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Saturday, August 28, 2021

Cards Victorious Across the Board on Very Busy Friday -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Volleyball Brings Brooms to Tempe

Louisville volleyball officially got their season underway yesterday in Tempe, Arizona as they played the first and last matches of the day for Louisville teams. The Cards got things started at 1PM Eastern to open up the Sun Devil Invitational against Cal Poly.

Out of the gate, the Mustangs showed that they were not going to roll over for Louisville in both teams' season opener as they won the first point and went on a 6-0 run shortly after to take an 8-4 lead in the first game. Cal Poly carried that lead all the way to 20-15 in the first game before Louisville fought back. The Cards went on an 8-1 run to take a 23-21 lead and flip the pressure onto the opposition. Cal Poly responded with a pair of kills by Jamie Stivers to tie the game, but a service error and an Aiko Jones kill put the first game away.

If you were hoping that Louisville just needed to get that first rusty set out of the way, you can continue hoping. It briefly looked like that might be the case when the Cards jumped out to a 7-3 lead in the second game, but it was a game of runs. Cal Poly responded to draw things closer, pulling to within 20-17 before Louisville was able to nickel and dime their way to a 25-21 win. All is hunky dory now, right?

Well... not so much. Cal Poly came out of halftime no longer content to let huge swings in momentum dictate the pace of play. Unlike the first two games, there were no big runs for the majority of this one. Up until the end, the longest run by either team was three straight points and the largest lead in the game was just four points. Cal Poly's last run came from a 21-21 tie as they won three straight points to put themselves on triple game point. A service error screwed up the opportunity. This is where the "majority" modifier comes in from before. Louisville decided they were ready to go back to the hotel to get some rest before the next match. The service error started Louisville's five point run to come back from 21-24 to win 26-24.

It was a hard fought victory that statistically didn't seem like it should have been as close as it was. The Cards and Mustangs had the same number of service errors and Cal Poly completed just two more aces. Louisville outblocked Cal Poly 10-7 and outhit them by a full 10 percentage points. Unfortunately, Louisville's errors came at costly moments, breaking momentum or allowing Cal Poly runs to continue. As Jeff said in our text thread, the team was just happy to get back to the bus.

That led to their second match of the season. At 8PM Eastern, Louisville returned to the Desert Financial Arena to take on Texas A&M - Corpus Christi. The play-by-play isn't a part of the box score for this one, so I can't see exactly how the match went, but the stats tell a pretty decisive story about the 25-10, 25-17, 25-16 victory.

Once again, Louisville and their opponent each had nine service errors. This time, though, Louisville had seven aces and TAMU-CC had zero. The Cards outblocked the Islanders 11-5, but the big discrepancy came in hitting percentage. For the match, Louisville hit 0.433 while TAMU-CC hit just 0.039. The Islanders had a negative hitting percentage in the first and third games. Given that they only had 19 errors compared to Louiville's 10, it's clear that they were just unable to get any hitting opportunities.

Louisville was led offensively by the three you'd expect in this one. Anna DeBeer led the way with nine kills, followed closely by Jones's eight, and Amaya Tillman's seven. Tillman contributed three solo blocks and three assists as well. In the first game, DeBeer had nine kills as well, tied with Anna Stevenson for the team lead in that match. Jones and Tillman added eight and six, respectively. Claire Chaussee also pumped in seven kills in the first match, though she was much more muted in the second. The injury sustained in the Red and Black scrimmage did not appear to hinder Tori Dilfer at all as she did the lion's share of the setting with a combined 60 assists over the six sets.

Louisville is back in action tonight at 7PM against Arizona State. A live stream is available through the Pac-12 website and can be found through this link.

Field Hockey Romps Ohio After Delay

Louisville field hockey took a touch longer than expected to get the season started after thunderstorms rolled into Louisville causing lightning to steal the show in pregame. Just before the two teams were scheduled to begin their warmup period, lightning was spotted and a torrential downpour began. The game originally scheduled to begin at three had its entire feasibility immediately thrown into question. Night games, while possible, are uncommon at Trager Stadium and neither Louisville nor Ohio wanted to put themselves on the line for a double-header on Saturday or Sunday. With the radar looking very ominous, we began to question if Louisville's season opener would not come until Monday.

Fortunately (for soccer as well), the sky cleared up and the storms broke away from Louisville. The two teams took to the field to warm up at 4:30 and play began just before 5:00. Ohio might have preferred it didn't. According to the gocards writeup, Louisville 6-0 victory marked the most goals scored by Louisville in a game since October 29, 2017. That game was a 6-0 victory... over Ohio. The Bobcats might stop coming to see us.

