By Matt Bradshaw —
Our rundown of varsity sports continues with part four of the athletics state of the union. We ranked thirteen programs across three prior installments:
19. Men’s golf
18. Men’s cross country
14. Women’s soccer
13. Men’s tennis
11. Men’s track and field
10. Women’s golf
9. Women’s cross country
To reiterate: This list examines the current outlook of Cardinal athletics and ranks every sport by its relative success. The criteria for success include performance during 2017-18, current play and future potential.
This time around we reach the elite eight of Louisville sports. Next week, the athletics state of the union concludes with the final four.
8. Women’s track and field
Conference finish: Third at ACC Indoor Championships, Fifth at Outdoor Championships
Season finish: 27th at NCAA Indoor Championships, 28th at Outdoor Championships
Women’s track and field posted three team wins and program-best finishes at the ACC Indoor and Outdoor Championships last season.
The Cards finished the 2018 regular season ranked No. 14 in the nation. Head coach Dale Cowper said the group was “the most complete track and field team we have ever had on campus.”
Dorcas Wasike finished a standout freshman year with second-place in the 10,000 meter race at the NCAA Championships. She broke a 30-year old meet record, earned All-American honors and became ACC Women’s Track Athlete of the Year.
Three student-athletes who competed at the NCAAs, including sophomore Wasike, return for the 2019 season. Six freshmen join the squad after winning numerous state titles at the high school level.
Overall 2017 record: 24-7
Conference play: 18-2
Season finish: Loss in NCAA first round
Volleyball completed a fantastic program turnaround in 2017. Picked eighth in the conference preseason poll after a losing 2016 season, the team battled their way to an ACC Title with first-year coach Dani Busboom Kelly.
Fast forward to 2018 and U of L is ranked No. 21 in the nation with a 16-5 record. Junior outside hitter Melanie McHenry leads the front row in kills (276) and recently became the 20th member of the program’s 1000 kills club. Senior libero Molly Sauer guides from the back row with 334 digs.
Louisville is currently second place in the ACC standings behind undefeated Pittsburgh. If they fail to catch the Panthers by the end of the regular season, the Cards will likely earn an at-large NCAA bid and play a tough opponent in the first round of the tournament.
6. Men’s swimming and diving
Conference finish: Second at ACC Championships
Season finish: Ninth at NCAA Championships
Men’s swimming and diving finished the 2017-18 season ranked No. 14 in the nation. The team earned two gold and three bronze medals for a runner-up finish at the 2018 ACC Championships.
U of L tied its best-ever team finish with ninth place at the 2018 NCAA Championships. Marcelo Acosta earned All-American honors with a fifth-place showing in the 1650 freestyle.
Head coach Arthur Albiero returns six swimmers from last season’s NCAA squad including senior Acosta, senior Zach Harting (2018-19 USA Swimming National Team) and sophomore Nicolas Albiero (2017-18 ACC Freshman of the Year).
This fall, the Cardinals defeated Xavier in the opening meet of the 2018-19 season. They travel to Knoxville for a meet with Tennessee on Oct. 25.
5. Field hockey
Overall 2017 record: 14-8
Conference play: 4-2
Season finish: Loss in NCAA first round
Field hockey recorded their best-finish in conference history after a 2017 ACC finals appearance and fourth consecutive NCAA berth.
Head coach Justine Sowry returned two All-Americans this fall in senior co-captains Taylor Stone and Ayeisha McFerran. Stone is a vital part of the midfield and defense, while McFerran is arguably the best goalkeeper in the world.
The team is currently ranked No. 10 in the nation with a 12-5 record. U of L completed conference play with a 3-3 record and earned a three-seed in the ACC Championship.
They face a tough road in the conference tournament. Each of Louisville’s likely opponents (Wake Forest, Duke and North Carolina) beat them during the regular season.
With only 10 at-large bids in the NCAA tournament, the Cardinals need to advance as far as they can in the ACC tournament in order to draw a favorable NCAA position.
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Photo by Taris Smith / The Louisville Cardinal