By Lori Harmon–

The University of Louisville softball team will open the 2021 season on Sunday when the Cardinals travel to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for a 1 p.m. doubleheader against 8/8 Alabama. Louisville was originally slated to travel to Columbia, S.C. for their season-opening weekend, but persistent rain in the forecast led to the change in plans.

Sunday’s doubleheader will not be televised, but live stats will be available here.

About Louisville Softball
• This weekend will mark the first competition for UofL since March 8, 2020 when the Cardinals defeated Evansville 9-1 at Ulmer Stadium.
• Louisville posted a 10-13 overall record in 2020 while  in the midst of a challenging schedule that featured 10 games against teams in the top 25.  The season came to an end on the eve of the Cardinals conference opener against Boston College.
• The Cardinals return 14 letterwinners and welcome seven newcomers to the 2021 squad.
• Sophomore Cassady Greenwood paced the Cards offensively with a .386 batting average (17-for-44). her sister, redshirt junior Carmyn Greenwood stood second at .373.
• Redshirt sophomore Taylor Roby led the team with seven home runs and 16 RBIs. She also carried a 5-7 record in the circle with a team-best 2.00 ERA.
• Junior Maddy Newman led the Cards with 13 runs and is second on the team with eight stolen bases.
• Celene Funke finished the season on a 10-game hitting streak. The senior centerfielder also had a team-best 13 stolen bases and three triples.
• The Cards are 13-8 in season-opening games and have won their first game of the season in eight of the last nine years.

The Aprile Era
• Holly Aprile recently completed her second season as UofL’s head coach. With the 2020 campaign suspended prior to its midway point due to the outbreak of COVID-19, Aprile has compiled a 45-36 record and guided the Cardinals to an NCAA Regional Final appearance in 2019 during her time at the helm.
• Prior to her arrival at Louisville, Aprile, 2018 ACC Coach of the Year spent 10 seasons (2009-18) as Pittsburgh’s head coach and five years (2004-08) as an assistant. In 2018, she earned ACC Coach of the Year honors after leading the Panthers to the 2018 ACC Coastal Division title and a runner-up finish in the conference tournament.

Player Quick Hits
• Celene Funke registered three triples in 2020, extending her career total to 18 and placing her in second place on Louisville’s all-time list. She needs eight more to tie Audrey Rendon (2004-07) for first.
• Funke was 13-for-13 in stolen bases last season. She stands at No. 3 on Louisville’s all-time stolen base list – she needs six more to tie Sidney Melton (2015-19) for third. Audrey Rendon (2004-07) holds the record with 82.
• Taylor Roby led the team with seven home runs and 16 RBI in 2020. The home run tally marked a career high for Roby.
• Last season, third baseman Jenna Servi was the only freshman who has started every game. She stood fourth on the team with a .271 batting average.
• Carmyn Greenwood tallied a team-best nine multi-hit games this season, her sister, Cassady stood right behind her with eight.

Series Record: Alabama leads 6-0
Last Meeting: Feb. 22-23, 2020 – Alabama defeated Louisville 9-0 and 10-0 at the Easton Bash in Tuscaloosa.
Scouting the Crimson Tide: No. 8/8 Alabama softball was selected the preseason favorite to win the Southeastern Conference in the SEC Softball Preseason Coaches’ Poll.
• Last season, the Crimson Tide posted a 14-8 record before the 2020 campaign was halted due to the spread of COVID-19.
•Seventeen players return from last year’s squad, including all seven of the Tide’s 2020 seniors, as well Preseason All-SEC Team selections Montana Fouts, Alexis Mack and KB Sides.
• In 2019, Alabama reached the Women’s College World Series finished the season with a 60-10 record.

Cards in 2020
During the early season, the Cardinals experienced some growing pains in the midst of a challenging schedule that featured 10 games against teams in the top 25 in the most recent rankings including: No. 9/9 Oregon, No. 13/11 Oklahoma State, No. 10/13 Alabama, No. 18/17 Michigan, No. 21/18 Baylor, No. 21/22 Mississippi State and No. 23/24 Missouri.
• The team emerged from the month-long road swing with some impressive milestones, including a season-opening upset against No. 21/25 Ole Miss, a no-hitter from junior Chardonnay Harris against Wichita State and handing then-10th-ranked Oregon its first loss of the season.
• UofL opened play at Ulmer Stadium by hosting the Red & Black Challenge. After dropping their first game 2-1 in extra innings to Illinois, the Cards posted three straight wins against Northwestern, Illinois and Evansville to finish the weekend.

