Tag Archives: Justin Stephenson

Preview: Cardinal softball

By Justin Stephenson

In U of L Athletics, there is a common pattern of up and down.  After winning the Sugar Bowl and being on the rise, we lost our football coach Charlie Strong. After winning the national championship, we lost our best rebounder, Chane Behanan.  And after posting a 47-13 record last season, the U of L softball team loses three of their top five sluggers in Katelyn Mann, Alicja Wolney and Jordan Trimble. Even in the wake of such important departures, these Cardinals refuse to be grounded; in fact they hope to soar into this season just as good as ever.

“We hope to capture the AAC crown this season, as well as win the conference tournament; I also think that making a deep run in the tournament, at least to the super regionals, is totally possible,” Head Coach Sandy Pearsall said.

But, as is often the case in sports, winning is a privilege, not a right. Dictating from the Cards’ strength of schedule, wins will be at a premium this season.

“We face a lot of stiff competition this season,” Pearsall said. “Just look at the first half of our season before conference play; we have number 18 Missouri and UNC on the road and then we have two huge home games facing two softball powerhouses, number four Michigan and Wisconsin. Not to mention number nine Kentucky, who has a phenomenal squad this season.”

So who will be the anchor in this avalanche of adversity; who will step up this season to guide this team along the winding and narrow road that defines this team’s success?

“I am looking for production particularly from Katie Keller as well as our shortstop Whitney Arion, I also see Maggie Ruckenbrod and Taner Fowler playing a huge part for us this season on the offensive side of the ball.”

And why wouldn’t they play a huge part? With the departure of last year’s seniors, Keller is the unquestioned statistical leader on offense. The three-time All Big East and two-time All-American leads the team in slugging percentage at a whopping .709. She also leads the team in home runs with 12, hits with 76 and runs with 62. She is also tied for the most doubles on the team with 18 and has the most walks with 32.

Next up on the mound is senior catcher and All Big East selection Maggie Ruckenbrod, whose 59 hits, .551 slugging percentage, 22 walks and 41 runs batted in is good for second on the team. Senior Catcher and two time All Big East selection Hannah Kiyohara paces the team in batting average, as she is right behind Keller hitting at a clip of .342. She is second in walks with 22 and third in total bases with 63.

Rounding out the top tier is junior shortstop Whitney Arion, who is arguably the Lady Cards’ most athletic player and undeniably their most clutch.

Her game winning RBI against Longwood, her game-winning three run home run against Pitt as well as her late-inning heroics against a tenacious Hofstra squad has her earning the respect of players and fans alike. Her 33 runs, 51 hits and 12 doubles are top three on the team. She also has the second most bases on the team with 86.

“On the defensive side of the ball, we have a solid front in Maggie Ruckenbrod and Whitney Arion, as well as a reliable stopper in Katie Keller,” Pearsall explained. “We also have four pitchers this year which is a luxury. Caralisa Connell and Rachel LeCoq definitely have the experience by far, but Tiarra Sanabria and Maryssa Becker will definitely have to step up and help us out with innings.”

Along with being a veritable offensive threat, Ruckenbrod doesn’t mind stepping up to make some stops. As indicated by her 340 chances, a team high, as well as her 290 putouts, which is also a team high. She also leads the team in fielding percentage at 98.8 percent. Another dynamo on defense is senior shortstop Katie Keller. Keller leads the team in assists with 114  and leads the team in double plays with 14.

The pitching staff is led by senior and All Big East selection Rachel LeCoq, who posted an astounding 2.12 earned run average last season, holding opponents to an even more incredulous 1.56 ERA during conference play. She also held the opposition to a grand total of three stolen base attempts last year, resulting in a team low .277 percent on stolen base attempts. She leads the team in shutouts with nine and in saves with three.

Coming out of the bullpen is senior and three-time All Big East selection Caralisa Connell, who leads the team in winning percentage at .833 and in strikeouts with 209. She also posted a team low for the season in doubles with 19 and triples with three.

With their one year in the AAC the softball team has their chance to leave their U of L mark on the American Conference, hopefully winning it in its inaugural season.

