Field Hockey Upsets UNC
For the first time in nearly three years, UNC Field Hockey has been beaten. The last loss for the Tarheels came in the NCAA semifinals in 2017, the same year that Louisville last beat them (though the Heels got revenge in the ACC championship). Louisville came into this one an underdog, as anyone does when they go up against a two-time defending champion that is on a 47-game winning streak, but they came out on top, and now sit 3-0 (2-0) on this shortened season.
Unlike the first two games against Duke, in which Louisville took until the final minute of the first half to score, the Cards set the tone early against UNC. In the first quarter, Louisville earned a penalty corner which saw Mercedes Pastor score her third goal of the season, assisted by Alli Bitting and Meghan Schneider. Late in the first half, in the final minute in fact (funny how the Cards like scoring then), Louisville doubled their lead. Again, Meche was involved, as she assisted Margot Lawn on a goal from open play. It was Lawn's first goal of the season, but not her last of the game.
The second half saw play tighten between the two when UNC pulled a goal back in the third quarter. Five minutes after the half, UNC's Erin Matson found space in the circle and put a reverse shot past Hollyn Barr. Based on the nearly 1-on-1 nature and the placement of the shot, Barr had little to no chance. Up until that point, Louisville had been fairly dominant defensively, and they were for nearly the whole game. The Cards led in both shots and corners, so it was good to see them take advantage of the strong offensive game they were having and put balls in the back of the cage. There is nothing more frustrating than beating your opponent on the offensive end but being unlucky and losing a close match. Fortunately, Louisville was playing from ahead, which allows you to play a bit looser, especially against a Goliath like UNC.
In the fourth quarter, with UNC pressuring significantly, Louisville was unable to capitalize on back to back corners. In the first, Alli Bitting was the recipient of her own corner after a scrum in the circle, but her shot went just wide off of the post. After those two corners, the Cards were on the back foot for much of the final period. UNC refused to go down quietly, and they were willing to be aggressive. The Heels went so far as to pull their goalie with more than seven minutes remaining in the game. With that extra field player, they were able to keep Louisville from getting on the break and kept the ball in the Louisville half for much of the remainder of the game. As time wound down, it looked like Louisville might be able to pull it off with some great defensive play to prevent UNC from scoring with their advantage. As the seconds clicked toward zero, the Cards found their way on a quick break, and Margot Lawn found herself standing alone in the UNC circle. Louisville went up 3-1 with 6 second remaining and that was that. After the game, Paulie sat down for a postgame interview with Coach Sowry, which you can watch here.
After all we talked about in the preseason about the challenging field hockey conference schedule and Louisville's lack of non-conference games to get warmed up, the Cards have come out on fire. With already 9 goals scored in three matches and a 2-0 conference record after facing Duke and North Carolina, Louisville is in a bit of a driver's seat. While every conference match is a tough one, Louisville has now knocked off two of their biggest problems to open the season. The Cards will get a chance at revenge over Boston College, who knocked them out of the NCAA tournament last year, tomorrow when the Eagles come to town. Louisville won the regular season matchup in Chestnut Hill last year 3-2. If the Cards can get a victory tomorrow, they'll be sitting with a worst possible record of .500 in conference. That's a pretty nice place to be when you're only playing conference games against the toughest conference in the country. Tomorrow's game gets underway at 1:30 PM, and it will be available on ACC Network. Paulie will cover that one while I head over to Lynn to watch soccer take on BC as well. I wonder if they traveled together.
Volleyball Gets Back on Track with Sweep
Since it is apparently Louisville vs BC weekend, Cardinal Volleyball is taking on the Eagles as well. Louisville traveled north yesterday, without starting setter Tori Dilfer, for a two game set against Boston College. The Cards were just 0-1 on the year, having taken the loss to Notre Dame and then postponing the second match, but had still found themselves ranked 11th in the coaches poll. In the matchup against BC, Louisville showed why voters had so much faith in them.
As I mentioned they were playing without normal starting setter, as Tori Dilfer did not travel with the team (draw your own conclusions), but that didn't slow down the Louisville attack. Rachael Demarcus stepped in to fill the void and assisted on 29 of Louisville's 34 kills. The Cards managed to hit a crisp .474 on the night with Demarcus in relief, and it seems clear that there may be a setter battle for Coach Busboom-Kelly now.
While Boston College not being particularly strong at the net (just two blocks) may have helped Louisville's attack efficiency, the Cards were also doing a great job finding open space with their shots. With only 7 errors on the night, Louisville managed to have a third set with none, hitting .667 in the 25-9 trouncing. Freshman Anna DeBeer had 8 kills in 12 attempts with no errors, Claire Chaussee went 11/18 with just one error, and Aiko Jones, who is typically keyed on, managed 8/16 with just three errors. The Cards were hot yesterday and we'll see if they can keep it up today.
Despite the strong offensive showing, Louisville still has work to do on the serve. The Cards had just four aces compared to six errors. Serving issues were part of the reason they lost to Notre Dame last week, and they need to find a way to get that to a positive ratio. Giving away points is not a great key to success. Fortunately, it didn't matter in the match last night, but it would be good to see improvement against the outmatch Eagles in tonight's match. Louisville and Boston College will get underway at 7:30PM, with the match listed as an ACC Network Extra production once more.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast
We're back on our regular schedule this morning, with no Saturday home game to get us off track. We've got plenty of results to talk about, with Louisville women's soccer joining in on the big wins this week. We'll also talk about other news around campus as well as the WNBA Finals getting underway. Tune in to the Cardinal Couple YouTube for this week's live show at 11AM or stay tuned for the podcast to come to your phone following the recording.
Until next time, Go Cards!