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Saturday, August 14, 2021

Soccer Opener; FIBA U19 Results; WBB Schedule -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Women's Soccer Opens Season with Exhibition vs Ball State

Despite some confusion throughout the week about the nature of this game, it was never in doubt that Louisville would open the season tonight against Ball State. Earlier this week, during fall sports media day, Coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes emphasized that tonight's match would be an exhibition. That was news, as the game had not been listed as such on Louisville's schedule, nor was it called out as an exhibition in Louisville's schedule press release. However, last week's schedule press release from Ball State did call the game an exhibition, indicating that it has been considered one by the two sides for quite some time. That said, all that really does is give the Cards one less game on their regular season schedule. 

For the time being, it may take some of the pressure off of the team which has quite a few questions to answer. We saw what Louisville women's soccer looked like in the spring without Emina Ekic at the helm and it wasn't the prettiest action on the field. The Cards became a bit of a one trick pony on offense with Ekic, a point we've belabored here at Cardinal Couple, so getting an exhibition game to try and figure out what the team formation looks like now that the freshman players have been added to that roster from the spring should be very helpful before the real season opener next Thursday against Western Michigan. 

These two Cardinal teams last faced off in 2016, a forgettable season for Louisville. UofL went 7-7-4 that season, missing out on both the ACC and NCAA tournaments. Ball State was Louisville's seventh of eight non-conference opponents that year and the matchup came in Louisville's sixth straight home match. Louisville dominated the game with 23 shots (11 on frame) compared to just 4 (2) for Ball State. Unfortunately, the Ball State goalkeeper was up to the task, snagging 11 saves. The game was won with a Ball state golden goal in the 108th minute. We don't need to get into a whole discussion about college soccer tie rules (either tie in regulation or play the full overtimes, please), but that game was one of eight that Louisville played in 2016 that went into extra time. 

No one that played in the game for Louisville in 2016 remains on the roster, so it will be a fresh start for this Louisville team. The Cards will hope to get their feet under them as they look to build on the last few years in which they have seen growing success. Things will be hard without Ekic, as we have discussed, but there is a lot of talent on this team. Tonight's game will be the first opportunity to see whether that talent will be able to come together to continue to propel the Louisville women's soccer program forward. The match in Lynn Stadium will begin at 7:30PM. It is free to the public and attendance at soccer matches this season are free. All visitors are subject to the UofL bag policy, but no COVID-19 policies are readily available for information.

USA Thumps Spain in Quarterfinals 

Payton Verhulst didn't get the start yesterday afternoon against Spain, but she did play the second most minutes of any non-starter for Team USA. The Yanks continued their domination of the event with a 98-64 victory over the Spaniards to advance to the semifinals to face Hungary today at 11:30 AM. 

Spain's 64 points were the most scored against USA so far in the tournament, and 34 points has been Team USA's smallest margin of victory. Their next closest game was a 40-point win over Australia in the second game of the group round. Spain also played USA to their two closest quarters so far in the tournament as USA won the second and fourth quarters of yesterday's game by only three and four points, respectively. After a 30-18 victory in the first quarter, though, Team USA was never in danger of yielding the lead. 

As it was against Taiwan, yesterday's victory was a group effort. Six players scored in double figures, with four of five starters accomplishing the feat. Collectively, the team shot 54.1% from the floor, going 40% from three-point land. Verhulst's 13 points were tied with Diamond Johnson as the most by a non-starter and fourth-most on the team. Payton added in five rebounds, an assist, a block, and a steal. She was 5/7 from the floor and 3/4 from beyond the arc. Against a much tougher opponent than the previous game, this performance may be more impressive than the one she gave earlier in the week. Caitlin Clark led the team with 17 points and she (6/6) and Sonia Citron (7/7) were both perfect from the free throw line.

USA and Hungary have played two common opponents in the tournament, as Taiwan was in Hungary's group and Hungary played their Round of 16 game against Italy from the USA's group. Hungary beat Taiwan 99-42, a dominating win but not quite the 129-45 victory that USA put up. The more interesting comparison is the game against Italy. Hungary snuck past Italy in the opening round of the knockout stage 54-48. Team USA opened the tournament with a 96-37 victory over Italy. We'll keep up with this game during the show, and Jeff will cover the results in tomorrow's article.

Women's Basketball Releases Non-Con Schedule

Though we already knew a few games on Louisville's schedule this season due to press releases, the official non-conference schedule was released in full yesterday. Louisville will play six home games, three road games, and two "neutral" games. The Cards get just one exhibition game this season, as they'll host Union College on November 4th. 

I put neutral in quotes, because the second of Louisville's neutral court games is an effective home game for the opposing team. The first, as we know, is the season opener against Arizona in South Dakota. Hardly any concerns about the crowd going one way or the other there. The second, however, is the Hall of Fame Women's Showcase. This game will be a rescheduling of the matchup against UCONN that was scuttled last year due to COVID-19. The game will be played in Uncasville, Connecticut, a mere 45-minute drive from Storrs. That game will round out what is likely to be a tough week for the Cards, as they'll play three games in eight days. Louisville hosts Kentucky on the 12th of December and EKU on the 16th in the Jimmy V Classic before heading to Connecticut for the Clash of the Titans on December 19th. That will be Louisville's final non-conference game on the schedule.

Prior to the Kentucky matchup, Louisville will play six previously unannounced games, along with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge game against Michigan. The season opener will come against Bellarmine on November 16th, meaning we are just outside of three months from the beginning of the college basketball season. The Cards get a short turnaround before hosting a second mid-week game against UT-Martin on November 18th. 

There's no rest for the weary, though, as Louisville will jump straight on a plane for a swing out west. The Cards head to Washington to take on the Huskies on November 20th before going down the coast to Cal Poly on November 23rd. The team will presumably come back to Louisville for Thanksgiving before heading to Fort Collins to play Colorado State on November 28th. 

The first week of December sees Michigan on the 2nd and Belmont on the 5th before the aforementioned tough week against Kentucky, EKU, and Connecticut. Louisville's non-conference schedule includes five NCAA tournament teams and four teams that won at least 20 games last season. In a season where some teams barely played 20 games, that achievement is even more impressive. The Cards could easily face five ranked teams in the non-conference schedule and will have plenty of challenges before getting into ACC play.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

The show is a bit thinner today with Jared and Daryl out for various reasons, but we should have plenty to discuss given all of the news that has come our way this week. We'll cover fall sports media day, the basketball schedule release and look a the season opener for women's soccer. Join us as we bring you the joy and excitement of UofL women's athletics on this week's Cardinal Couple Radio Hour. 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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