Rolling into July
Sadly, the joy from a long weekend has come to a close and it's back to work. I'm bad at taking days off from work as I am now roughly five and a half months into the new job and have not taken a vacation day nor have I scheduled any for the near future. But these holidays remind me how nice it is to have that extra day or two off here and there so perhaps it's time to look at some vacation days.
To answer Paulie's question from yesterday, it was a rather good Fourth of July. It started off running the tech equipment at church. Now, I'm not at tech expert like Worldwide and Case, but I know enough to keep the screens at church, the Zoom feed, the video recording, and the sound board running. Katy and I went out to EP Tom Sawyer State Park for a walk with friends. She was too scared to go check out the abandoned Sauerkraut Cave (if you locals know what that is), and then we dug out some old fireworks stashed in the closet from a few years back and set those off on a concrete surface at Joe Creason Park. Of course we were smart by staying far back, dousing everything with water, and then cleaning up our mess. So it was a rather relaxing day for me.
Women's Basketball Season Recap
We'll transition on into the reason you clicked on today's article. With plenty of other news in recent weeks our sports recaps got put on a brief hold, but we return with our final recap- women's basketball.
Louisville finished the season 26-4 with a 14-2 mark in conference play. The .875 win percentage in the ACC was enough to claim the regular season title, barely beating out NC State. This was Louisville's fourth-straight regular season title.
Some of the overall highlights for the year included another Elite Eight appearance, the program's first ever #1 ranking in any poll, and Dana Evans being named ACC Player of the Year for the second straight year. UofL has had a player hold the ACC POTY title for four straight seasons.
COVID-19 made the season quite challenging as the Cards played in what felt like a near-empty arena instead of the normal boisterous crowd of 10,000. Fortunately, Paulie and I both found ourselves inside the temporarily-reformed KFC Yum! Center. I'm sure he agrees with me that the overall experience was not as enjoyable as years past with an empty press room, no meal, and no in-person postgame.
The season was still young when the program went on a pause before Christmas with contact tracing. The Cards held a 5-0 record at that point and had garnered national attention following a 116-75 destruction of a ranked DePaul team. Besides the expected breakout performance by Dana Evans, both Hailey Van Lith and Olivia Cochran had risen to the spotlight as freshmen.
Jeff Walz worked his magic and pulled teams out of his sleeves left and right as the Cards made a last minute schedule on New Year's Day. January proved to be a busy month with 11 games played. February and March each had seven games.
Louisville found themselves facing some in-state opponents in Eastern Kentucky, Northern Kentucky, and Bellarmine, but Kentucky and Western Kentucky were nowhere to be seen due to various reasons.
Midway through the month of January, we saw the Cards cruise by Florida State in an uncharacteristic fashion, which then helped propel Louisville into their first ever #1 ranking. The Cards held that spot for a couple weeks, pushing their record to 16-0 before welcoming #2 NC State to the KFC Yum! Center. The Wolfpack welcomed back Elisa Cunane for that game, who had been out for an extended period.
The NC State game was primarily defensive in the first half and was a close game headed into the final quarter before the Wolfpack began pulling away almost immediately at the start of the fourth quarter.
The Cards answered by winning four straight including thumping Boston College and Pitt. It wasn't until a trip to Tallahassee in late February that the second blemish appeared on the record. The Cards and Noles were tied with 6:29 left in the game before FSU went on a 21-12 run to close the game.
However, a win in South Bend to close the regular season sealed the deal for the ACC title and a #1-seed in the ACC Tournament. Louisville had some difficulty against Wake Forest before handling Syracuse with a little more ease. Then, came the rematch against NC State. Louisville held a one-point lead with 1:59 remaining before Cunane hit a free throw to tie the score and Raina Perez knocked in a prayer with two seconds left to take the win.
A 23-3 mark earned the Cards a #2-seed in the NCAA Tournament. NC State joined the ranked of Stanford, UConn, and South Carolina for the other #1-seeds. The Wolfpack fell to Indiana in the Sweet Sixteen and were the only #1-seed to not make the Final Four.
Louisville found themselves matched up with Marist in the opening round. Fans were stunned when the Red Foxes held a 15-12 lead after the first quarter. It's safe to say Coach Walz lit a fire under his team's belt as they won the next two quarters 17-9 and 26-9 on the way to a 31-point win.
The second round was a match-up with #7-seed Northwestern. This one was even more terrifying as the Wildcats raced out to a 25-10 first quarter lead and a 32-20 halftime lead. Where was Louisville's offense and defense? It showed up in the second half as the Cards won those quarters 20-8 and 22-13 for a nine-point win.