The Cards open up their newly-renovated Ulmer Stadium against Northern Kentucky on Friday, Feb. 21 at 2:00 pm.

Photo by Noah Allison

Louisville’s athletic facilities, second to none in Division I

By Justin Stephenson

Many have heard, seen or bore witness to the avian awesomeness of U of L’s own KFC YUM! Center. And while many a glorious touchdown has been scored at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium; there are many other large-scale projects for other sports in the works that will have even the most casual Cards fan chirping.

One example to consider is the expansion to Jim Patterson Baseball Stadium as well as the Doctor Mark and Cindy Lynn Soccer Stadium Project.

“Our athletic department’s most recent capital fundraising projects have benefited baseball, soccer and softball,” Phil Pilewski, the Assistant Athletic Director of The Cardinal Athletic Fund said. “The goal of this project all along was to provide a state-of-the art facility for both men’s and women’s soccer at the University of Louisville. Both the University leadership and Athletic Department strongly believe in the student-athlete experience and in giving student-athletes the tools to succeed.”

In the case of Jim Patterson Stadium, the same Cardinal credo applies.

“The facility was built and later expanded to provide a premier baseball facility in which our student-athletes can train and compete,” Pilewski said.

“The completion of this expansion at Jim Patterson Stadium will solidify our baseball program as one of the nation’s elite. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any program and it will have an immediate impact in strengthening our pursuit of the best talent around the country,” U of L baseball head coach Dan McDonnell said.

This project would be seemingly enough for any Division I school to solidify its contribution to less popular sports in the eyes of the public. But U of L is also expanding other sports venues across campus. In this  pursuit of excellence for the student-athletic experience, U of L is building a brand-new  $17.5 million soccer stadium as well.

The facility will add 5,300 seats to the continually-burgeoning soccer program, whose recent success on the field has translated to budget expansion for that program and for other, smaller Division I sports.

With the addition comes  a 15,500-square-foot training facility, housing the coaches’ offices, identical locker rooms, a sports medicine rehab room. The stadium will seat 7,500. This will make U of L’s new soccer stadium more than five times larger than UK’s soccer complex, which is only about 3, 000 square feet and seats about 1,500.

So far though, only one side of the equation has been addressed. In student-athletics, the “student” aspect of the conversation is often not addressed. Although to The University of Louisville and The Cardinal Athletic Fund, the “student” is first and foremost. Just take the new, “Academic Center for Excellence” for example.

Beyond stadium expansions, student athletes are also receiving the top facilities in the country, with the new Academic Center for Excellence in the works.

According to cardinalathleticfund.com, this $14 million facility will house individual tutor rooms, learning labs and group study areas. It also serves as home of the athletic department’s academic services staff and community outreach programs. Pilewski said this new facility will help student athletes produce more success in the classroom.

“The athletic department has been fortunate to have the support of many generous donors who have financially contributed to these projects,” Pilewski said. “It is in the best-interests of The University leadership and Athletic Department, as well as myself, to provide student-athletes with the tools that they need to succeed. That is the most important part of any project that this department undertakes at this university.”

Photo by Jessica Kneel

Women’s soccer season recap

By Justin Stephenson

Coming out of their first and only year of AAC play better off than they started, the Lady Cards, 12-5-1, 8-1-0 in AAC, might not be rulers of the roost, but they certainly will be staking their claim in the seasons to come.

“Of course you want to win a national championship, but you have to get into the dance first,” Coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes said.

And dance they did, as the Cardinals made their second NCAA tournament appearance in the last four years, losing to a veteran Illinois State squad in a double overtime PK shootout.

“I think losing in penalty kicks is devastating, we had the chance to win the game in regulation and did not take advantage of it, and that’s where I’m most disappointed,” Coach Dayes recalls.

The season was not all in vain though; as the Cardinals posted signature wins against conference heavyweights Memphis, Connecticut and Cincinnati. A sign of promise and future potential as the rising program makes its leap of faith to the ACC.

“The ACC is a top two soccer conference, if not the top soccer conference in the country,” Coach Dayes explained. “Eight of their teams made the NCAA tournament. This is a conference that will prepare us to win a national championship. We are looking forward to the challenge.”

