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Five Things to Look for in Cardinals Spring Opener

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Former Louisville standout Paolo DelPiccolo is set to return to Cardinal Park on Saturday with Indy Eleven.

Blog written by Doug Paccione

This Saturday the University of Louisville men's soccer team returns to the field for the first time since November. The team is excited as the players look forward to hosting pro franchise Indy Eleven, which will begin its inaugural season in the North American Soccer League in April. With a 7:30 p.m., ET kickoff at Cardinal Park, the match features many storylines. Here are just a few reasons to check out this preseason friendly:

1. DelPiccolo and Mares Return to the Ville: A homecoming of sorts will occur on the pitch Saturday. Former Louisville soccer players Paolo DelPiccolo and Dylan Mares will suit up for Indy Eleven as the team looks to piece together a roster for the upcoming season. DelPiccolo, a four-year starter in the midfield for the Cardinals, is the school's career leader in assists (23) and was a member of the 2010 team that reached the NCAA title match. Mares spent three years at UofL, highlighted by his redshirt sophomore season in 2012 when he lead the team in goals (7) and total points (20), before finishing his collegiate career at Indiana. "Playing with those guys was a great experience," said Louisville senior Daniel Keller. "It's going to be fun to be on the field with them again."

2. Louisville Coopers Looking to Make Some Noise: The Louisville Coopers, a local group established to celebrate the city's emerging soccer culture and advocate for a pro club here in the River City, will be on hand to support the Cardinals on Saturday night. In an effort to rival the Brickyard Battalion, Indy's fans who will also be attendance, the Coopers have planned a tailgate and march to Cardinal Park, with the hope of establishing the "I-65 Derby" between the two soccer towns. This will be the first match and public appearance for the group, so expect a spirited turn out.

3. Kicking It For a Great Cause: The game this Saturday is a charity match with the proceeds going to Family Scholar House. This organization focuses on support of single parent families, by providing assistance through education. Housing assistance, family support, and education services are all provided to the less fortunate by FSH. The proceeds from ticket sales of the game will go to Family Scholar House as well as donations of gently used children's books for a book drive.

4. A Couple of First Impressions to be Made: Louisville midfielders Ben Strong and Will Vitalis will be using the friendly to launch their return to the pitch for the first time in more than a year. Both players sat out in the fall and are looking forward to getting back on the field. A transfer from Virginia Tech who will compete in his senior year this fall, Strong spent his time in Blacksburg playing center-mid and stood as the primary free kick and corner taker for the Hokies. Vitalis, who will also be a senior, was Mr. Kentucky Soccer as a prep senior at South Oldham High and has tallied five goals and eight assists in his time with the Cardinals.

5. Looking Forward to Lynn: As the hype grows for the move, Louisville fans who come out Saturday will get to learn more about the future home of Louisville soccer. Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium will open in August as one of the premier soccer facilities collegiate soccer has to offer. The new venue will seat more than 5,300 and include many features for a truly unique fan experience. A preview of Lynn Stadium as well as season ticket information for the upcoming fall season will be available at the match, making the game a can't miss.

Saturday's match is set for a 7:30 p.m., ET kickoff at Cardinal Park. The game begins the spring campaign for Louisville, which includes fixtures vs. Lindsey Wilson, Akron and SIUE as well as a match against the Columbus Crew of the MLS.

Coach Walz Blog #9

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Well, January is wrapping up and we're one step closer to MARCH MADNESS.

 

We have seven games left in the next four weeks before AAC Tournament play. We are headed down the homestretch.  Every game has helped prepare us for the postseason which is just a month away. I'm proud of what we're doing and we'll take these next seven games one game at a time.  One win at a time is what I'm focused on.

 

Our Rutgers game last week was a big win for us.  We've never won at Rutgers since we joined the BIG EAST Conference.  It was also one of the toughest road games on our schedule this year.  Rutgers gave us a good game but we were able to execute at the end of the game and came away with a great road victory. 

