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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Soccer Falls to UNC; Softball Sweeps Bellarmine -- SUNDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Soccer Sees Undefeated Season Broken

Sunday, Louisville knocked off top-ten Vanderbilt. Emotions were high and the Cards played nearly perfectly for 100 minutes leading to a game winning penalty from Emina Ekic. In the 20th minute last night, it appeared that lightning might just strike again. After a long ball went over the shoulder of Delaney Snyder, it looked like she would be on goal, until she was pulled down from behind by a North Carolina defender. The crowd appealed and the whistle was blown immediately. The referee pointed to the spot and Ekic lined up for the penalty.

To this point in the season, Ekic had not missed a penalty and had hit two game winners already, against Indiana and Vanderbilt. The shot seemed to be in slow motion. It went high, getting past the diving UNC goalkeeper  Josephson, but instead of sliding into the net, it skipped off the bottom of the crossbar and went straight down. After hitting the ground, the ball had enough pace to bounce nearly 15 feet in the air and seemed to float down for an eternity. Ekic waited patiently, but a taller UNC defender was able to get to the ball first and keep it away from the Cards. The threat had ended and Louisville had missed their first penalty of the season, simultaneously missing a huge chance in the game.

In the post game interview, Coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes called soccer a game of moments. The penalty was just the first of the critical moments in last night's game. Just 30 seconds after the penalty miss, the ball fell to Brooklynn Rivers, who fired a shot on goal. Again, it got high past Josephson and, again, it caught the bottom half of the crossbar, bouncing back toward the field of play. The ball was cleared away but only to the feet of Allison Whitfield, who took a shot of her own, only to see it saved. Each of these moments could have tipped the scales of the game. Each moment was a huge opportunity for the Cards, and each was just barely missed.

The next critical moment came just a minute later. This time, the moment belonged to North Carolina. The Tarheels got on a bit of a break, and Brianna Pinto put a through ball right in front of a streaking Alessia Russo. The English national was just onside and broke right in between Niamh Nelson and Sarah Hernandez. As Gabby Kouzelos came off of her line, she appeared to slip as Russo pulled the ball and stepped to the side, leaving Kouzelos on the ground out of the play. Russo slotted a shot that got between Nelson and Hernandez and found the side netting.

After multiple heartbreaks for Louisville, they now trailed 1-0.

After the goal, UNC maintained a significant amount of possession, putting more and more pressure on the Cards. Louisville's only shot in the remaining 24 minutes came on accident as a Nelson free kick leaked too close to the goal and was caught by Josephson. Kouzelos managed to keep the goal clean for the remainder of the half and the teams entered the locker room still at 1-0.

Coach Ferguson-Dayes noted after the game that really the only thing she was disappointed in was Louisville losing its moxie. The 1-0 deficit was the first time Louisville has trailed since the first game of the season against Ohio State.

Louisville was able to recover and went on to win that match 2-1, due to their resilience. Louisville didn't quite show the same resilience against UNC last night. The second half was much of the same as the later portion of the first half. UNC controlled possession and limited Louisville's opportunities. In the 67th minute, Ru Mucherera put a dangerous cross into the six yard box that found Alexis Strickland alone. Strickland calmly put it past Kouzelos, who was unable to get back across the goal in time. UNC led 2-0. 

After the second goal, the game didn't feel over quite yet, as it still seemed that the Cards could find a goal some time in the final 23 minutes and then it would be only a one-goal game in which anything can happen. The game was sealed 13 minutes later when Lois Joel found Russo once more at the top left of the box. Russo put a shot on the ground through traffic that Kouzelos saw just a moment too late. Kouzelos fell to the ground, but the ball slipped straight under her. UNC led 3-0 and that would be the final score. 

Jaz Jones does her best to push the Cards to victory.
This matchup was always set to be a tough one for the Cards. The Tarheels won the match last year 5-1 in Chapel Hill. They were ranked first in the country up until their 2-0 loss to Arkansas on Sunday. UNC is a very good team and they will certainly be in the hunt to hoist a trophy later this season.

This loss should not sit poorly for Louisville at all. While the final score is unfortunate, the Cards played pretty well for a lot of the game. Had one of those critical moments in the three minute stretch gone a different way for Louisville, the entire complexion of the game would be changed and this could be a completely different article. As it is, the Cards head to Syracuse seeking to regain the three league points they lost last night. The Cards will take on the Orange Thursday at 6 P.M.


Softball Takes Two Over Bellarmine

In a more enjoyable result, Louisville softball was in action at Ulmer for a bit of Fall Ball. The Cards took on the newly appointed Division 1 Knights of Bellarmine for an afternoon double-header. Bellarmine jumped out to a big lead, stealing four runs off of a freshman pitcher for the Cards before Danielle Watson came in in the fourth inning to steady things for Louisville.

In addition to preventing the Knights from scoring any more runs, Watson smashed a grand slam to tie the game just after coming in to pitch. A couple of batters later, Riley Schindler sent another ball over the wall to score a pair of runs and Louisville led 6-4. The Cards would go on to win the first game 8-4, exorcising the early defensive demons and showing some offense as well.

The second game of the day was all Louisville as the Cards jumped on the Knights early and often. Bellarmine had no offensive answer for Louisville in the second game and the Cards went on to shut out the Knights.

We've got no official stats or scores, so we can't be sure, but Jared reports that the score of the second game was "8 or 9 to 0". Louisville will get a better view of how their team will stack up in competition in the upcoming season next weekend as they head out to Lexington for a Fall Ball double-header against the Wildcats. We'll see if we can't get a report of some kind from that set of games as well.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour

Paulie, Jeff and Jared were present for our weekly radio show yesterday and reviewed results for UofL women's Golf, Field Hockey, Volleyball and WSOC. They also previewed Saturday's upcoming action .

I was not present, attending to such things as scaffolding and painting. It happens when you're a homeowner.

You can hear the discussion at the link below, as well as see the show on Facebook Live:


A special thanks to WCHQ 100.9 FM for including us in their Saturday format. We appreciate the chance to discuss UofL women's sports once a week -- even if it's not always about the joy and excitement -- we feel it is a chance for our listeners to "catch up" on what's going on down on Floyd Street and on the road.  

Until next time, Go Cards!

Photos from today's article from Jared Anderson. Check out more of his work on Facebook, Twitter, or his website

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