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Saturday, August 31, 2019

Split Decisions as Two Cardinal Teams Open Season -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Field Hockey Shuts Out Indiana

After a somewhat disappointing offensive performance against Miami (OH) on Sunday, the Louisville Field Hockey team set out to learn some lessons from that game. The Cards were able to put those lessons learned to good use in their first opportunity, as they took it to Indiana yesterday, finishing the game with a final score of 5-0. Bethany Russ scored three goals for the Cards, her first career hat trick coming in the first game of her senior season. Also scoring for the Cards were Madison Walsh and Mercedes Pastor. Walsh also picked up an assist, while Whena Munn assisted on two goals as well. 

The scoring started early, with Russ getting to the IU goal just over three minutes into the game. It was Louisville's first shot of the season, and it found the back of the cage. Good start. The Cards and Hoosiers would finish the rest of the first quarter without any goals, as Louisville continued to pressure the goal but couldn't get anything else to show for it. Louisville's scoring difficulties were dismissed in the second quarter. The Cards scored their next three goals in the first 5:12 of the second quarter, scoring on all three shots in that time period.

Louisville was stifled for much of the second half. According to Coach Justine Sowry, IU adjusted the pace of play and Louisville was unable to react effectively to continue the relentless pressure from before. Flexibility to play styles in different situations is a portion of their game on which the Cards will need to work. Louisville did finally get a fifth goal late in the game, with Bethany Russ scoring her third with just under three minutes remaining in the game, a nice parallel to her first goal.

Despite the strong overall showing, one glaring question remains: who will be the primary goalie going forward? That question wasn't really answered yesterday. Hollyn Barr and Sam Minrath both played 30 minutes yesterday, with Barr taking the 1st half quarters and Minrath getting the 2nd. Both finished with one save, thus giving no one a positional advantage in the shutout. Coach Sowry has been clear that there is not yet a favorite for the position, and has backed that up by giving the two goalies different opportunities with their playing time. It may be notable that Barr has started in both this game and the scrimmage against Miami, but there may not be a lot there given the way that the playing time has otherwise been split. If they can effectively both play significant minutes and continue to not give up goals, maybe it doesn't even matter if there is a true starter.

The Cards will be back in action on Sunday at 12PM when they host UMASS at Trager Stadium. The two have met just twice previously, most recently in 2015. The Cards have won both games in the history of the matchup, but with such a long time between the games (12 years between games one and two and now four years since the last game), the historical matchup is probably not particularly indicative. The Cards will look to continue the strong offensive showing and clean up some of the missteps against the Hoosiers.

Volleyball Falters in Opener Against Florida

Once again, Louisville volleyball is opening the season with a very tough couple of matchups. Once again, they find themselves in a hole to start the season. In front of a sold out crowd at L&N Federal Credit Union Arena, the Cards stumbled their way through a season opening sweep. Louisville kept it fairly close in the second and third sets, ultimately losing both 21-25, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades, neither of which describes the sport of volleyball. 

Louisville's issues from last night aren't hard to find when you open the box score. Louisville was outblocked 14-3 by Florida, and the Cards finished the night with a whopping .107 hitting percentage. While blocks do contribute to the final error number, committing 21 errors while finishing only 32 kills is not an ideal situation. Melanie McHenry led the team with 11 kills, while committing only 5 errors for a final percentage of .222. She was second on the team in hitting, behind Anna Stevenson who finished with a .286 on six kills. The freshman we're all looking for to have a big season as a hitter, Aiko Jones, had a night not worth writing home about, putting in 4 kills but adding 5 errors and finishing with a negative .071. Amaya Tillman was also negative with 2 errors on 8 attempts and no kills. She did contribute with the only solo block on the night and two block assists, however. 

Outside of hitting, Louisville was forced into positions they couldn't quite be fans of. Alexis Hamilton, as expected, led the team with 11 digs, though that number seems rather small. McHenry was forced into defensive action as well, with seven digs herself. The one that stands out as rather unfortunate is 11 total digs between Tori Dilfer and Shannon Shields. Defensive action by a setter is considered a loss on any possession. While it may not guarantee a loss of a point, it certainly puts you in a bad offensive position. Think trying to play an offensive possession in basketball but your point guard is off limits. 

In the setter battle, Dilfer appears to have a lead, as she started all three sets and saw the lion's share of the playing time. She finished with 19 of the Cards 29 assists on the night on 47 attempts. Shields finished with just 5 on 31 attempts, which is not quite as good. However, Shield was not likely playing with the 1s quite as often as Dilfer, giving her a bit of a pass in that particular category. I imagine that the setter battle will continue for at least a bit longer. If nothing else, Shields would be a more than serviceable backup to spell Dilfer for whatever reason. 

All in all, it was an unfortunate way to start the season, but we are talking about taking on a top-ten team in the country. It would have been nice to take a set, but it wasn't like Louisville was beaten by ten in each set of the sweep either. The Cards lost by an average of just over five points per set, which can easily be swung on any given day. Louisville will get a chance at redemption tonight when they take on Texas A&M at 7PM (or following the Florida/Dayton match, whichever comes later). Head on over to the Arena to root on the Cards.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour

Well, we're in it now. Four games this week have us ready to bring the heat on the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour. The summer slump is officially over, and it's time to get back into the groove. Tune in as the stars align to allow the A-Team to get back together in the studio this week. The Cardinal Couple Radio Hour begins at 11AM on WCHQ. Find WCHQ at 100.9FM on local radio, the WCHQ App, at, or watch along on Facebook Live.
Until next time, Go Cards!

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