Moments of 2015 followed by questions for 2016

By on January 1, 2016

By Sam Draut–

By no means will 2015 be remembered as the “Year of the Cardinal” but there were a few special moments we can take from a year filled with ups and downs.

Jan. 31- Men’s basketball rallies from an 18-point deficit to defeat thirteenth-ranked North Carolina 78-68:

Louisville was in its final day of its first month of ACC play, and had yet to have a signature conference win. The Cardinals  were 0-2 against Tobacco Road powerhouses Duke and North Carolina.

Two weeks earlier, Louisville fell to North Carolina in Chapel Hill 72-71.

In the annual White-out game, North Carolina took a 43-25 lead with 17:51 remaining in the second half, but Louisville put together a hard charging rally in front of an electric KFC YUM! Center crowd.

The Cardinals forced eight turnovers in a six-minute stretch and closed the deficit to single digits.

Louisville tied the game 53-53 with eight minutes left and ended in regulation tied 60-60.

Terry Rozier scored the first six points in the overtime period and Louisville outscored the Tar Heels 18-8 in the additional five minutes.

Montrezl Harrell had 22 points and 15 rebounds as Louisville overcame its largest deficit since Jan. 15, 2011.

March 7- Men’s basketball upsets second-ranked Virginia 58-56:

Trailing second-ranked Virginia 57-56, Louisville had the ball with 13 seconds left. Coach Rick Pitino called a timeout and drew up one final play on senior day at the KFC YUM! Center. Pitino’s play was designed to setup Terry Rozier or Montrezl Harrell, but as the final seconds ticked away, Rozier’s pass ended up in the hands of Mangok Mathiang. Standing near the free-throw line, Mathiang hit the game-winning jumper with 2.7 seconds left.

After the game, Pitino jokingly said Mathiang was the “64th option on the play.”

Virginia turned the ball over on its final possession, and the packed crowd turned into bedlam as Louisville clinched a double-bye in the ACC tournament.

March 21- Kelsi Worrell wins a swimming national title:

Junior Kelsi Worrell won the national title in the 200-butterfly by posting the third fastest time in NCAA history with a time of 1:51.11. Her contributions led Louisville’s women to place sixth overall in the nation, the highest finish in school history.

She broke her own NCAA and American record in the women’s 100-yard fly at the NCAA Championships.

Worrell broke the 13-year-old record set by Natalie Coughlin in 2002 and she became the first female swimmer to ever win an NCAA title for Louisville.

Oct. 8- Women’s soccer upsets top-ranked North Carolina:

If there was a time this fall Louisville athletics needed a big win, Oct. 8 was the night.

The full brunt of the paid strippers and escorts scandal had touched down on campus and lit through the national media. The football team was off to a sluggish 2-3 start and faced nationally-ranked Florida State in Tallahassee the next week.

Coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes and the Louisville women’s soccer team gave the University a brief respite from the torrential down poor of negative news.

Hosting top-ranked North Carolina, Louisville fell behind 1-0 in the first half against the vaunted Tar Heel attack.

Gabrielle Vincent scored three minutes into the second half off a penalty kick by Hannah Konermann to tie the score.

The game remained tied 1-1 and eventually headed to overtime.

With nine seconds remaining in the first overtime period, Caroline Kimble scored the game-winning goal off a penalty kick from Konermann.

The biggest win in program history was defended by a strong backline and excellent play by goal keeper Taylor Bucklin.

North Carolina’s lethal wave of attack totaled 30 shots while Louisville could only muster together six, but the Cardinals cashed in when it counted.

Nov. 28- Louisville football rallies from 21-points to defeat Kentucky 38-24:

Everything that could go wrong went wrong in the first few minutes of the annual Governor’s Cup rivalry against Kentucky.

Starting quarterback Kyle Bolin threw two interceptions, one being returned 82-yards for a touchdown and Louisville quickly fell behind 21-0.

Bolin was replaced by Lamar Jackson and the Cardinals got going in the second half after trailing 24-7 at halftime.

Scoring 31 unanswered points in the second half, 17 in the third quarter, Louisville pulled out one of best comebacks in head coach Bobby Petrino’s coaching career and the biggest come-from-behind win in program history since 1989.

Jackson rushed for 186 yards on 17 carries and two touchdowns. The freshman completed eight of 21 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown. After the game, Jackson was named the Most Valuable Player.

Louisville’s defense dominated in the second half. The Cardinals held Kentucky to 83 yards of total offense and two first downs in the second half.

Ending the regular season at 7-5, the fifth-consecutive win over Kentucky gave Louisville momentum heading into its bowl game a month later against Texas A&M.

Top five questions for 2016

As we step into 2016 there are many questions that will be answered for the University of Louisville athletic program. For the men’s tennis team, how will they respond after losing one of the best senior classes in school history? Will the women’s lacrosse team be able to win in the vicious ACC? Here are the five biggest questions for the upcoming year for the Louisville Cardinals:

What will the NCAA find out in their investigation of the men’s basketball team?

In September, IBJ Publishing released Katina Powell’s book “Breaking Cardinal Rules: Basketball and the Escort Queen.” Coach Rick Pitino, players and fans had no idea what would come from the sordid allegations. But, once the season began, the questions and news on the scandal seemed to fade away. The NCAA continues to investigate the situation, but no comments have been made recently. As Louisville enters ACC play, the investigation still looms over the program. Potentially facing major punishment and sanctions from the NCAA, Pitino and the program will have to continue to wait for answers.

Will the women’s basketball team be able to bounce back in ACC play?

Coach Jeff Walz headed into the 2015-16 season with plenty of momentum. He brought in the best recruiting class in the nation after reaching the Sweet 16 in 2014-15. With Mariya Moore and Myisha Hines-Allen returning and seven talented newcomers, the Cardinals were ranked-eighth nationally in the AP Preseason Poll. But, Louisville started the year 1-4 and the young roster struggled to mesh together defensively. The Cardinals headed into its ACC portion of its schedule 8-5. After a 65-48 win over 18th-ranked Duke on Sunday, Louisville is 4-0 in ACC and 12-5 overall.

What will the 2016 football team look like?

Fresh off a 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl, coach Bobby Petrino is set to return a large amount of his young roster. The hottest name is quarterback Lamar Jackson. The true-freshman electrified fans and pulled out the final two wins of the year against Kentucky and Texas A&M. The next question for Jackson is if he can continue to grow as a passer. Additionally, what happens with commit Jawon Pass. Pass is one of the best incoming quarterbacks and publicly stated he is not afraid of competition. Finally, with only eight Charlie Strong recruits on the roster, can the Cardinals continue their success. The defense got an added boost when Keith Kelsey, Josh Harvey-Clemons, Devonte Fields and DeAngelo Brown announced last week that they would return for their senior year.

Can the softball team make the next step in the ACC?

Louisville softball racked up 138 wins and two conference championships from 2012-14. In its first season in the ACC, coach Sandy Pearsall’s team was only able to pull out 30 wins and finished fourth in the conference. The boost in competition added to the struggles, as well as the slow start to the 2015 season.

Can the men’s baseball team finally get over the hump?

Coach Dan McDonnell has made trips to the College World Series a regular occurrence. After reaching the College World Series in 2013 and 2014, the Cardinals were very close to their third consecutive trip this past year. Louisville has won six conference championships since 2009. With the success, expectations have risen. A national championship is the next step for the program. The team is ranked second in the nation for this upcoming season.

 

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