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Saturday, October 16, 2021

Cards Take Two of Three in Friday Action -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

It's been awhile, but I'm back after a nice vacation followed by a not so nice travel experience on the way home. At any rate, we should be fully back on schedule with the Cardinal Couple columns and the Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast now, so let's get into yesterday's events.

Field Hockey Comes Back for 3-2 Win at BC

Louisville trailed 2-0 in the third quarter of yesterday afternoon's match with their lead in the conference standings (and their #4 overall ranking) on the line at Boston College. The Cards managed to score once in the third and once in the fourth, all while holding off a fairly strong BC attack, to send it to OT, where the golden goal winner was found. Louisville moved to 12-2 and 4-0 in conference.

The match started out rather tame, with no plays being recorded in the first quarter play-by-play. The box score simply names the keepers for each team, then announces the end of the period. The field players were bound to be hard at work, but if neither team can crack an offensive opportunity or commit a foul, we who couldn't watch the match are left wondering whether the teams just stood around and looked at each other for fifteen minutes.

The second quarter saw action pick up. Louisville threatened early, as they earned a penalty corner just two minutes into the quarter. Filippa Niebuhr's shot was blocked, but Louisville continued to control the ball for the next bit, and earned another corner two minutes later. This time, it was Julie Kouijzer who took the shot, but this one was saved and controlled by the goalkeeper. Boston College quickly answered this time, getting downfield and grabbing a shot against the run of play. Mila de Kuijer stepped up with a big save and it appeared the two teams would carry on as things had been. BC wasn't done attacking, though. 

With just over eight minutes remaining in the half, the Eagles earned a corner and refused to be turned away. The primary shot was saved by de Kuijer but wasn't handled. The first rebound was then saved by Alli Bitting, and the follow up rebound blocked by the team. Fourth time was the charm, though, as Louisville's inability to clear the threat allowed another rebounded shot, this one by Sarah Johnson, to find the back of the cage.

Both teams were unable to make anything else happen in the first half, and the 1-0 score carried into the locker room. After the half, Louisville came out quickly, with Aimee Plumb picking up a shot in open play, but it went wide. Shortly after, BC earned another corner. This one was saved with fewer rebounds, but a foul was called in the midst of the corner and the Eagles were awarded a penalty stroke. Sky Caron stepped up and slotted it home for just her second goal of the season. I'm not sure if field hockey requires the victimized player to take the penalty stroke, but, if not, Caron seems an odd choice to have taken the shot. She made it either way so I suppose it doesn't matter. The Cards were in a 2-0 hole and things weren't looking much in their favor.

Some familiar names took care of that rather quickly. Less than two minutes later, Louisville's offense found itself on the attack and Kouijzer found Plumb for the goal. The teams were right back where they had started the quarter with a one goal difference, and they went to the fourth at 2-1. Louisville's attack was strong early once again, as they worked BC into a yellow card. Having the player advantage, Charlie van Oirschot made it count with an open play goal, unassisted, to tie the match. Both teams endeavored to grab a winner, but neither threatened the goal until the final minute and a half. BC earned a corner with 1:21 remaining, and the shot was on frame. Fortunately, de Kuijer made another big save to keep it level, and the match headed into overtime.

Have I mentioned that Louisville's offense was fast coming out of breaks? That didn't change in the overtime period. The Cards made short work of this golden goal session, as Plumb put a shot on frame just 22 seconds into OT. The shot was saved but it set up a penalty corner. Louisville couldn't find a shot from the first corner, but earned another just fifty seconds later. This corner resulted in another shot for Plumb, again blocked, but Louisville's offense didn't relent. They kept the ball in their control and Plumb found Erica Cooper for the game winner just two minutes and twenty-three seconds into the overtime period. BC hardly even controlled the ball.

While the Cards picked up a critical win, they are unlikely to move in the standings, in my opinion. The top two teams, Iowa and Michigan, also faced off yesterday afternoon. Though one team had to lose, the two represent Louisville's two losses this season and both were undefeated entering the matchup. They also made it about as hard as possible for voters to decide one was better than the other, as they took a 1-1 draw in regulation through two scoreless OT's and went to penalty strokes. Even the strokes were close, as they finished 2-1 in favor of Iowa. In addition, third-ranked Rutgers took care of another top-ten win, this time over Maryland. I expect the top four spots to remain unchanged, with Louisville in a position to jump Rutgers or Michigan when the two play next week, as long as the Cards can take care of business.

