Anne Kordes’ volleyball team fell to Marquette in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in three games, losing 25-23, 25-22 and 25-19. Although their efforts did not culminate into post-season success, this year’s team still displayed the grittiness and work ethic that defines what it means to be a Louisville Cardinal.
The Cardinals lost four pivotal seniors from last year’s team including one of the programs greatest ever in outside hitter Lola Arslanbekova. Of their 1730 kills from last year, the Cardinals were losing 1253 of them. It was up to Coach Kordes and the Cards to tailor their approach to the team they have, not the team they had.
The season started off rough, losing six of their first eight games. At a 2-6 mark before heading into conference play the season could have gone in many directions. Instead of letting the sliding season head any more south, the Cardinals regrouped and got to work.
The young Cards had talent; they just needed to start utilizing it. Once they played their first game at home against Rice University the Cards didn’t look back on the past much. They would go on to win all but one more game throughout the season. Going a perfect 18-0 in conference, 11-0 at home and finishing with a 23-7 regular season record.
Offensively led by a hometown, freshman-senior combination at the outside hitter position. Freshman Maya McClendon from duPont Manual led the Cards with 329 kills while senior Emily Juhl from Sacred Heart was second with 316 kills.
Defensively the Cards were in the hands of their most veteran players with two fifth year seniors at the middle blocker position, Brooke Mattingly and Randi Ewing, and Caitlin Welch in at the defensive specialist position, the libero. Ewing led the team with 100 blocks while Mattingly was second with 75. Welch led the team in digs 517, setting her all time school record at 2,128 digs.
The Cardinals had veteran leadership and young fiery energy; they won the American Athletic Conference in the one-year they had a chance to. Although regular season championship may not be the most sought after trophy in Louisville, the volleyball team still played this season with the dominance and perseverance of any U of L championship squad.