Cards picked to finish seventh in ACC
The University of Louisville softball team was picked to finish seventh in the Atlantic Coast Conference released its preseason coaches poll.
2021 ACC Softball Preseason Coaches Poll
1) Florida State (141 pts, nine first-place votes)
2) Virginia Tech (136 pts, four first-place votes)
3) Notre Dame (114 pts)
4) Duke (99 pts)
5) North Carolina (96 pts)
6) Clemson (88 pts)
7) Louisville (81 pts)
8) NC State (78 pts)
9) Georgia Tech (61 pts)
10) Syracuse (39 pts)
11) Pitt (31 pts)
12) Virginia (28 pts)
13) Boston College (22 pts)

Tough road ahead
Louisville’s 2021 slate is highlighted by five team in the USA Today/National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and the Softball preseason coaches’ Top 25 polls including: No. 6/7 Florida, No. 8/8 Alabama, No. 12/12 Florida State, No. 13/13 Kentucky, No. 16/15 Virginia Tech,  and No. 25 Duke.
• Ulmer Stadium is set to host 20 games throughout the season, including two tournaments in March: the Cardinal Classic and the Red & Black Challenge.
• Fans will notice that this year’s schedule will include some changes compared to previous seasons.
• In response to the ongoing pandemic, the annual ACC/Big Ten challenge has been cancelled and the ACC has implemented four-game series to limit travel between conference opponents.
• The Cardinals will host the ACC Tournament from May 12-15, where the top 10 conference teams will be eligible to participate this year.

Home sweet home
Louisville has a 20-6 overall record at Ulmer Stadium in the last two seasons under head coach Holly Aprile.
• The Cardinals compiled a 4-1 record in the shortened 2020 season. Prior to that, Louisville registered a 16-5 record at Ulmer Stadium in 2020 with three wins over ranked opponents (No. 3/3 Florida State twice and No. 24/23 Kentucky).

Sister Act
• Louisville’s roster features two sets of sisters: the Schindlers and the Greenwoods.
• Senior outfielder Carmyn Greenwood transferred to Louisville from Auburn in the 2020 season, joining her sister, Cassady who is a junior catcher for the Cardinals.
• Senior pitcher Paige Schindler and outfielder Riley Schindler are among 21 sets of twins in NCAA Division I softball who play for the same team. Paige Schindler is sidelined this season due to injury.
• All four sisters saw action in the Feb. 8, 2020 game against Texas State. Carmyn Greenwood was in left field while sister Cassady was catching and Riley Schindler was playing right field while Paige was pitching.

Super Seniors
UofL has two “super seniors” on its roster in the form of graduate students Celene Funke and Jennifer Leonhardt, both of whom are utilizing an extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA following the COVID-19 shortened 2020 campaign.
• Funke (Carmel, Ind.) was leading the team in stolen bases (13-for-13) and triples (3) when her senior season came to an abrupt halt after 23 games. In 2019, she led the nation in triples and set a school record with 13 while registering a team-best 48 runs and standing second with a .324 batting average and 29 stolen bases. The speedy centerfielder currently stands second on Louisville’s career list for triples (18) and third on the all-time stolen base list with 62.
•  Funke is also the program’s first three-time CoSIDA Academic All-American (2018, 2019) and is pursuing her MBA after earning her undergraduate degree in finance in May 2019.
• Leonhardt returns to her hometown after completing her career at the University of Southern Indiana where she was a three-time NCAA Division II All-American.     The right-handed pitcher will play for the Cardinals while attending UofL’s School of Dentistry.
• Leonhardt led the USI to the 2018 NCAA Division II national title and earned Most Outstanding Player of the 2018 NCAA Division II Softball Championship Series honors.
As her senior campaign was cut short, Leonhardt carried a 7-3 record with a 1.63 ERA and 76 strikeouts in 68.2 innings of work. She also led the team with a .386 batting average.
• Leonhardt finished her career at USI as the program’s all-time leader in wins (83), strikeouts (787) and complete game shutouts (35) while standing second in saves (8) and innings pitched (730.2). At the plate, she registered a .327 career batting average with 87 RBIs and 74 runs.

Looking back to 2019
In it’s most recent complete season, 2019, the Cardinals posted a 35-23 overall record and a 12-12 mark in ACC play for a third place finish in the league’s Atlantic Division and fifth in the overall conference standings.
• Louisville earned an at-large bid to the Evanston Regional and opened NCAA postseason play with a 9-5 win over Southern Illinois and folowed with a 2-1 upset of host No 18-17 Northwestern to advance to the regional final for the fifth time in school history and the first since the 2012 Louisville Regional.

Cards excel in the classroom
The Cardinals turned in impressive academic results in the fall semester earning a team GPA of 3.351. It marks the program’s 31st straight semester with a collective GPA of 3.0 or higher – a streak dating back to the fall of 2005.
• The Cardinals also achieved some outstanding individual accomplishments as 19 out of 25 student-athletes will be named to the Athletic Director’s honor roll after posting a mark of 3.0 or better. Eleven players made the Dean’s List with a GPA of 3.5 or better.
•Senior Celene Funke and freshman Gabby Holloway earned Dean’s Scholar status after posting a perfect 4.0 GPA – Funke did so while pursuing her MBA.

Story and Photo Courtesy of GoCards