As Paulie mentioned yesterday, women's soccer is two and a half weeks away. Field hockey and volleyball follow suit by just a few days. Yes, fall sports are just about here!
We often like to break down schedules, which we have done in several articles and on our podcast. We also like to take a stab at guessing the records. We were fairly accurate with women's soccer and field hockey last year, but volleyball laughed at our guesses en route to an undefeated regular season and Final Four appearance. One must tip their cap to the Volley-squad for their determination on that.
So how will the big three fall sports show out for their 2022 seasons?
Some solid scorers return from last season and the Cards still have a sturdy defense to rely on. Losing some midfielders, a couple attackers, and not having a goalkeeper on the current roster leaves plenty of holes to fill that could lead to some early season struggles.
You can trust Louisville to find a way to score through corners, balanced passing, and fast breaks. Louisville has some attackers that can beat anyone one-on-one. The offense will keep the Cards in any match.
What worries me most is the goalkeeper situation. The ACC is tough and an inexperienced keeper can get picked apart.
Not that any part of this year's schedule is easy, but non-conference play has to be considered a break from the brutality of the ACC.
I think Penn State will best the Cards early in the season, but Louisville will find the friendly confines of Trager Stadium to help bounce back. Louisville will boast a 5-1 record as the entire the beginning of conference play when North Carolina visits. That Michigan rematch a week before UNC visits will be one to keep an eye on though. The Tar Heels, still salty over last year's regular season defeat, will pull out the win at Trager. The Cards will close out the home stand with a pair of non-conference wins to improve to 7-2.
A road trip to the east coast for four games provides some conference road game challenges featuring Virginia and Wake Forest. The Cavaliers will be able to defend their home but the Cards will get their first conference victory at Wake. A trip to Liberty isn't simple by any means but the experienced Louisville squad will grind out the win and finish the road trip 10-3.
The final remaining five matches feature a struggling Duke program, subpar Ball State and Cornell teams, and ACC powerhouses Syracuse and Boston College. The Cards will bring their conference record to .500 with a win over Duke and increase their overall record with a commanding win against Ball State. Syracuse will best the Cards up north in a rare Friday night match, but Louisville will finish the season strong with a win at Cornell and then a Senior Day victory against Boston College.
A 14-4 record and 3-3 conference mark will be enough for Louisville to earn a bid to the 18-team NCAA Tournament, but not by much. Nine teams are conference automatic qualifiers, leaving the other nine being at-large bids. Louisville will find themselves dancing in the postseason, but won't be able to match their Final Four appearance from a couple years ago.
Plenty of questions about this squad after losing most of its top scorers to graduation or the transfer portal. The offense has taken a significant slide since the graduation of Emina Ekic and Brooklyn Rivers in recent years and needs to find its identity again.
Soccer has two keepers currently listed, but neither have proven themselves with one redshirting their true freshmen seasons and one of them still recovering from leg surgery in the spring.
Louisville has made its game plan known in the past with a park and defend type style of play and this year will be no different. I am not a fan of that mindset, but it has proven to be successful at various levels of soccer. With a veteran back row squad, it's understandable if the Cards stick with that plan.
But praying for goals with almost no offense returning from last year is scary. Finding ways to press forward and give the inexperienced offense plenty of support will be the only way the Cards survive conference play.
Note: NCAA soccer has switched to no overtime in the regular season beginning this year so there is a higher probability of draws (ties) this year with just a standard 90-minute regulation period.
Opening up at home against UIC and Xavier should result in wins and a trip to NKU should be another win if it's anything like the 3-0 win from last year. A 3-0 start to the year can help build momentum but playing at a neutral site against Memphis will be tough. The ranked Tigers will pull off the win to put the first blemish on Louisville's schedule. Louisville will best JMU on the road to get back in the wins column at 4-1.
The Cards will return home to take down Indiana before opening conference play with a win against Miami to improve to 6-1. A road trip to the top two ACC teams from last year in Florida State and Virginia back-to-back is unfair and knocks the Cards down to 6-3. The Cards will close out the road trip with a win at Pitt.
Clemson visits Dr Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium and sneaks by with a win before Louisville rebounds by beating Boston College. Notre Dame will keep the celebration brief as they come into town next and leave with a win and the Cards clinging to a 8-5 record.
A visit to NC State will result in a win but the trip to Duke won't be as kind. North Carolina will come to town to close out the regular season and leave with a win, knocking the Cards down to 9-7. The winning record will be the first since 2019. Louisville gets into the ACC Tournament, but without taking the title, the Cards do not earn a bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Volleyball is in a fairly comfortable position after an incredible season last year. Replacing Tori Dilfer and Anna Stevenson will be near-impossible, but this team returns loads of talent and experience while bringing in quality transfers.
The schedule somewhat mirrors last year's schedule, just switching locations with many of the opponents.
Louisville heads up north to take on Northern Kentucky, South Dakota, and Missouri- all wins for the Cards. They come back to the state of Kentucky but head down I-65 to WKU. The Toppers will give the Cards a run for their money but Louisville walks away with a win. The home opening weekend welcomes San Diego and Ohio State, where Louisville will improve their record to 6-0. Purdue is at LNFCU Arena this year and Louisville pulls out the win. Either Xavier or Lipscomb is next, another win for the Cards. Louisville will close out non-conference play with trips to Kentucky and Stanford. UofL will enter ACC play with a 10-0 record.
A trip to Florida State and Miami is next, with Louisville winning both. They come home to Clemson and Georgia Tech where they remain undefeated but have some struggles against the Yellow Jackets. Louisville goes back on the road to take on Syracuse and Boston College and win both. Virginia Tech and Wake Forest come to Louisville, where the Cards take both and improve to 18-0.
The Cards head to Virginia and get a win before taking a trip to Pitt. Still mad after last year's sweep, the Panthers take a five-setter against the Cards and end the perfect season. Louisville responds by taking down Notre Dame, Duke, NC State, and North Carolina to up their record to 23-1.
UofL heads south one final time in the season to face (and beat) Georgia Tech and North Carolina. The Yellow Jackets once again show they have fight. Pitt comes in for senior day and the Cards gladly get revenge. A quick trip to Notre Dame before Thanksgiving closes out the season at 27-1 and another ACC Championship.
Louisville is once again one of the top seeds in the NCAA Tournament, hosting the opening two rounds. The Cards cruise through the early rounds before finding themselves in the Final Four again. Unfortunately, an unlucky match-up with another towering squad causes the Cards to bow out after five sets.
Ideally, we see all three squads go undefeated and win their respective championships, but realistically, that's probably not going to happen. However, without being able to see into the future, I could be proven entirely wrong. For now, we'll just hope and cheer the Cards on.
(All photos from Jared Anderson)
Happy Tuesday and Go Cards!