 

Two games later, we traveled to Orlando to play UCF.  This game, however, showcased the spurts we continue to go through.  All within a single game, we'll make unbelievable runs, move the ball with ease, do a great job of not turning the ball over, and stack up a double-digit lead.  We have the ability to put good teams away, yet we still haven't been able to consistently do that.  Even though we brought home the win against UCF, our game this Sunday at Connecticut will be a different story.

 

 I'm sure this is the most anticipated game on our schedule for everyone- the fans, media, and players.  It'll be our most challenging game this year and the best practice we will get to see where we are as a team.  UConn is a great team that is very well-coached.  In order for us to compete with them, we'll have to put together our best game of the year.  The game will be one of the toughest environments we have played in all season.  We'll have to leave everything out there on the court to have a chance to win.    

 

In other news... My baby girl Lola is coming up on 8 months!  I think she looks more and more like me every day.  Follow me on Twitter @coachjeffwalz to see pictures of her.

 

Follow the team Twitter @UofLWBB. Stay up to date on Louisville Women's Basketball news through this blog and GoCards.com.  Also check out the official team Instagram @UofLWBB, Facebook page University of Louisville Women's Basketball, and YouTube channel University of Louisville Cardinals.  You can follow me directly on Twitter and Instagram @coachjeffwalz, and Jeff J Walz on Facebook

 

Jeff Walz Blog #8

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Happy New Year Cardinal fans!

 

It's back to business for us.  We brought home a win vs Temple on New Year's Day, and followed up 3 days later with a win at home vs Cincinnati.  The girls started classes last Monday, so we're back to our regular class and practice schedule.  Other than the -8 degree temperature we averaged here for two days last week, I guess I have no complaints.

 

What a win over South Florida last week.  They are a tough team that leaves it all on the court every time we play them.  They turned a 17-point lead in the second half into a 2-point game.  I have to give them credit for that.  And that's what we really have to work on - making sure we're playing a smooth, consistent, 40-minute game.  We fouled USF way too much and as a result, gave them free-throws to make it a close game.  But we stayed focused enough to take the win in their home arena.  Antonita made her second appearance back, but Jude is still out with an ankle sprain.  We hope to have her back on the court very soon.  I'm fortunate to be coaching a team with great depth this year, but I also want to make sure that the girls are as healthy as can be for the AAC conference tournament and the NCAA tournament.

 

Tournament time is coming quickly.  The NCAA announced that we (the city of Louisville) will be 1 of the 4 sites for the Women's Regionals round of the NCAA Tournament.  Tickets are on sale now.  The games will be held between March 29 and April 1.  We hope to see you and everyone you know there.  The team, staff and I are putting in the hours every single day to play at this site and have a hometown crowd pack out the KFC Yum! Center.

 

Until next time...

 

Follow the team Twitter @UofLWBB us to win tickets to a few games!  Stay up to date on Louisville Women's Basketball news through this blog and GoCards.com.  Also check out the official team Instagram @UofLWBB, YouTube at University of Louisville Cardinals, and Facebook at University of Louisville Women's Basketball.  You can follow me directly on Twitter and Instagram @coachjeffwalz, and Jeff J Walz on Facebook.  

Jeff Walz Blog #7

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The weekly radio show with Matt Andrews of Bats Radio began about two weeks ago.  Matt is also our play-by-play announcer so it's always a great time when we get together to talk about what's happening with the team.  The show is also a great opportunity for fans to call in and ask questions.  The next show airs live on December 30 @ 6pm.  You can listen to it on ESPN 680 AM and on the Tune In app (you can download it from the App Store and Google Play Store).  It also streams on-line at ESPNLouisville.com.  Call me during the next show at 502-267-9680 to ask any questions!

 

In team news...Antonita is doing well.  She's with us at every practice and every game.  The coaching staff, team and I definitely appreciate everyone's concerns, prayers and well wishes for her.  

 

We played Austin Peay last Saturday.  I thought we did a much better job of taking care of the basketball that game.  We only had eight turnovers, which was well below our goal for the game.  In practice, we've been working on making the extra pass and valuing every offensive possession.  Guess it's paying off.  This game was also Jude's first start since coming to the team.  She did a great job stepping up, as usual.

