All Eyes on Volleyball
Well, it's finally here, the match that nearly every collegiate volleyball fan has been waiting for. The University of Pittsburgh comes to Louisville for one of the top matches in volleyball this year.
Louisville has maintained their 2nd ranking for two weeks, always with a bit of an eye on Texas and whether anyone will beat them. As a bit of an aside, one of the best opportunities for that to happen will be in two weeks when Texas visits currently 11th ranked Baylor (after two full weeks of rest from their 3-0 sweep of Iowa State on Friday).
Pitt arrives in Louisville with their 4th ranking after a five set match in South Bend (and let's be fair to Pitt's schedule maker - Notre Dame, IN is "a census-designated place north of the city of South Bend in St. Joseph County, in the U.S. state of Indiana" according to Wikipedia) against Notre Dame on Friday, plus the roughly four hour bus ride.
The only loss that Pitt has taken this year was a five set battle in Atlanta against a then 18th ranked Georgia Tech team. The Yellowjackets have since climbed to 13th ranked.
Pitt has gotten credit for good wins in the season, particularly in their non-conference play, and their top RPI reflects that. They have played a lot of games against good teams, that can't be denied. Wins over Washington State, Baylor, Tennessee, South Carolina, Rice, and BYU are all significant, and in-conference they've already beaten Miami, FSU, and the aforementioned Notre Dame. There's four top-25 teams in there (BYU, Baylor, Tennessee, and Washington State) and several others have either been ranked at some point during the season, or at least "Receiving Votes".
Who to be aware of on Pitt's squad? Any discussion of Pitt would be incomplete without talking about Kayla Lund, and Chinaza Ndee. They have been the engine of Pitt squad for several years now, with Lund being listed as a Graduate Student, and Ndee as Fifth Year. Both are, perhaps a bit undersized. Lund as a 6'0" outside is maybe only slightly so, but Ndee has mostly been playing in the middle and is listed at 5'11". Both are putting down kills at a pace upwards of 3.5 a set.
Leketor Member-Meneh (who's name seem to give the Notre Dame play-by-play guy fits...I'm not sure where he kept finding an "s" in there), has come on strong this year to get some attention as well. A DEFINITELY under-sized senior outside hitter at 5'8", she's on a 3.36 kills per set pace this year.
Kylee Levers, a graduate student, will be your setter. At 6'0" she brings some decent height to the setting position, which is always a nice boost for a team to help with blocking. Look for junior Ashley Browske in the libero jersey. She's tallying 2.4 digs per set, which is a decent number, but pales in comparison to Elena Scott's 3.9 per set.
Pitt's leaders are veterans, as you can see above. They know how to play at this level and they know how to play together. They've played against good teams this season and they will not be intimidated by Louisville and that number 2 by our name.
For each team, playing the other is, unquestionably, the biggest test they will face in this regular season. The only way either team will eclipse this would be if/when they match up against Texas or perhaps Wisconsin in tournament play. This is, of course, only round one of this matchup, as these two teams will see each other against in the second-to-last match of the season on November 24th in Pittsburgh.
For Louisville, there's an additional point of pride riding on this game. With a win today, the Cards will match the 2005 squad for the longest undefeated opening to a season at 20-0. Former Cardinal great Jen Hoffman, who was a part of that 2005 squad, will be on the call with Sam Gore on the linear ACC Network today at noon.
I would normally say, come out to the L&N FCU Arena, but tickets for this one have been sold out for some time, now. It will be available on linear and streaming as mentioned above, with match start at noon, slightly earlier than normal because of the TV coverage.
While Volleyball gets quite a few column inches above because of being in such a large match-up today. We mustn't forget that Field Hockey has yet another top-25 match-up on their schedule today.
Amazingly, for UofL, a non-conference match-up against 25th ranked James Madison almost constitutes a bit of a day off. After a golden goal 3-2 overtime win against 10th ranked North Carolina on Friday and Friday's upcoming match-up against currently 9th ranked Syracuse with the number 1 seed in the ACC tournament on the line, a day of playing "only" a 25th ranked team with no conference implications seems like a bit of a respite.
JMU has lost to every top 25 ranked team they have played this season with the exception of Delaware who they beat 4-0. The losses were to Duke, Wake Forest, and Old Dominion. This Louisville squad will be the highest ranked team they face in the season with only unranked William and Mary left on their schedule after today's game. They will begin the CAA conference tournament on Friday.
The biggest scoring threats for the Dukes are both from the Netherlands, which of course has a huge tradition of field hockey excellence that Louisville has been tapping into as well. Eveline Zwager has 13 goals on the season, nearing a goal per game pace; while Diede Remijnse has 10 goals in the 15 games.
Look for another Netherlander in goal with Florien Marcussen having started all 15 games for JMU in the cage. She has 44 saves on the year with 20 goals against. Compare that to 57 and 15 for UofL's Mila de Kuijer.
Like volleyball, this one is a noon start, and streaming is only on Flo Sports.
Karen Ferguson-Dayes takes her soccer squad down to Clemson for their penultimate game of the year. Clemson is a mid-pack team, but is trying to cling to their current 6th place standing in the ACC in order to make the six team ACC tournament. They are three points ahead of North Carolina who still has games against Notre Dame (today) and Wake Forest, and four ahead of Virginia Tech. The Hokies may be the bigger threat pushing Clemson to get more points as the rest of their schedule consists of Boston College (1-7 in ACC) and Syracuse (0-8 in ACC).
Who's dangerous on Clemson's squad? The Tigers have quite a few threats relatively evenly spread. Megan Bornkamp is the leading goal scorer with eight on the year, with Hal Hershfelt close behind with seven. Renee Lyles has six goals to her name, and McKenna Morris has five.
Hensley Hancuff has started most of Clemson's games in goal and has 29 saves with 10 goals against. The other occasional starter is Halle Mackiewicz who gets roughly a third of the minutes of Hancuff. Count eight saves for Mackiewicz, and seven goals against. Ally Lynch has made two appearances in goal for roughly 20 minutes of playing time and has an unblemished record with a save and no goals against.
If I do my math correctly, there is still a mathematical chance for Louisville to make the ACC tournament with two wins, but it's an extreme longshot at this point. The Cardinals are playing for pride now, and a hope to start building for next year.
A one o'clock start for this one, and UofL has it listed for ACC Network Extra. Let's hope RSN doesn't get in the way.
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast
Yesterday was a recorded-only version of the CCRHP as I was up in Indy watching cars going fast, turning left, and doing so without any drivers in the Indy Autonomous Challenge. Of the nine teams that reached the final events yesterday only five completed their events of the day with one spinning into the grass, and three finding various walls. I look forward to further developments in the field, and hope that some day we can advance to have some wheel-to-wheel autonomous racing.
In my absence, Jared, Case, and Paulie did get on the call and recorded the podcast. I have not yet had the chance to listen to the full episode, but reports indicate that a power outage at Paulie's place knocked him off of the broadcast for a significant period. Case and Jared, though, handled it well in his unplanned and unforeseen absence. .
You can check out the recording on it's home podcast location at anchor.fm at https://anchor.fm/cardinal-couple/episodes/Soccer-Winds-Down-While-FH-and-Vball-Roll-On-e196vjc or any of your favorite podcast sources.