#6-seed Oregon was next up for the Cards. The Ducks were considered a potential dark horse for the tournament and underrated by many due to the size and talent of Sedona Prince. Prince was one of the first players to break the horrible conditions the women's players dealt with as opposed to the luxuries the men's players had for the NCAA Tournament. For that, we do thank Prince. But the brilliance of the UofL coaching staff paid off as they would go onto 29-14 halftime lead and win by 18. Oregon's offense was tough and UofL held them to three single-digit scoring quarters.
Then we get to the Elite Eight match-up against Stanford. The Cardinal (no "S") were the favorite to win the title with a near-unstoppable offense and defense. Louisville opened the game strong with a 21-13 lead in the first quarter and a 12-point halftime lead. Stanford fired back in the third quarter but a late quarter jumper gave Louisville a two-point lead. We then come to the dreaded fourth quarter. Stanford was known for having one of the best three-point shooting teams in the country and they came alive in the fourth quarter. The Cardinal knocked down five three's en route to a 30-13 quarter and sent Louisville home.
Stanford went on to beat South Carolina by one the next round amidst controversy over the officiating. They then defeated #3-seed Arizona by one in the final with more officiating controversy.
Still, it's hard to argue that it wasn't a good season. The fact that a season happened at all makes the year successful. But winning another conference title against some tough teams in the ACC, earning a #1 ranking, and advancing to another Elite Eight is pretty darn good.
Unfortunately, we did see the last of Dana Evans in a Louisville uniform, the only player to graduate. She did go on and get drafted in the second round of the WNBA Draft. The other players to depart were Elizabeth Balogun, Nyah Green, and Malea Williams, all who transferred out.
From a scoring standpoint, this was Evans' team, as her 602 points flirted with doubling up the next closest scorer in HVL (335). Kianna Smith also broke the 300-point mark on the season with 319. Louisville averaged 76.8 points per game on the year with an average margin of victory of 16. The Cards also shot .788 from the charity stripe, which is high enough for a capital "F" in the F-R-E-D Report.
The Cards outrebounded opponents by an average of 3.5 rebounds per game with much thanks to Cochran, Elizabeth Dixon, HVL, and Mykasa Robinson for getting scrappy. Louisville also destroyed opponents in blocks 144-77. Four Cards were in the double-digits with blocks this year.
A lot of credit was given to Robinson, who many have considered the "blue-collar" on the team. Although Kasa wasn't the big scorer she was the do-it-all player and wasn't afraid to get down on the floor for a loose ball.
HVL showcased her talent by being able to score from anywhere on the floor. Her Kobe imitation was rather on-point with a .388 three-point percentage. She also dished out 63 assists.
Kianna Smith also proved to be reliable on offense once she was healthy from injury. Her 11.4 points per game ranked second on the team and showed no nerves when being able to score in a tight situation.
Dixon (7.6 ppg, 5.4 rpg) and Cochran (9.9 ppg, 6.9 rpg) were quite the dynamic duo down low. They went up against plenty of larger opponents and held their own. They combined for 58 blocks and 24 steals will limiting their turnovers to a combined 77.
Louisville had some trouble with being able to build a lead and run with it as many games came down to the fourth quarter before relying on Evans to help pull away down the stretch or be the buzzer-beater scorer for the win. But the stingy defense is what helped Louisville steal a few wins.
There is plenty to look forward to next season with a talented roster returning. Louisville has a couple young star freshmen joining the squad in Payton Verhulst and Sydni Schetnan. A pair of solid transfers also join the Cards this year in Emily Engstler (senior, Syracuse) and Chelsie Hall (grad student, Vanderbilt). The two experienced players are expected to play just one year with the Cards, but will have an extra year of eligibility due to the COVID-19 year.
Louisville Takes Over ACC Network July 8
If I waited until Thursday to tell you about the Cards taking over the ACC Network you'd have already missed a few events so here's your early notice to get your DVR ready for Thursday, July 8. It's ALL LOUISVILLE ALL DAY.
I looked into the TV schedule for the ACC Network that day and here is what they currently have listed:
6:00 AM- Baseball vs Florida State (year not listed)
9:00 AM- Lacrosse vs Colorado (2021 season)
11:00 AM- Women's Basketball vs Florida State (year not listed- I think the 2020-2021 season)
1:00 PM- Field Hockey vs Virginia (2020 season, ACC semifinal)
2:30 PM- Volleyball vs Pittsburgh (2020 season)
4:30 PM- Men's Basketball vs Kent State (NCAA Basketball Classic)
6:30 PM- Women's Soccer vs Syracuse (2020 season)
8:30 PM- Lacrosse vs Colorado (2021 season)
10:30 PM- Wake Forest vs Louisville (NCAA Football Classics- I think the 2019 season)
1:30 AM- Field Hockey vs Virginia (2020 season, ACC semifinal)
3:00 AM- Baseball vs Florida State (year not listed)
This schedule is subject to change. I wouldn't be surprised to see one of the duplicates switch over to men's soccer or softball.
Happy Tuesday and Go Cards!