 

We left for Ball State on Monday morning.  We had the opportunity to practice for Tuesday's game against Ball State at Banker's Life Fieldhouse, where the Pacers and Fever play.  We also caught the Pacers-Pistons game that night.  Being at the Fieldhouse was an amazing experience.  Our strategy against Ball State was to put the pressure on them early and to get a quick lead.  The girls stuck to the game plan and we brought home the win.

 

Hope to see you at the KFC YUM! Center for our next game on Saturday against No. 11 Colorado.  We'll take a short Christmas break and then continue the season also at the YUM! on Dec. 29 vs Southern Methodist.

 

Happy Holidays!

 

Follow the team Twitter @UofLWBB us to win tickets to a few games!  Stay up to date on Louisville Women's Basketball news through this blog and GoCards.com.  Also check out the official team Instagram @UofLWBB, YouTube at University of Louisville Cardinals, and Facebook at University of Louisville Women's Basketball.  You can follow me directly on Twitter and Instagram @coachjeffwalz, and Jeff J Walz on Facebook.  

Jeff Walz Blog #6

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Since my last blog, we've played solid games against Florida State and Ohio.  The fans and I saw two new faces stepped up and scored season highs- Shawnta' with 15 and Megan with 12.  FSU became our second overtime win this year.  We did an amazing job of forcing turnovers that game with 26, to help come back from a 15-point deficit.  I was most proud to see our NCAA Runner-Up banner revealed during the pregame ceremony. 

 

The day before Thanksgiving, we competed against Western Kentucky in Bowling Green.  This game was special for me because, in a sense, I got to return to where I served as an Assistant Coach under my mentor and Head Coach Paul Sanderford.  It was even more special because I got to coach against my former assistant Michelle Clark-Heard.  She was part of my staff for five seasons and has been doing a great job building the WKU program in the two years that she has been Head Coach.  The crowd got involved and made it an exciting game. 

 

The game against Kentucky was a fight.  We did a great job in the first half but despite the team's effort we had too many turnovers in the second half and gave up too many rebounds.  Of course we prepared hard for this game and we would've liked to win, but we also know that games like this don't define our season.  What they do is give us important lessons to learn from.  We will make the improvements necessary to continue building momentum for the season. 

 

Our next big game will be this Saturday at the KFC Yum! Center against Wright State.  The Raiders are ranked No. 12 in the Mid-Major poll and has been successful this season in knocking off two solid teams - NC State and James Madison.  We want all of our Card fans to come out and support us against this competitive team!

 

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! 

 

Until next time...

 

Follow the team Twitter @UofLWBB us to win tickets to a few games!  Stay up to date on Louisville Women's Basketball news through this blog and GoCards.com.  Also check out the official team Instagram @UofLWBB, YouTube at University of Louisville Cardinals, and Facebook at University of Louisville Women's Basketball.  You can follow me directly on Twitter and Instagram @coachjeffwalz, and Jeff J Walz on Facebook.  

Jeff Walz Blog #5

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It's been a crazy week so let's get right into it...

 

We signed on five amazingly talented recruits last Wednesday:  Sydney Brackemyre, Arica Carter, Ariana Freeman, Myisha Hines-Allen and Mariya Moore.  The skill set and individual qualities that they'll bring to our team is exciting.  I take each season practice by practice, one game at a time.  But I'd be lying if I said I'm not already hopeful about next season.  We'll have a very young team with a lot of heart and passion, but also a lot of work to get them college-caliber ready. 

 

The same day I made the announcement about our recruiting class, we took on No. 14 LSU at home to continue the WNIT tournament.  It was a close game until the final minutes of the second half.  My girls took advantage of a solid lead and were able to go on a 21-0 run that contributed to the win.  I think our home crowd enjoyed the FREE DRINKS on me just as much as the game.  ESPN and USA Today got a good story out of it, but it was really just a way for me to thank our supporters and to encourage more locals to come out and enjoy the game.  Everyone had a great time.

