By Sam Draut–
The 2015-16 school year was filled with ups and downs for the 22 athletic programs at the University of Louisville, but there were a few special moments worth remembering.
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.
Dec. 28 – Football wins the Music City Bowl:
As improbable as it may have seemed after the team began the year 0-3 and started three different quarterbacks, coach Bobby Petrino’s football team ended the season on a high note with a 27-21 win over Texas A&M in the Music City Bowl.
Following an electrifying performance against Kentucky a month prior, quarterback Lamar Jackson vaulted himself into the spotlight on the national stage.
In his seventh career start, Jackson put together one of the most impressive individual performances in program history. The freshman quarterback completed 12 of 26 passes for 226 yards and two touchdowns, but most importantly, Jackson rushed for 226 yards on 22 carries and scored two touchdowns. The Cardinals jumped out to a 20-7 lead in the first quarter.
Missing three starters, James Burgess, Shaq Wiggins and Trevon Young, Louisville’s defense closed out the game with a stop late in the fourth quarter. Texas A&M drove to the Louisville 24-yard line and appeared to complete a 17-yard pass to the six-yard line, but the call was overturned after review. This set up 3rd and eight on the 24 yard line, giving the Aggies two shots at extending the game with Louisville leading 27-21.
Texas A&M quarterback Jake Hubenak’s passes fell incomplete, and Louisville took over on downs with 1:39 left.
Running back Brandon Radcliff rushed for seven yards and Jackson converted on a third down run to seal the game.
Feb. 1- Men’s basketball defeats second-ranked North Carolina:
Quite possibly the high point of the men’s basketball season came days before the announcement of the self-imposed postseason ban.
The KFC YUM! Center hosted a nationally-televised “Big Monday” game against second-ranked North Carolina, two days after Louisville suffered a suffocating defeat to Virginia. The energy inside the arena was electric and the teams battled in a back and forth game.
Damion Lee scored 24 points and made four three-pointers, his best stretch coming around the 10 minute mark in the second half. With Louisville leading 49-47, Lee made two three-pointers in a 55-second span to give Louisville a five-point lead.
Louisville held an eight-point lead with 5:15 left in the second half, but North Carolina (19-3 overall, 8-1 in the ACC) trimmed the lead to two points with 35 seconds left. Louisville led 67-65 with 26 seconds left when Trey Lewis made two free-throws to stretch the Louisville lead to two possessions.
Lee iced the game with 8.3 seconds left when he made two free-throws to extend the lead to six points.
After the marquee win of the season, Lee said “the ride is far from over,” but four days later, the University announced a self-imposed postseason ban.
March 5 – Lacrosse upsets fourth-ranked Notre Dame:
Two days prior to Louisville game against fourth-ranked Notre Dame, the Louisville lacrosse team had one of its biggest wins in program history, a 10-4 victory over then 10th-ranked Northwestern.
Coach Kellie Young’s team followed with quite an encore to establish itself as a top contender in the ACC. After Notre Dame scored two goals in the first four minutes and took a 6-3 lead into halftime, Louisville mounted a feverish second half rally.
Cortnee Daley scored two goals early in the second half and Hannah Koloski added another to decrease the deficit to 7-6.
With under ten minutes left and trailing by two goals, Koloski and Kaylin Morissette scored to tie the game at eight. Morissette scored the go-ahead goal with three minutes left.
Notre Dame scored to tie the game with 64 seconds left, and had another opportunity to take the lead on the final possession of regulation, but Cardinal goal keeper Brittany Read had a remarkable save to send the game to overtime.
In overtime, Kelli Gerding scored the game-winning goal, sending the team into celebration.
March 19 – Kelsi Worrell defends NCAA title:
The prolific collegiate career for swimmer Kelsi Worrell culminated in the only appropriate way. The New Jersey native swept the butterfly events and defended her title at the 2016 NCAA Women’s Championships. She set an American record in the 100-fly and also swam the second fastest 200-fly in history.
Worrell ended her career with three finishes in the top-10 200 butterfly of all-time.
As a team, Louisville finished in eighth place in the NCAA Championships. Louisville has had four consecutive years with NCAA Champions and finished in the top-10 of the NCAAs in back-to-back years.
“We as a program have put ourselves in the elite of collegiate swimming over the last few years,” Albiero said.
Worrell is a nine-time All-American and earned ACC Swimmer of the Year in her junior and senior year. After the NCAA Championship, Worrell set a World and American record in the 100-fly as a member of the USA national team. The New Jersey native won Pan Am gold with a time of 57.24 in her first international competition. She was also a part of the 4 x 100 Medley Relay team that won gold with a time of 3:57.35.
Photo by Wade Morgen / The Louisville Cardinal