Speaking of Louisville's business, yesterday's victory guaranteed that they can finish no worse than third in the conference. At 4-0, Louisville can finish just 4-2 at worst. The only team that can match that record is Virginia, and the Cards already hold the tiebreaker in that series. Louisville will get to play their two challengers for the league lead as they take on UNC (3-1) next Friday and Syracuse (3-0) the following Friday, the last match of the regular season. Louisville gets a brief breather in their next match as they take on Northeastern tomorrow at noon. The Howlin' Huskies are just 4-9 on the season and 1-3 in the CAA; however, all four wins have come at home. The match is on FloSports if you feel like paying up to watch this one, but we'll have it covered if you choose not to. 

Soccer Can't Complete Same Comeback in 2-1 Loss

Louisville hosted BC in what was expected to be a double header with the men's squad but quickly found themselves in a race against the rain. It had been gray and rained off and on all day, but things cleared up for most of the match. The field conditions made for a tricky match, but the air stayed mostly dry. Louisville suited up in pink uniforms, which I hadn't seen before. I'd become accustomed to the black or white uniforms trimmed in pink, but they wore bubblegum tops yesterday. Since the color was light enough, BC wore their burgundy jerseys, setting up for a somewhat uncommon color-on-color matchup in collegiate soccer. 

Louisville appeared to have some momentum early, as they earned a pair of corners in the first five minutes. Unfortunately, as has been the case for much of the season, the Cards were unable to capitalize on the most common set piece in the game. They came away with no shots from either opportunity. In the ninth minute, Louisville picked up the first shot of the game, but Delaney Snyder's effort was off the mark.

The offensive groove then decided to swap in favor of Boston College for a bit. The Eagles worked their offense into an attacking position but were whistled for offsides. After the kick, they won the ball back and went to work again, this time setting up a shot, forcing Gabby Kouzelos into a save. Louisville briefly had a look offensively, but an offsides call put them back on their heels. A foul and a corner kick set BC up in the attacking third, and they ultimately capitalized with a delayed goal from the corner in the 17th minute. Louisville's defense appeared to hold up when they thought the play should be whistled for offsides, but the whistle never came, and Laura Gauvin gave the Eagles a 1-0 lead. 

The goal seemed to reinvigorate the Cards, as the next ten minutes saw Louisville grab three shots and earn two corners, while BC's only offensive threat was called offsides. However, all three Louisville shots were off frame and both corners, again, resulted in nothing. As BC mounted another offensive effort, they were briefly thwarted by another offsides (BC was ultimately called off eight times in the match), but they were undeterred again. The Eagles earned another corner, this time handled a bit better by Louisville, and continued their offensive pressure. In the 34th, Ella Richards' shot was off the post, and the Cards narrowly escaped going down 2-0. Louisville was once again woken up offensively by the scare, as they controlled the ball for the rest of the half. Shortly after the woodwork save, the Cards grabbed two more shots, their first two on frame of the match, but BC's Wiebke Willebrandt was up to the task. Louisville would pick up one more shot in the half but it was off target, and they headed to the locker room down 1-0.

Entering yesterday's match, the Cards were just 1-4-1 when conceding first this season, so the odds were not in their favor. Prior to the NC State match, Louisville had not lost (7-0-1) when scoring a goal, but that streak had also been broken when they failed to complete the comeback against the Wolfpack. Louisville needed to score quickly in the second to get on track in this one, but it wasn't to be. The Cards earned the first shot of the half, when Emma Hiscock found an opportunity just two minutes in, but her shot was wide. BC quickly punished. Exactly four minutes into the half, the Eagles doubled their advantage with an unassisted goal by Jenna Bike, set up by a Louisville foul. 

Both teams turned it up over the next twenty minutes, trading shots both on and off target, and getting chippier by the minute. Maisie Whitsett was the first into the book when she earned a yellow card in the 70th minute. Two minutes later, Louisville found themselves defending in the box and Anouk Denton found herself in the book alongside Whitsett. Denton was shown the yellow card and BC was shown the penalty spot. 

Despite having their leading goal scorer on the field, BC sent Michela Agresti, a player who hadn't scored this season, to take the shot. This worked out for Louisville, as Kouzelos was able to gather the save and keep the deficit at just two goals. 

After that scare, Louisville was against the ropes. After BC earned another corner and missed another shot, the Cards responded by keeping primary control of the ball for the final fifteen minutes. BC would manage only to earn two offsides calls while trying to kill clock, and Louisville upped the pressure. Their efforts culminated in a Julia Simon goal in the 87th minute, assisted by Delaney Snyder. The Cards had two more chances, but they were called offsides while trying to score immediately after the goal and again on their final effort with just twenty seconds remaining in the match. The final was 2-1, with Boston College earning its first conference win of the season.

When I last wrote about Louisville's chances of making the conference tournament, this and the NC State match were ones I expected the Cards to win. I was also working under the assumption that there would be the standard eight teams in the conference tournament. Since then, we've confirmed that there will be only six teams playing for the conference title.

