletics Hall of Fame: Stephanie Storen Jett, Laurie Maxwell Londot, and Susan Elpers Inman.

Louisville is set to begin their 43rd season in just under three months.  They'll host the free Red and Black Scrimmage on August 17th at 6 p.m. before starting the season with seven straight home matches. 78 days to Volleyball !!

Make sure to catch the Cards at L&N Federal Credit Union Cardinal Arena where you will catch myself and Worldwide most every home match with special guest appearances from Paulie and Case from time-to-time.

Come back to the site next Friday for Chapter II as we cover the history of another UofL women's sport.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour

It'll be "slim pickens" on air tomorrow and we don't mean the late TV, movie and rodeo star.

With Case selling his yard to the highest bidder, Daryl continuing to travel everywhere and give Jeff a run for his money for the nickname "Worldwide", and myself back to counting change and looking out for counterfeits...only Paulie and the original Worldwide will be on air to talk women's sports.  Will they have another world famous Cardinal Couple quiz?  They'll have some WNBA and a few other topics to discuss so make sure you tune in!

Happy Friday and Go Cards!



  1. A great idea for the summer months, CC !! I like the idea of having a backstory to the sports I follow currently.

    Curtis "Give me the whole story" Franklin

  2. As a follower of the Louisville Volleyball program since those Yelin days, I appreciate this article. I think a couple of things here needs more clarification, though.

    Hardin left for more money and greater visibility and rightfully so. Yelin's "retirement" was, in many fans' opinion, forced by Jurich to bring in a popular and successful "home product". Then, after getting her here, Jurich basically forced her "retirement" because of unsubstantiated reports of player complaints on her methods.

    All unconfirmed conjecture, of course.

    I do think the Cards will continue to be a force nationally under Busboom-Kelly.

    I'm a fan.

  3. Yelin didn't retire and Kordes didn't either. Convenient terminology for other situations.

  4. Who is telling you that volleyball did not begin until 1977? That might of been the year UL hired an outside of faculty person to coach but the school had a team for at least 4 years earlier. Dr. Massie was the coach.

    1. I will let the author of Friday's article respond to the inquiry if he chooses. I can tell you that statistics are progressively harder to find on certain sports the further back in time one goes.

      If you would like to add any informtion about these years, it would be most welcome and can be added to the original article.


    2. I’m not disagreeing with you or saying you’re wrong, but UofL doesn’t have anything in their records or history books dating back before 1977. My guess is ‘77 was the first year anything volleyball related started getting tracked or was the first year the NCAA recognized it as a D1 sport at UofL. I tried going back and doing more research earlier today but was unsuccessful in finding anything

  5. Sorry, should have just left it alone. UL has their PR history of womens sports and then there is the actual history where volleyball, field hockey and basketball all existed years earlier, but with an existing staff person as a coach.

    UL does not exactly know what to do with those of us who played on teams earlier than the publicized dates. We are eligible members of the L club, get t-shirts and alumni day invitations on a sporadic year to year basis but their promotional material erases those years so it is no fault of the authors that the women's sports history has been sanitized. UL was hardly in the forefront of Title IV compliance - thus a clouded history is the result.


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