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Saturday, August 27, 2022

Field Hockey Opens with Win and Volleyball Sweeps (Twice) -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Kouijzer Plays Hero Against Bucknell

It wasn't the prettiest start for the Cardinal Field Hockey team as they traveled to College Station for the weekend and opened their season with a game against Bucknell. The unranked Bison squad gave the Cards everything they wanted in the Louisville 2-1 victory. It was Louisville's 9th straight season opening win. 

While you usually have to be careful ascribing expectations to teams in field hockey because the power dynamic is a bit shifted, thoughts about Bucknell would probably be on track. The Bison were 8-10 last season and were 0-5 against ranked teams. Thrice they played the 24th ranked team, which was different in each matchup. Bucknell lost those games by a combined 16-5 score, but they never lost a game by more than three goals. They were bounced from the Patriot League semis after losing to Lafayette in overtime for the second time in a week. 

All that is to say that Louisville shouldn't have struggled much with this team. They could be scrappy, but it should have been relatively straightforward. However, Louisville is also working to recover this season as they reassess their attack and the goalie position. Though we've talked about expecting Louisville to spread the wealth a little bit more this season, both goals for the Cards came from one player yesterday: Julie Kouijzer. The senior scored the first goal just over three minutes into the game when the Cards converted the first corner of the match. After the corner performances in their exhibition games, that was a relief. Kouijzer was assisted by Aimee Plumb, who took the corner, and Mia Duchars, who played the first touch.

The remainder of the first quarter was mostly in favor of the Cards. Two minutes later, Caroline Pusey forced a pair of saves from the Bucknell goalie and Katie Schneider forced one with five minutes left in the quarter. Bucknell got their first opportunity shortly after when they earned a corner. The corner resulted in a shot, but Sasha Elliott was on the scene for the save, and a second opportunity was shot wide. Louisville led 1-0 after the first quarter.

The Cards came out of the break firing once more, with Izzy Bianco forcing a save just two minutes into the quarter, but they got a bit on the back foot after that. Bucknell controlled the offense for much of the remainder of the half, with Louisville earning just one more corner with two minutes remaining that was saved. In that time, the Bison earned three corners and took six shots, all of which had to be saved or blocked. Sasha Elliott finished the first half with five saves, four coming in that second quarter, and the Cards clung onto their lead.

The third quarter started in much the same way. Again Louisville earned an early corner and again a shot forced a Clara McCormick save. This time, though, Bucknell didn't yield in their efforts. Two minutes after the Louisville corner (a lot of things happened two minutes relative to something else in this game), Bucknell equalized in open play on an unassisted goal by Lily Neilson. It was Neilson's fifth and final shot of the night, and it was her fourth on goal as just one previously had been blocked. Neilson was an offensive terror in her 36 minutes and Louisville can be glad to have stopped her from scoring a hat trick.

If you were hoping the goal would spark something in the Cards to see more of a beatdown, I have disappointing news. Louisville didn't earn a shot in the third quarter following the goal, and they gave up another corner opportunity that required an Elliott save. For the first time all game, Bucknell led the offense to open the fourth quarter and got a shot off four minutes in that was blocked. Halfway through the quarter, Louisville earned a corner that played very similarly to the first. It was Kelsey McCrudden taking the first touch this time, but the corner from Plumb resulted in a go-ahead goal by Kouijzer. Bucknell wouldn't get another shot for the final seven minutes and Louisville tried late to pad their advantage with shots by Jane Ramsay and Mattie Tabor. Both of Tabor's final shots required intervention from the Bison, but they were unable to find the back of the cage.

Louisville got out with a 2-1 win, which they'll certainly take in the opener, but there were plenty of reasons for concern. I'm trying to be more optimistic, though, so I'll look at the positives. The Cards converted two corners on just four attempts. We would have liked to have seen more offensive opportunities, but converting your chances is key. On the flip side, they gave up more to Bucknell but were able to kill all five chances. Sasha Elliott was pretty fantastic in goal, finishing with six saves. She had at least one save on all of Bucknell's corner chances, and an open play goal is tough to handle in a one-on-one situation. Credit goes to Clara McCormick on the other end, as well, as she finished with seven saves. 

The Cards played a very rotated lineup, using eight substitutes in an effort to keep fresh legs on the field. July Kouijzer was the only field player to play 60 minutes for the Cards and only Emilia Kaczmarczyk and Minna Tremonti played more than 50. For Bucknell, four field players played the entire game and two more played over 50. If Louisville can keep a rotational advantage like that against other teams, they can have success with a fast pace of play. Other power teams are likely to be able to match, though, so we'll hope to see more offense come from the players in the front of the formation.

