Red & Black Scrimmage
Volleyball was the last of the three major sports to get pre-season scrimmages underway with the annual intrasquad Red & Black Scrimmage event. The Red team won the event 4-0 (25-23, 25-23, 25-20, 27-25), though the final scores for this event are obviously not so important.
The Red team was composed of Hannah Sherman, Nena Mbonu, Nina Moorer, Elena Scott, Claire Chaussee, Elle Glock, Ceci Rush, Amaya Tillman, and Paige Morningstar. The Black team had Anna DeBeer, Alexa Hendricks, Aiko Jones, Ayden Bartlett, Phekran "PK" Kong, Raquel Lázaro, Cara Crese, Sydni Schetnan, and Alexis Finnvold.
While last year's Red & Black scrimmage largely divided the team along expected starters vs expected reserves with surprisingly close results, this year the teams were more evenly divided which resulted in unsurprisingly intense and quite evenly matched play.
The scrimmage obviously doesn't give any real concept of how the Cards will do against other teams, but it does give us a chance to see the players in action, evaluate a bit about the progress, learn a bit about the newcomers, and see a bit of what the coaching staff has in mind in game planning terms.
We can short circuit a little bit of the recap by saying that the returning core largely performed as we've come to expect them to. Anna DeBeer and Claire Chausse were bombing away on the left side, Aiko Jones mostly hitting right side with occasional excursions to the middle and left. All three took a few shots from the back row as well. Amaya Tillman blocked well in the middle. Elena Scott was flying all over the court in defense, with Alexa Hendricks and Ayden Barlett adding in their fair share of digs as well.
The two big question marks have been the setter and second middle blocker position. In other words, who tries to fill the shoes of Tori Dilfer and Anna Stevenson. While I don't think anyone is expecting a player to step in to directly replace Dilfer and Stevenson, both were 1st Team All-Americans last year, the Cards have several quite good options for both positions.
For setter, I still think the leading candidate is Raquel Lázaro, but Paige Morningstar, and Elle Glock won't go down without a fight. I believe incoming freshman Alexis Finnvold is expected to redshirt for the year. Lázaro is extremely mobile, a degree of mobility I don't ever recall seeing in any setter at UofL, while Morningstar and Glock both displayed solid competence in the role.
For the middle role, up until the scrimmage yesterday, I thought this was a two person competition, between the taller Cara Crese (6'5") and more mobile and better jumping Phekran "PK" Kong (6'3"). A new entrant into the race made her presence known yesterday, however. Incoming freshman Hannah Sherman (6'1") demonstrated her hitting power and blocking prowess. Dani Busboom Kelly, in an event after the scrimmage, stated that she expected Sherman to be a top blocker in the country by her senior year.
I've been on record as expecting "PK" to be the starting middle blocker, and I will continue to stand by that, but I am less confident of that prediction than ever before. Cara Crese demonstrated quite clearly that she could provide potent blocking, both individually in the middle, and in combination with outside hitters at the pins. She combined with Sydni Schetnan (also 6'5") to put up some monster blocks on the left side. Add in the extra addition of Sherman into the discussion, and this is clearly a position battle in the works. I don't envy Coach DBK's challenge in having to decide on the starting role for this position.
The last new face to talk about is Nina Moorer. A 6'1" outside hitter, she showed power and a good degree of targeting in her time at the pin. I don't expect her to crack the starting lineup behind the likes of Chausse and DeBeer, but her time will come in future seasons, without a doubt.
In overall subjective impressions, the team, split as they were, displayed a level of intensity of play that I don't recall ever having seen at a Red & Black Scrimmage. The event is always, and this year was no exception, a fun event, with some aspects of the play being a bit loosey goosey, including the officiating. There were several occurrences of the teams effectively overriding the officials...situations where both sides agreed in good faith that the official got the call wrong. Smiles were in abundance, and calls were adjusted. Despite that, as I said, there was a level of intensity that we don't usually see in this scrimmage. Both teams were playing as if they had real stakes on the line. And, ok, for the two position battles, this event will be part of the coaching staff's evaluation of candidates, but this was only one two hour scrimmage in a couple of weeks of two-a-day practices.
There is talent in abundance on this team, and we should all be looking forward to another great season. Let's not put an expectation of another undefeated regular season run, but let's not put it completely out of the realm of the possible, either.
The UofL Volleyball season opens Friday at 11am (EDT) in Vermillion South Dakota against Northern Kentucky University. Vermillion is about an hour's drive south of Sioux Falls, SD, hometown to both "PK" and Sydni Schetnan.
(PHOTOS BY JARED ANDERSON)
Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast
Four of a kind for the CCRHP, with actual regulation sports results to discuss. Much of the broadcast was taken up with recap of the Soccer victory against the UIC flames. We also covered a bit of the Field Hockey scrimmage against Miami of OH, and a bit of a preview of the Volleyball scrimmage.
Check it out at its anchor.fm home at https://anchor.fm/cardinal-couple/episodes/Victories-for-Fall-Sports-e1mo9sa or your favorite podcast source.