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Saturday, October 7, 2023

Cards Overcome Slow Starts for Friday Wins -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Field Hockey Takes Shootout Victory Over Wake

Louisville field hockey's defense continues to impress. They've now held up for three straight shutouts after having just one on the season prior to the streak. The Cards needed that shutout yesterday, as the offense was unable to capitalize on their fairly significant offensive advantage against Wake Forest. The Cardinals and Demon Deacons needed every minute available to crown a winner, as both teams were scoreless throughout the 60-minute match and both 10-minute 7-on-7 golden goal overtime periods. Louisville ultimately came out on top after they scored on their first four stroke attempts, putting the game out of reach after a pair of misses by Wake Forest.

Louisville was the dominant team on offense in this one, and they jumped on Wake right out of the gate. With a pair of penalty corners in the first minute, you might be wondering why I'm claiming they had a slow start. That would be because those two corners led to one shot and were the first two of nine unsuccessful corners for Louisville on the evening. Wake put a shot wide of the cage in the middle of the quarter and both teams entered the break with just one shot attempt.

Just as they began the first quarter, Louisville opened the second with a shot saved off of a penalty corner. This time it was Julie Kouijzer taking the shot instead of Emilia Kaczmarczyk, but Kazzy got the rebound opportunity and, unfortunately, put it wide. Three more corners for Louisville in the quarter saw two more shots blocked or saved and the Louisville offense was being frustrated at every turn. Wake attempted to steal a goal as the game headed to halftime, getting their second (and final) shot of the game with less than 30 seconds to go in the second quarter. Like the first, it was off target and the teams went to the locker rooms tied at 0-0.

As good as Louisville's defense was at preventing Wake from even attempting to get at goal, Wake's defense was incredible in front of goal. Louisville finished the 80 minute open play periods with 11 shots. Only five of those are listed as on goal, as only five required a save by the Wake goalie. However, Louisville only had two shots go wide of the mark. The other four were blocked away by Wake Forest defenders. Louisville was dangerously close to winning the game a number of times and Wake just kept hanging on. Louisville's 0-9 on penalty corners was an unfortunate final tally, but they at least prevented Wake Forest from taking any. The Cards also kept the Deacs from attempting a shot in the second half or overtime. 

Heading into the shootout, Louisville was at risk of dominating an entire game and still moving to 1-2 in the ACC to match their foe on the night. In pretty much any sport, a shootout is a game of mostly luck. Louisville made their own luck. Izzy Bianco took the first attempt of the shootout for both teams and slotted it home. It looked like we might be in for a stressful shootout when Wake's first shooter also knocked the ball home. Lara Niebler got the second opportunity and, again, put Louisville in front. Then came Merlijn van der Vegt. Wake stepped up to attempt to equalize the shootout and MvdV said, "No, thank you." That brought Rylie Wollerton up to give Louisville a 3-1 lead, which she promptly did. MvdV was up to the task again, holding Louisville's 3-1 advantage with another Wake miss, which gave Aimee Plumb (who else?) the chance to ice the game for the Cards. She did so.

Louisville moved to 10-1 on the season and 2-1 in conference play, with the lone loss coming against UNC. The Cards have now outdone their conference win total from a year ago and have looked capable of winning in many different ways. To grind for so long in a game like last night's and not be able to break through would be a perfect opportunity for an opponent to take advantage of a mental lapse. Louisville showed no such weakness. In the end, they came out victorious in what Coach Justine Sowry called a "ripsnorter." Hear that line and more from Coach Sowry at the link below and also hear from senior midfielder Minna Tremonti, who played nearly the entire match for the Cards.

Louisville is back in action tomorrow when they take on Central Michigan at noon at Trager Stadium. The Cards will try to keep their unblemished home record intact before their next home game welcomes the Iowa Hawkeyes on October 15th. Tomorrow's match will air on ACC Network Extra.

Volleyball Beats UNC 3-1

Louisville volleyball avoided a complete nightmare road trip in North Carolina after their loss on Sunday by recovering from a tough first set to beat UNC 3-1. The win over the Tar Heels was fairly critical as, after a few years of the ACC being Louisville, Pitt, and everyone else, the Cards now find themselves tied for third with Georgia Tech at 4-1 in conference. Miami sits in fifth at 4-2 after they prevented NC State from making it a three-way tie at 4-1 last night. FSU came back to beat Miami in five sets earlier this week to move to 5-0 alongside Pitt, who gave GT their first loss last night. The Seminoles will get a chance to push NC State further down the order when they face off tomorrow.

Enough about the conference standings. Louisville struggled in the fourth set on Sunday, hitting just 0.083 on their way to a 25-15 loss for just their second match loss of the season. Last night, that struggle continued in the first, as Louisville hit just 0.125 with nine attacking errors. They added five service errors and a handling error while giving up three aces to lose that first set 25-19. Apparently the officiating crew was struggling a bit too, as there were at least five challenges in the first set and about 10 on the match. Allow me to remind you that teams get two challenges before the fifth set that they lose if the challenge is unsuccessful.

From there, Louisville turned it up and Cards fans viewing from afar were treated to more of what they expected. Louisville would improve their hitting percentage for the match to 0.246 and committed just 16 errors (still too many) over the next three sets. The Cards also settled in behind the service line, committing just two more service errors over the next three sets and adding three more aces to bring their total on the match to six. 