Louisville will take on Penn State in the second match of the season for both teams tomorrow at noon. The Nittany Lions are ranked number 11, two spots behind the Cards (for now). Penn State defeated Virginia 3-2 yesterday to open their season. If you've got a subscription, the match will be available on Big Ten Plus.

Volleyball Takes Wins Over NKU and SD

The Louisville wide-netters also took to the road to open their season as they headed to the Saford Coyote Sports Center in Vermillion, South Dakota for a weekend tourney. The Cards drew local foes NKU and the hosting South Dakota in their opening day and rewarded any traveling fans or web viewers with a pair of sweeps. The Cards will get a tad more competition today when they face Mizzou, but they'll look back on a pair of opening victories with a lot of positives.

The first match saw Louisville get off to an auspicious start when NKU was awarded the opening point due to a sanction against the Cardinal coaching staff. No other information is listed, but the Cards turned around and evened the score on a Raquel Lazaro ace. A pair of blocks gave the Cards a 3-1 lead, but an NKU kill, ace, and a Louisville error put the Norse back in front. NKU would not score consecutive points for the remainder of the set. In fact, NKU didn't score consecutive points again until back-to-back kills in their favor made the score 14-8 Louisville in the third set. But I'm jumping ahead...

Louisville went on a pair of 4-0 runs separated by an NKU kill to knock off the rust and stretch out to an 11-5 advantage. They took the first set 25-12 with a .500 - (.059) advantage in hitting percentage. The Cards finished with three errors in each of the next two sets after a single error in the first, and their seven total errors matched the number committed in each set by NKU. Louisville won the second pretty academically with a 25-11 final score and a rotated sub pattern gave Louisville a 25-16 win in the final set to complete the sweep. 

Anna DeBeer led the way offensively for Louisville in the first match, finishing with 11 kills and a .429 hitting percentage. Amaya Tillman was hot on her heels with 10 kills and a .643. The other outsides, Claire Chaussee and Aiko Jones, added 9 and 6 kills on .348 and .545 hitting, respectively. Defensively, Cara Cresse was tops at the net with the only solo block on the team and six block assists. Louisville finished with a 13-1 block advantage in the match, so there were plenty to go around. Jones and Tillman added five assists apiece and the rest were spread between Phekran "PK" Kong, Lazaro, DeBeer, and Chaussee. Elena Scott, unsurprisingly, led the team with 14 digs, and Lazaro and Ayden Bartlett had eight each. 

Lazaro saw the lion's share of the setting duties, finishing with 31 assists, with Elle Glock coming in during the final set and earning 3 assists. It was a fairly impressive all around performance and Dani Busboom Kelly was happy to get the chance to rotate the subs to keep players fresh for the second match of the day.

The opposing scores ticked up a few points in each set in the later match, and the attendance was about 20 times higher, but the final result was the same. Louisville once more forced a negative hitting percentage in the opening set and waltzed their way to a 3-0 victory against the hosting South Dakota Coyotes. 

Louisville stumbled a bit early in the first set, yielding a 7-3 lead and letting South Dakota stake their claim to a 10-8 advantage. It was short lived, though, as the Cards went on a 12-1 run to basically ice the first set at 20-11. The teams swapped points for a while resulting in a 25-14 victory. Louisville's three errors in the first set were their most in the match as they finished with just six for the evening, once again having a third of the opponent's as South Dakota finished with 21.

Louisville didn't give up the lead beyond the third points of either of the last two sets, resulting in a relatively straightforward win for the Cards. Aiko got more in the groove in the second match, finishing with 10 kills and two errors to match DeBeer. Jones gets the edge as the offensive leader, though, as she finished with a .444 hitting percentage ahead of DeBeer's .381. Jones also added four aces and the team finished with nine compared to just seven service errors.

Louisville's blocking was down a bit, but they still held a 9-4 advantage in that category. Jones led the way there as well, with a solo and five assists. Lazaro was the setter for the entirety of the match and she finished with five kills to go with her 25 assists and 10 digs. She appears to have locked down the setting position pretty well and has performed in the first two matches in a way that supports that decision. For the second match in a row, Sydni Schetnan was able to step onto the floor, but she didn't record a stat in this one.

Louisville will wrap up their opening weekend with a match against Missouri this evening at 4:30. The match will be available via streaming on the South Dakota site, which can be found via the gocards website. The Cards will look to leave the weekend with an undefeated record before they head to Bowling Green for a midweek match against WKU.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

We're without Daryl once more but we have plenty of games to talk about as the fall season is officially in full swing. Four of us will bring you the show, and we'll look at the tough loss for Louisville soccer as well as the three wins from yesterday. We'll preview upcoming games as well and give our thoughts on our first impressions of the teams. 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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