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Saturday, January 6, 2024

Newcomers in the New Year; Part 2 -- SATURDAY CARDINAL COUPLE

Lacrosse Looks to Build Momentum

Last season, Louisville Lacrosse lost their first match of the season before winning a pair to go over .500. Those wins included one over a ranked Colorado team. After that, Louisville opened conference play with a loss, but beat Vandy and Pitt to sit at 4-2 (1-1). Not too shabby and certainly an upswing from previous seasons. Unfortunately, the Cards lost 10 of their last 11 games and we ended up feeling like another season of opportunity had been missed. Louisville will look to turn that around this season, but they'll do so without a couple of very familiar faces. The Cards do actually add two players to the roster over last season, and they return a lot of experience having lost only 8 players from the 38 player roster. 

Six of those players graduated and two transferred. Those eight departures included four goal scorers, including Hannah Morris, the third leading scorer on the team. Alexa Steffens, Rachel Lifson, and Izzy Holmes were the others, who combined for eight goals and four assists. Also lost is stalwart defender Maggie Foster, who started in 58 out of 59 games for the Cards in her career. Kristen Pezzullo, who did not play in 2023, was the sixth graduate, and Haley Reeck (sophomore) and Peyton Howell (freshman) were the two transfers. Reeck and Howell played in nine and eight games, respectively, with no starts, and Howell had one assist. 

Enough about who is gone. Let's look at the new players. Unlike softball, where we saw a fair number of transfers, lacrosse has ten new freshmen. As we did with softball, we'll go in order of the numbers. Information on these freshmen is a little harder to come by, so bear with me.

First is Catherine (Cate) Kangas, who replaces Steffens at #2. Kangas committed to UofL in October of 2021, selecting the Cards over James Madison. Kangas is a defender who played for the Hill-Murray School in Dellwood, Minnesota and the Lacrosse Monkeys Club team. In high school, Cate was a first team all-state selection, two-time all-conference selection, and was named to the Under Armor All-American Team three times. She was on the All-America Senior Game Watchlist and named to the Minnesota State High School Watchlist. 
Replacing Hannah Morris will be a tall task. Fortunately for Lauren Roach, Louisville's new #4, she doesn't play the same position. Roach is a midfielder from Dallas, Texas, and she was a two-sport athlete at The Hockaday School. Scott Teeter won her talents over Justine Sowry. Hockaday won two state championships, and in Roach's senior season, the school was ranked third in the South, second in the West, and top-20 overall by Inside Lacrosse. Roach was named to the All-State and All-District teams.
Ava Peers will wear #9. Another midfielder, Peers comes from Fairport, New York, where she was twice named to the first team All-Monroe County team and was named to the Class A All-Tournament Team as a senior. In 2021, Peers earned the All-Greater Rochester Honor. Scott Teeter says that Peers' main asset is her speed, which will be critical in the midfield for Louisville, who have suffered in transition in recent years.
Abigail (Abby) Cole hails from New Albany, but not Indiana. The Ohio native, who will wear #19, is listed as a midfielder but led her high school team in scoring last season. She was named the New Albany Offensive Player of the Year and led New Albany High School to the state championship game. Cole was also named to the Central Ohio Super-12 for girls lacrosse and was on the first teams for All-State, -Region, and -OCC. She was the All-Region Attack Player of the Year and was ranked first in the Midwest by USA Lacrosse Magazine.

Numbers 25, 26, 28, and 30 are all freshmen. Kelsey Commerford (no relation) is a defender from Long Valley, New Jersey. She took West Morris Central to a state championship in 2021. Commerford was named the team's Defensive MVP in 2022 and she earned first team All-Conference and All-County honors. Commerford, a defender, also played soccer in high school.

Reese Ryland is also from Dallas, so it will be interesting to see if she and Roach are familiar with each other. Ryland went to Trinity Christian Academy, where she led the team in goals, draw controls, and assists as a senior. She was a three-year varsity starter who also played volleyball and basketball. Ryland was named to the Adrenaline All-American watchlist and earned All-State and All-District honors. She was also a captain of her club team which was ranked first in the state.

Karli Kirchenheiter says that she chose Louisville because it had amazing facilities, was a fun city, and gave her an opportunity to play in the best conference. No mention of her sister, Sydney, a graduate defender for the Cards. Kirchenheiter led her team to a state runner-up finish in 2022 and Severna Park (her school in Maryland) was number 20 in the USA Lacrosse Magazine National Top-25. The younger Kirchenheiter is a midfielder who also played basketball and volleyball and was named MVP of the volleyball team.
Morgan Vasseur is another defender who comes from Dacula (fun name), Georgia. Vasseur was a three-time Scholar-Athlete and was ranked 11th in the country by Eagle Stix 2023 Blue. She was a 2020 Under Armour All-American. Mill Creek High School won three regional championships with Vasseur manning the back line. The defender also played basketball.

Reese Whiteman will wear 55 and comes to UofL from Brooklin, Ontario where she played for University of Western. The Mustangs won the 2023 Ontario University Athletics Championship in November. Whiteman netted a pair of goals in the championship game. Whiteman comes to UofL with some association to Scott Teeter as a member of the U20 Canadian National Team. Whiteman is listed as an attacker.

The last new player shares a number with Negai Nakazawa. Since Hanna John is a goalkeeper, it's unclear if both will be able to wear #77 or if John will change numbers. Hanna John is a splashy recruit, as she was twice the Wake Forest High School Goalie of the Year and was named a USL All-American. Her team won the conference championship in 2022 and she earned All-Conference, All-Region, and All-State honors twice as well. John was also on the Inside Lacrosse Power 100 incoming freshmen list. She lettered for the tennis team all four years as well. John joins a very crowded goalie room, led by Sara Addeche. Addeche, a senior, appeared to win the position battle she shared with J Pleck in 2022 as Addeche started all 17 games in 2023. Pleck appeared in 8 games for the Cards. John will be the fourth goalie in the room, as sophomore Aubrey Bagenstose (who would have played with Abby Cole in high school) saw three action in three games last year. John could very well win the job, but we'll see what happens.

Cardinal fans have been waiting for things to turn around at Louisville Lacrosse Stadium for quite some time. Despite the loss of a few key players, Louisville brings in an exciting class and has a ton of returning talent. The beginning of last season may have been an indication of what we can expect, so we'll hope that the Cards can keep that drive and get off to a fast start. The team gets their season underway against University of Denver and University of Colorado for the third year in a row. Each of those games will be the fourth in five years. The season starts on the road on February 9th.

Cardinal Couple Radio Hour Podcast

Jeff and I will be on the air today, but with just two and a fairly light news week, we may not go a whole hour. Noon tipoffs for men's basketball will keep us without Jared for a couple of weeks, but we'll do our best to keep the show on track. 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
Anchor (podcast host): Link
Apple Podcasts: Link
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Pocket Casts (free account and app required): Link
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Spotify: Link

Until next time, Go Cards!


All photos official portraits from with exception of Reese Whiteman, from Western.

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