 As such, Louisville's chances of making the conference tournament are slim, and those of making the NCAA tournament even slimmer. Had Louisville managed a win in either of the last two, or a draw in both, they would sit in the sixth place position. Instead, they are in a three-way tie for seventh with 9 points, with UNC (6th-11), Clemson, and NC State all having a game in hand over the Cards. NC State and UNC play today, but Louisville could easily enter next week alone in ninth. The Cards get Virginia (A), Clemson (A), and Duke (H) to finish the season, easily the most difficult remaining schedule of the three teams they're fighting for that sixth seed. Unfortunately, there may be just three games left for this Louisville squad this season.

Volleyball Sweeps 8th Straight Match

Things got a bit dicey in the second set yesterday evening when the Cards' 23-set winning streak found itself on the line at Virginia Tech. Louisville recovered, though, to pick up another sweep and give Coach Dani Busboom-Kelly her 100th coaching victory at UofL. That many wins in fewer than five complete seasons, when one of those seasons was shortened, is nothing short of amazing if you ask me. The Cards didn't have it easy in any set, ultimately winning 25-20, 30-28, and 25-22, but a win is a win and a sweep is a sweep. The Cards moved to 17-0 overall, and should stay safely in second place in the country.

The Cards weren't nearly as crisp in this one as they have been of late, which you might have guessed since they were in danger of dropping a set to a team that is winless in conference play and sat at just .500 overall. Louisville ultimately finished with a 0.295 hitting percentage, well below the 0.320 season average they had entering the match. They were also outblocked for the first time in what feels like forever, finishing with just six on the night, over a block per set fewer than their average. Louisville did win the serving game, going 5-8 compared to VT's 3-10, which was particularly useful in that overtime second set in which VT had service errors on multiple game point attempts. 

The sets were exciting or frustrating, depending on how you'd like to view them. Both teams played fairly evenly, with no major swings in the first or second set. Louisville's four point run to close the first set matched VT's longest of the set, and neither had a run longer than four in the second set either. The third set is where some of the frustration might creep in, as Louisville looked poised to put a more-difficult-than-necessary match behind them when they used a three-point run to take a 21-13 lead. Instead, they gave up nine of the next eleven points to make it 23-22 before taking the last two to win and get out of town. The Cards added to their sixteen hitting errors and eight service errors with an uncharacteristic pair of handling errors, but let's hope they'll clean it all up before the next match. 

There was a lot of positive from the match as well, aside from the obvious facts that they swept their eighth straight match and have won 25 straight sets dating back to the five set thriller over Kentucky over a month ago. Anna Stevenson led the way in this one crushing a .526 hitting percentage on her way to 13 kills.

 That lead is impressive, considering there wasn't a lot of offensive rotation in this one, with just three outside hitters getting attempts. Those three split their work evenly, with Anna DeBeer and Claire Chaussee both grabbing eight kills and Aiko Jones adding seven. Amaya Tillman had five and Tori Dilfer had three and that was all the offense Louisville needed. Nena Mbonu sat this one out in a walking boot. No Cardinal had more than three attacking errors individually, so it was a very even, if not abnormal, match for the Cards.

Louisville continues their road swing tomorrow against Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons are just 11-7 (2-5) this season, but they are coming off of a confidence boosting sweep over Notre Dame. Ideally, Louisville will get back to firing on all cylinders and will make short work of Wake so that they can go into the back portion of the schedule with a bit of a break. The Cards will return home next week to host Virginia before the real work begins. Louisville still has two against Pitt, two against Notre Dame, and matches against GT and NC State to play this season. The first against Pitt comes next Sunday, but Louisville will need to take care of business in the two matches prior to ensure that the Panthers cannot use a victory to take an outright conference lead. Tomorrow's match will be on linear cable, with it getting the regional sports network treatment. That's Bally Sports South, formerly the Fox Sports networks, here in town. First serve is scheduled for 1PM.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

As I mentioned, I'm back to what should be a more regular schedule now, so I'll be back on the show this week. I apologize, if you're a podcast listener, that the last two weeks were YouTube only. I was unable to post the show to the podcast feed and didn't get the chance to get it squared away so Jeff could do it. All of that aside, we should have an exciting show lined up for you this week, as we cover all there was in the week of UofL women's athletics and look ahead at the weeks to come. Basketball is just around the corner, so things at Cardinal Couple are sure to get even more hectic soon. 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!

1 comment:

  1. Alas, it looks like the live stream of the CCRHP won't be happening today because of technical difficulties.

    We are recording it, and Case will have it at all of your favorite podcast sources.


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