And a challenge it will be, as the team loses phenomenal forwards Christine Exeter and Charlyn Corral, whose 66 pts, 22 goals, and 22 assists combined this season accounted for 50 percent of the team’s total offense.

“The team really relied on them more than we thought, it was almost subconscious. Even when we had players in a position to win games for us down the stretch, they were mentally unable to; partly because of our reliance on Charlyn and Christine,” Coach Dayes reflected.

Being the strengths of the team also proved to be the Cardinal’s demise, as the team as a whole was unable to step up when the big two weren’t able to.

“We’re taking a different approach next season; we’ll have to be more of a unified team with regard to sharing the offensive responsibility,” Coach Dayes said.

Although stressing the team concept, Coach Dayes looks to homegrown heroes Shannon Dennehey and Casey Whitfield to bear the torch of leadership next season.

“They were in the shadows of Christine and Charlyn all of this season,” Coach Dayes recalls. “They are awesome players.”

Another player to watch for will be rising star and dominant defensive back Devin Ciotti, whose .714 shot on goal percentage leads the team by more than 20 percent.

“Her goals and assists in conference play had a profound effect on the team’s offense; more so than I even think she realizes,” Coach Dayes said.

Complementing the returning starters will be a slew of incoming freshman talent.

“I’m excited for next season and for our lineup changes; it’s going to be a fun mix,” Dayes exclaimed.

Mimicking the changing tone on offense will be a new look in the backfield, with Goalkeeper Taylor Smith starting in the place of Paige Brown, who started all but one game last year, which was, ironically, the last and one of the most important.

“We made a change at halftime of the Cincinnati game; we felt that there were a couple goals that Paige should’ve done better with. Taylor came in and did a good job, Taylor’s prowess put a lot of pressure on Paige to do better, and she started showing a lot of progress in training, towards the end of the year the competition got healthier as a result,” Dayes explained. “I think that it’s going to be neck and neck between them for most of the season, and with the incoming freshman, that’s only going to make us better by the end of the day.”

Although pinned more as a Cinderella than a contender for most of this season, the Cards look to have one heck of a ball in the seasons to come.

 

Photo by Austin Lassell

A Flight to remember- 2013 Field Hockey recap

By Justin Stephenson

 

Coming off of what Coach Justine Sowry describes as, “One of the best seasons we’ve ever had.” The fourteenth

ranked U of L Cardinals field hockey team finished the season with a 15-5 record, 6-1 in the Big East. Although

finishing with a share of the regular season Big East title the Cardinals were left out of the NCAA Tournament,

their season ending in 2-0 loss to Old Dominion in the Big East Tournament.

“We were able to accomplish a lot this year,” Sowry ruminated. “We have to remember all the great things as

well.”

Indeed, in our casual zodiac it was the Year of the Cardinal; a year of made memories. And the Field Hockey

team proves to be no exception.

They fought back through five overtime wins this season as well as beating three ranked teams this season;

number 20 Old Dominion, number 12 Northwestern and number 17 Temple. This year’s record of 15 wins is the

most for the Field Hockey program in over a decade.

Needless to say, though, it is the people that make the memories, and throughout the season, no one brought

up more nostalgia than departing senior Erin Schneitmiller. From her incredible game winning overtime goal

versus Old Dominion, one Coach Sowry calls, “One of the greatest goals I have ever seen.” To her dagger in double

overtime against a raucous Rutgers backfield, her contributions to the field hockey program cannot be understated.

“She came to the University as a walk-on and she ended up being the captain of this program. I’m so incredibly

proud of what she’s been able to accomplish on the field and off the field. She was really able to lead by example but

also set the tone for this program going to the ACC,” Sowry said.

Starting in every game this season, Schneidtmiller may not have had the offensive opus she had last year,

although her 21 points was still good for third best on the team, but the underlying stats tell a story of leadership

that goes beyond points scored. Her .677 or 68 % shot on goal percentage paces the team for top five in accuracy.

Her three game winners this season tell a story of reliability and dependability that adds to the eternal legacy of U of

L sports.

Another face in the crowd is that of the gritty goalkeeper, red-shirt sophomore Sydney King.

