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.