As Louisville looked to answer questions about its offense without Meche Pastor, it seems as though they may be ok. Ohio might not be the best gauge of competition, since the Cards play in the toughest field hockey league in the country, but six goals is nothing to scoff at. Goals were scored by Erica Cooper (2), Katie Schneider, Mattie Tabor, Mia Duchars, and Filippa Niebuhr. In addition to her goal, Schneider tallied a career high three assists.

Coach Justine Sowry called the effort "great teamwork," as it shows how they intend to approach this season without the singe-point offensive firepower of Pastor. Defensively, freshman Mila de Kuijer made the most of her first collegiate start in goal with four saves and a shutout. Sam Minrath continues to not dress for reasons unknown to us here at Cardinal Couple.

The fifth-ranked Louisville team will continue their season against New Hampshire tomorrow at 2PM.

Soccer Survives JMU Comeback

Louisville looked in total control of the game last night for the first 44 minutes, and they hung on for dear life after that. Last night's game was a fresh restart from the postponed Thursday game, as they scrapped the seven minutes played the previous day. Ultimately, the Cards were able to hang on for a 4-3 win. In the first two games, it seems that we have answered some of the questions about the offensive game plan but have plenty more to ask about the defense.

Last night's game was very even, as JMU actually outshot Louisville 15-14, though both teams had eight shots on target. Louisville was lucky to escape two or three shots that should have been goals to draw the match late in the game, though there was some argument about whether or not they should have scored a fifth of their own.

The Cards opened the scoring in the 15th minute with a rare indirect free kick inside the box. JMU's goalkeeper placed the ball on the line for a goal kick, then gave it a light tap before taking her real kick. Unfortunately for the Dukes, that constitutes an illegal touch, as the ball must leave the 18 yard box on a goal kick before it can be touched again. Thus, Louisville was granted a free kick just outside the six yard box, setting up the fun visual of the entire defense lining the goal line. With a free kick that short, about the only defensive philosophy is to sprint full speed at the shot taker as soon as the ball is touched. Louisville was prepared for this, faking the start many times to keep JMU off balance before Brooke Dardano toe tapped the ball for Maisie Whitsett to fire it home.

Just eight minutes later Morgan Bentley doubled the Cards' advantage on a heck of a shot from a Nina Nicosia assist and immediately after forced JMU into an uncomfortable save. In the 38th minute, Emma Hiscock gave Dardano a second assist when she scored her second goal of the season and Louisville's third of the game. At 3-0, the Cards looked in complete control. Things... turned.

As the half wound down, and Louisville looked to get their orange slices in the locker room, Hannah Coulling got in behind the Louisville defense and made it a 3-1 game with just a minute remaining in the half. Louisville walked in a bit deflated by the goal but had plenty to be excited about with a two goal lead.

The second half started much like the first, with the two teams still working to figure out what the pace would look like in the half. Ten minutes into this one, JMU struck again. Again, it was an unassisted goal, this time by Ebony Wiseman. Louisville's outer defense struggled to keep an eye on through runs and outswinging passes throughout the game so there's plenty to see about whether or not the 4-3-3 is the answer this season. Five minutes later, Coulling scored once more to tie the game at three. Louisville did not have a three goal lead erased last season, so it was interesting to see how they would react. React they did, as Delaney Snyder made the most of her season debut with a headed goal off of a free kick from Mikayla Hampton in the 62nd minute.

With 28 minutes remaining, Louisville turned to trying to hold on. As mentioned, the Cards had a fifth goal called out, but the defense gave JMU a lot of opportunity to tie. The biggest threat came when the ball actually found the back of the net. Fortunately for the Cards, a JMU attacker was ruled to have interfered with Gabby Kouzelos while in an offsides position. No goal. Another effort saw Coulling step past Kouzelos in a one-on-one situation before she attempted an off balance shot that missed the goal. With time to spare, she could have easily walked it in. In a last gasp attempt, JMU got one more final attempt with four minutes remaining when a ball snuck past Kouzelos and just bounced off of the post at ground level. A few inches to the left would have saw that ball ricocheting in.

Louisville managed to escape this one and will take to the field again when they host NKU tomorrow at 7:30PM. Like the others, this one will be available on the ACC Network Extra.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour

First, an apology. I didn't get last week's episode up on the podcast platforms. It was a long drive back on Sunday and a hectic week followed. The podcast will resume this week as normal. We should have a full house on board for what will be a very busy show. Join us in celebrating the joy and excitement of Louisville women's athletics as we look back on the winning week that was. As always, you can check out the live stream of the show by going to the Cardinal Couple YouTube page and clicking on the live video. Jeff usually creates that about an hour before the show, which officially starts at 11 AM Eastern. If the live time doesn't work for you, there are plenty of playback options, so be sure to check out whichever is best for you!

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Until next time, Go Cards!

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