“This was her first year actually playing after Erin Conrad graduated last year,” Sowry said.

Recalling the panic at the start of the season with a sophomore who had never played coming in for a veteran

senior, folks in card nation were dotting the crimson beads of sweat from their fevered brows. Despite the worry

and despite having to prove herself every step of the way, King had an even better season statistically than Erin

Conrad. Posting a higher save percentage of .761 as opposed to Conrad’s .741. She also had a better goal average of

1.43 goals per game as compared to Conrad’s 1.81. King not only filled the shoes of the departed super senior, but

she might very well need new ones come next season.

“She was outstanding for us, technically she’s very, very sound. She has the ability to make the unbelievable save;

which was highlighted in each of our four overtime games,” Sowry recalls.

Her career high 10 saves, against then number 12 Northwestern, as well as her knack for sniffing out the penalty

corner will ensure her status as defensive stalwart for years to come.

Another femme fatale on the field was freshman forward Shannon Sloss.

“She got rookie of the year at the Big East banquet. She was able to generate a lot of offense for us. She takes

great pride in her athleticism and strives to always be the very best player she can be,” Sowry said.

After posting a 22 point season as a freshman which was second best on the team, and rating top three

statistically in shots on goal percentage as well as shot percentage, the five-foot-four freshman might not be the

most intimidating, but she packs a mighty punch. In conference play she was able to step up her game. Shooting 40

percent better during the conference season than during non-conference games when she shot at 34.5 percent. She

also matched her game-winning shots from the non-conference season to the conference season.

And who could forget the outstanding lift provided by the foreign freshman phenom with the off-the-bench

bravado: forward Jennifer Pels. Starting no games this season, she came off the bench to provide a team high four

game winning shots.

“It took her a little while to get use to the culture change from Holland to over here; the amount of fitness and

conditioning that we do over here as compared to over there,” Coach Sowry explained. “She embraced the culture

here in the U.S; of division one athletics. She came up very big when it mattered, I’m expecting nothing but great

things from her in the years to come.”

It is important to mention the quietly deceptive Alyysa Voelmle. Although “lacking some vocal leadership,” as

Coach Sowry explained, she leads by example.

The junior fullback led the team in points this season with 27 and scored a team high 11 goals.

“She is a gamer, and one of the most competitive people on the team, She hates to lose. She is a driving force in

our backfield and is incredibly consistent, especially when it comes to execution from our set pieces. She has an

incredible ability to find the danger shot for every goal,” Sowry said.

So what of this Cardinal team, that says farewell to the fond memories of the Big East and goes on to find

greener and more commercially successful pastures in the burgeoning ACC?

“The ACC is the best field hockey conference in the country. All seven teams made the tournament even with a

worse record than what we had, and top to bottom they’re nearly all ranked. Number one Maryland, number two

Syracuse, number three UNC, number five Duke, number seven Virginia. We will have to work harder on every

aspect of our game, on and off the field and from a recruiting standpoint,” Sowry said.

According to the NFHCA poll conducted this season, Louisville would actually be coming in near the bottom

half of the ACC in field hockey next season, even being ranked 15 in the nation this year.

“We’re excited about the challenge. It’s going to be tough but that’s what we do everyday, we prepare to be

champions and nothing that we do on a day to day to level is going change,” Sowry said. “Because we are always

going to prepare to be a champion.”

Field hockey’s toughest stretch of the season

By Justin Stephenson

 

After winning six of their last seven contests, including a road blowout of UC Davis and victory over rival Big East foe and Top 20 opponent Old Dominion, the Lady Cards have spread their wings and soared to stratospheric heights in only a matter of weeks.

But all is not well in the Avian Abode we commonly call Card Nation, as a brutal four week stretch might have some field hockey fanatics waiting for a crash landing.

In the next four weeks the Lady Cards unquestionably have the most difficult stretch of the entire season, going on the road October 1 to face a hungry Ohio State team led by seasoned senior Mona Frommhold.