While Louisville ultimately came out ahead, things were nervy in the second, which very nearly went to extra volleyball. The Cards went up 1-0 and 2-1 before an extended service run by Marissa Meyerhoefer saw UNC jump out to a 7-2 lead. Louisville bounced back with a run by Elena Scott to tie the set at 7, but another stretch by UNC moved the score back to 11-8. The teams continued to trade haymakers and Louisville saw themselves trail as late as 18-17. Three straight points to go up 20-18 and another pair to move to 22-19 seemed to put the Cards in the position to put the set away. Two kills and a block from the Tar Heels put the set in question, though, as they tied it at 22. After the block, Elle Glock went right back to Anna DeBeer, who hadn't had the greatest night to that point, and DeBeer put the Cards within touching distance of the win. Another UNC point tied it at 23, but it was DeBeer once more that gave Louisville set point. PK slammed home an over pass by UNC to take the set 25-23.

The third set gave Louisville the chance to regain their composure. This time it was the Cards that used an early run to seize control of the set, as they took a 9-3 lead and extended it to 11-4. UNC wasn't going away in the 1-1 match, though, especially not at home. The Tar Heels stayed within striking distance for the first half of the set before a four-point run gave Louisville a 22-15 lead. UNC immediately responded with four points of their own to get the deficit back down to three points, but Louisville had seen enough. The Cards won three of the next four points to take the third set 25-20 and move ahead 2-1 in the match.

The fourth was more of the same, but this time with a bit less drama. Louisville again used a pair of early runs to take 6-2 and 10-3 leads. As in the third, UNC tried to hang around, but they were never able to find the big run they needed to get back into the set. The Heels did outscore the Cards 16-15 over the remainder of the set, but when those 15 points were enough for Louisville to win the match, UNC needed a few more to extend it. 

Charitie Luper led Louisville in this one with 15 kills. She did so as a pin hitter with a 0.375 hitting percentage, as well, which is nothing to slouch at. In addition, Luper picked up eight digs, an assist, an ace, and two solo blocks, while contributing one of Louisville's service errors. It was quite the evening for Charitie Luper, and it came when Louisville really needed it. Anna DeBeer was second for Louisville with 12 kills. While her 0.026 hitting percentage is certainly nothing to write home about, recovering to it after hitting -0.429 in the first isn't too shabby. DeBeer matched Luper in digs, aces, and assists, and had a block assist. DeBeer, unfortunately, was the only Cardinal to commit multiple service errors, finishing with three, but it happens. She was still an integral part of the victory.

Joining those two in double digit kills were Cara Cresse with 11 and Aiko Jones with 10. Jones was just one dig off of a double-double and she added four assists, two aces, and two block assists. Cresse had seven digs as UNC did their best to avoid hitting the ball to Elena Scott on defense. Scott still finished with 19 digs, though. No big deal. It was a double-double watch all over the place, by the way, as Scott had seven assists. That means five Louisville players were within three of some stat (digs for four hitters and assists for Scott) of the feat. UNC, for the record, did get a double-double as Louisville hounded the setter defensively. The Tar Heels had three players in double-digit digs and Anita Babic led the way with 13 while claiming 35 of the team's 45 assists.

Both teams finished with seven total blocks, though Luper's were the only solo blocks of the night for either team. The Cards finished even in the service battle, scoring six aces to UNC's five but committing eight errors compared to their seven. Oddly, both teams finished with a pair of handling errors. That said, given some of the calls made on the evening and the number of challenges won, maybe four handling errors in the match isn't too surprising. 

At the end of the night, despite the excitement, Louisville moves to 4-1 in conference and 13-2 overall. UNC drops to 7-7 on the year and now sits in a four-way tie for last among teams not named Syracuse. The Orange's woes continue as they are 2-13 on the year. The Cards will face another team with an upside-down conference record on Sunday when they drive down the road to face the Duke Blue Devils. 

Duke avoided being another team just one game ahead of Syracuse when they beat Notre Dame last night. The Blue Devils are 11-5 on the season and their only home loss was a sweep against Pitt in the first match of the conference slate. Duke opened the season with a pair of losses against Purdue and Loyola Chicago before beating Creighton to start a nine-match win streak to close the book on non-conference play. They went to five sets against Creighton and WVU in that time but lost just two sets in the other seven matches. After losing to Pitt, Duke swept (now 1-4) UVA before a Florida swing saw them drop a pair to Miami and FSU.

Louisville may have started this three-match stretch in North Carolina already looking ahead to Pitt. If so, they paid for it on Sunday against NC State and recovered last night. They cannot afford to overlook Duke, despite the match in the KFC Yum! Center looming. I'm sure they're circling Friday on the calendar as a chance to claw Pitt back down into their clutches in the race for the conference title, but that only works if they take care of business tomorrow. Tomorrow's match is at 1PM on ACC Network Extra, so you'll have to figure out exactly how you plan to watch the end of field hockey (noon) and women's soccer (1PM) at the same time.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

I'm out this week and Daryl is traveling to Albuquerque in a hot air balloon or something, but the rest of the crew should be in the house for an exciting show. Field hockey continues to look strong, women's soccer showed fight against one of the country's top teams, and Jeff is sure to have thoughts after this week's results for volleyball. 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!

Cardinal Couple YouTube: Link
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Until next time, Go Cards!


All photos by Jared Anderson

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