Sun. Dec 16th, 2018

U of L athletics state of the union, part three

Teams participate on day three of the 2017 ACC Women's Golf Championship at the The Reserve Golf Club on Saturday, April 15, 2017 in Pawleys Island, South Carolina.

By Matt Bradshaw —

Our rundown of varsity sports continues with part three of the athletics state of the union. We ranked five programs in part one and four programs in part two:

21. Women’s tennis

20. Lacrosse

19. Men’s golf

18. Men’s cross country

17. Softball

16. Rowing

15. Football

14. Women’s soccer

13. Men’s tennis

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 week we start with men’s basketball and dip into the top-10 of varsity sports. Let’s get it.

12. Men’s basketball

Overall 2017-18 record: 22-14

Conference play: 9-9

Season finish: Loss in NIT quarterfinals

Men’s basketball posted the program’s lowest amount of wins last season since 2009-10. Interim coach David Padgett took the reins of a squad surrounded by controversy and led the way to the quarterfinals of the NIT.

For over 40 years, Louisville featured successful long-term coaches in Denny Crum and Rick Pitino. Chris Mack takes over as current head coach and looks to turn the tide after a middling season.

Mack’s teams have participated in the NCAA tournament eight of his nine seasons as head coach. He stayed busy this offseason acquiring talented transfers and a top-five 2019 recruiting class, along with connecting to fans via open practices and Louisville Live.

U of L begins play on Oct. 28. The future looks bright with Mack as coach and renewed recruiting, but the Cardinals need to prove their worth on the floor before any definitive conclusions are made about the team.

11. Men’s track and field

Conference finish: Seventh at ACC Indoor Championships, Fourth at Outdoor Championships

Season finish: 60th at NCAA Indoor Championships, 46th at Outdoor Championships

Dale Cowper enters his sixth season this fall as head coach of both cross country and track and field. During his tenure, men’s track and field has produced six indoor and 10 outdoor All-American selections, broken dozens of schools records and produced a national champion (Edwin Kibichiy in 2017).

Last season, the Cardinals finished middle of the pack at the ACC Indoor Championships before posting their best-ever finish at the Outdoor Championships. The team combined for six medals and two individual titles.

In the NCAA Championships, Louisville performed similarly with a better overall finish outdoors. The team finished 60th at the Indoor Championships and 46th at the Outdoor Championships, spurring the selection of two All-Americans in Javen Reeves and Joe Delgado.

This year, Cowper brings back talented upperclassmen alongside 14 newcomers.

10. Women’s golf

Conference finish: Seventh at ACC Championships

Season finish: 15th at NCAA Championships

Women’s golf captured three team titles last season, tying a program best, and broke their four-player team scoring record. They set school records at the NCAA San Francisco Regional and earned the program’s second-ever NCAA Championship berth.

Louisville sealed their historic season with a 15th place showing at the NCAA Championships.

Despite losing Molly Skapik, who led the Cards to four-straight NCAA Regionals, the team looks talented as ever and features four golfers returning from last year’s NCAA squad.

Junior Lauren Hartlage leads the group with two-time All ACC honors. Senior Olivia Cason and junior Delaney Shah became the fifth and sixth golfers in Louisville history to finish a regional under par  in 2018. 

The team began fall play ranked No. 22 in the nation.

9. Women’s cross country

Conference finish: Second at ACC Championships

Season finish: Fifth at NCAA Regional, 29th at NCAA Championships (Dorcas Wasike)

Women’s cross country posted the program’s best-ever finish at the ACC Championships in 2017. Dorcas Wasike led the squad with a second-place finish in the 6K and earned All-ACC honors alongside fellow sophomore Kassidy Manning.

The team as a whole missed out on the NCAA Championships after a fifth-place regional finish. However, Wasike qualified and became the first women’s runner in school history to earn All-American honors after finishing 29th at the championships.

In a 2018 ACC preseason poll, the women were picked to finish third in the conference. The mark is the highest slot for the program in their five seasons as members of the ACC.

So far, the Cardinals have earned victories at three meets this fall with the ACC Championships approaching on Oct. 26.

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal

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