The Cards come home to face the Temple University Owls on October 4, and like their namesake bird of prey, these girls are out for the Cardinals. Coming off a questionable 3-2 overtime home win to the Longwood University Lancers, these Owls have their wide eyes set on the prize. With all but one starter from last season returning as well as A-10 Offensive Player of the Year Amber Youtz, who had an astounding 54 points last year alone, 22 goals, 10 assists), the owls are clawing for Big East championship contention.

“Youtz is a talented young player that we will have to pay close attention to. Good defensive organization will be essential and, specifically, to deny her the ball or have immediate pressure on her will be the key to our success,” head coach Justine Sawry said.

From there, any semblance of a cakewalk is taken out of the question as the Cards flock back to the nest for a rematch with Indiana on October 6, who beat the Cards last year 3-2.

 

“Last year we were not as experienced in handling their midfield movement and that affected our play. We are a year older and wiser and we will continue to focus on playing our game,” Sawry said.

Neither team has really gained a series advantage as IU and U of L have gone 3-3 in their previous six meetings. Of course, this wouldn’t be the most brutal stretch of the season without that one game: as the ultimate underdogs, the Louisville Cardinals fly over to Storrs, Connecticut to take on the top-ranked University of Connecticut Huskies on October 11.

Connecticut has slipped by field hockey stalwarts Stanford and Penn State (both top 20) and in their last four games have beaten opponents by two goals or better, including No. 7 ranked University of Massachusetts. The roster has an arsenal of open-field attackers including Chloe Hunnable, Anne Jeute and Maria Bolles, whose 112 points last year accounted for over 60 percent of the team’s total offensive production.

“Every year is tough and this year UConn probably has more attacking threats than last year. We will have to be at our best defensively and will need to take care of the small details both on attack and defense,” Sawry said.

Despite the coming challenges, the team feels “able to cope and deal with adversity and are excited for each game and opportunity” that comes their way.

Photo by Tricia Stern

Heart of the Cards- Paige Monsen

By Justin Stephenson

In the midst of a dynamic and unprecedented field hockey season, the Louisville Cardinals have

mostly come out on top; with a 4-2 record and huge wins against quality opponents such as Richmond, William and Mary. Leading the team in assists with three this year is junior Paige Monsen. The

Syracuse, New York native has seen action in almost every game since she arrived on the team as a

freshman, and the work it took to get her in a fixed starting role is still present in her now as a team

“My role on my team is constantly changing; every day is a different day and you never know

if you’re going to be on or off the field. It depends on who brings it each week of practice. So, if you’re

talking starting position, no one ever knows, I don’t even know. If you play hard, then hopefully you’ll be

rewarded but if you don’t bring it, you wont get the starting role,” Monsen said.

Although the Cards have teamwork to thank for their stellar season thus far, it is also important

to remember that a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.

“Everyday is a different competition. You have 24 girls competing for different positions, so

everyday’s a different day.”

The Ville is a basketball town in the heart of the purest basketball region in the world, yet she was able

to bring her abilities to the pitch in Trager Stadium and get a few more young ones to pick up sticks

instead of the ball.

“It’s the love of the game. In kindergarten is when I started playing. My friends picked it up and I

did, too. Its really popular in upstate New York.”

With field hockey consuming these student-athletes lives’s, how do they handle the student side

of the agreement? Monsen must be the one with the secret as she is on the Dean’s list, she is a NFHCA

All-Academic Team Selection, and a two-time Big East All-Academic team member.

“I enjoy school, specifically chemistry a lot; it’s my major. I guess you could say I’m pretty

geeky.” the AD Honor Roll selectee said, “ I enjoy being in the lab and stuff so that’s pretty much my life

outside of field hockey.”

Where words fail to describe the awesome attributes of one of the team’s star players: statistics

do not. Paige is not only and A-+ student, she’s an A-+ player. Her eight assists last season led the team, and

with nearly half as many in only six games this season, she is on her way to breaking her previous mark by

the end of the season. She is a master of her craft and an upstanding upper-classmen to boot; only two

of a handful of reasons why Paige Monsen is a role model for her community and why she’s at the very

heart of the Cards.

Photo Courtesy of Tricia Stern

Chicks with sticks: Louisville field hockey takes home opener

Field Hockey

 

By Justin Stephenson

Coming off a loss to Virginia and a rally at Richmond, the Cardiac

Cards looked like confident Cards after a 4-1 thrashing of visiting opponent

William and Mary. Among the three hundred plus attendees at the game, the

largest home game turnout in nearly a decade, was soft-spoken basketball

superstar Russ Smith. When asked what brought him to the game, he so

eloquently responded, “they were playing and I wasn’t busy so I just wanted

to come out and support the team.”

He was among friends, as a myriad of student athletes, from rowers

to soccer players. They all came in full force in the heat to support their

fellow student athletes, even as their cheeks began to resemble the rosy red

of our namesake mascot. Although the crowd was feeling the heat, the team

played it cool. After playing to a 1-1 draw for most of the first half, thanks

to a phenomenal corner shot from junior Alyssa Voelmle and a spot on assist

from junior Paige Monsen, the floodgates bore open when freshman forward

and overseas sensation Jennifer Pels scored at the 23 minute mark sending U

of L into halftime with a 2-1 lead.

From the second half onward, the Cards were scorching, literally and

figuratively. But the intense heat couldn’t match the intensity of the Cards, as

Pels transitioned from scorer to distributor in the second half, connecting

with freshman-phenom Shannon Sloss on two consecutive goals. As a team,

the Cards had five assists on four goals, whereas the visiting Tribe went

snake eyes in both categories.

“They were supporting each other out there today,” head coach Justine

Sowry said. While the cards performed outstandingly on offense, the defense

left something to be desired.

“Our lesson from today is defense, from our forward line all the way to

the backfield. Also pressing and transition when the ball is turned over

multiple times; we have to be much quicker in our thought process.”

Echoing the same sentiments, junior Alyssa Voelmle retorted. “There

are just little things we can work on to get better, you can always get better as

a team. It’s a great start, a great start from last year but we can definitely

improve.”

Louisville hockey looks ahead to coming season

By Justin Stephenson

Coming off of a semifinal appearance in the Big East tournament and featuring

eight new players on a star-studded veteran roster, the Louisville Cardinals field hockey

team is out for cardinal red blood this year as their tenure in the Big East conference

comes to a close in their final season of Big East play.

 

With the strength of this year’s schedule the Cards expect to go out with a bang

instead of a whimper; featuring six top 25 teams from the AP Coaches Poll a year ago.

 

“We want to prove that we’re ready to move to the ACC and compete on a

consistent basis with top 20 teams,” junior mid-fielder Paige Monsen said. “As a team,

we should use this year to measure ourselves. How well we do in this conference will be

a way for us to gauge how well we’ll adjust to the ACC. Personally, I want us to win the

Big East title and compete in the NCAA tournament.”

 

Louisville returns senior forward Erin Schneidtmiller and junior forward Becca

Maddock, who proved clutch scoring three game winning goals in last year’s regular

season.

 

Heralding in are freshman newcomers forward Shannon Sloss, forward Hailey

Netherton, and mid-fielder Stephanie Byrne to the lineup. The roster is stacked with an

arsenal of open field attackers.

 

Although the defense so no less intimidating, with veterans Mallory Mason and

Victoria Stratton looking to lead the roster full of transfers and incoming talent, the d-line

has the athleticism and depth to compete with any conference foe.

 

The midfield is on par with the rest of the team, as two-time all Big East

selection, junior Alyssa Voelmle and newly appointed deputy captain Paige Monsen,

who lead the team in assists last season, look to take the helm. Along with is senior

Kelsey Rosenmeier to catalyze the scoring of a talented and deep roster.

 

The goalie position proves to be promising as well, with sophomore Sydney King

being touted as a breakout star this year. Along with freshman Elina Periera, the goalies

will look to fill the yawning gap left by all Big East selection Erin Conrad.

 

When asked which game this year is the toughest, third year coach Justine Sowry

wisely replied, “The first one- every game is tough, but the first game is the toughest.

Our team is larger in size this year; we have ten returning players and eight new players

on the roster. So the first two weeks and the preseason will be all about us finding the

right combinations. After those games we’ll just be utilizing the good ole’ cliché one

game at a time.”