 

Two days later, we traveled to Norman, Oklahoma to play against the No. 11 Oklahoma Sooners in the WNIT Championship Game.  Talk about duking it out!  That game was truly a battle on the court.  We struggled throughout the first half.  At one point, we were down by 15 but then Tia caught fire and began taking the lead in scoring.  The girls continued to fight and Jude made two crucial layups that took us into overtime.  We eventually brought home the win with Tia scoring her career high 23 points, as well as Sara and Asia being named to the all-tournament team.  The most amazing part of this trip was that thousands of Native Americans waited after the game to get autographs from Shoni and Jude- and they spent almost three hours signing every last one of them! 

 

Our schedule continues with two upcoming games at the KFC Yum! Center...Ohio tomorrow and Florida State on Sunday.  Be sure to come out with your friends and family, and tag me in a few photos!

 

Follow the team Twitter @UofLWBB us to win tickets to a few games!  Stay up to date on Louisville Women's Basketball news through this blog and GoCards.com.  Also check out the official team Instagram @UofLWBB, YouTube at University of Louisville Cardinals, and Facebook at University of Louisville Women's Basketball.  You can follow me directly on Twitter and Instagram @coachjeffwalz, and Jeff J Walz on Facebook.  

Monday's New and Notes; Senior Day Slated for Saturday

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Strong’s First Full Class to Play Last Home Game on Saturday
Head coach Charlie Strong will watch his first full class play their last home game of the season on Saturday versus Memphis. Taking over the program in 2010, Strong will see Preston Brown, B.J. Butler, Brandon Dunn, Jarrett Davis, Senorise Perry, Deon Rogers and Marcus Smith play at home for the final time. Those seven players participated as true freshmen and helped the Cardinals get to a bowl for the first time in three seasons.

“It’s just guys that have helped us build this program,” Strong said. “You hope they go out the right way. That is why I said that at the beginning you hate to see this time of year comes because you hate to see these guys move on. You would like to have another year, I wish we could have redshirted Preston (Brown) and Marcus Smith.”

The Cardinals are looking for their 12th home win in their last 14 games with a win over the Tigers.

Cardinals Use New Scheme to Stop Houston’s Potent Offensive Attack
Strong admitted on Monday that the Cardinals used a new defensive scheme to hold Houston to a season-low 195 yards of total offense and 121 yards passing, which was almost 200 yards fewer than its season average. Strong the Cardinals used four down linemen and a linebacker to stop Houston’s bubble screen.

“We tried before but we didn’t play it the right way the last time we tried to play it,” Strong said. “The guys were getting on the edge of the defense. What you have to do is eliminate the gaps inside. If a backer is inside he has a gap to the outside. You have to close off that gap so he can run the ball to the outside. We were able to do that.”

Cardinals Go For Sixth Conference Win
The Cardinals are looking for their sixth conference win for the first time since going 6-1 in the BIG EAST Conference in 2006 and just the fifth time in school history. Louisville won a school record eight league games in 2004 and also won at least six in 2001 and 2000.

Brown Records Second 100-Yard Contest
Junior running back Dominique Brown recorded his second 100-yard rushing game with a career-high 137 yards on a career-best 27 carries and his first two-touchdown performance. Brown put the Cardinals ahead in the first quarter with a 13-yard run and later scored on a three-yard scamper. Brown has totaled 650 yards and a team-high six touchdowns this season on a team-high 111 carries.

Not a Normal Occurrence
With the win over Houston, the Cardinals are 9-1 for the second-straight season and just the seventh time in school history. Outside of the last two seasons, the Cardinals were also 9-1 in 2006, 2004, 2001, 1972 and 1957. Head coach Charlie Strong is just the second coach in school history to lead their teams to a pair of 9-1 starts and the first coach to do it in consecutive seasons.

 

It wasn't all that long ago that Andrew Farrell and Paolo DelPiccolo were starring on the field at Cardinal Park in Louisville. During their tenure, the University of Louisville men's soccer team went to three straight NCAA Elite Eights and one College Cup final.

On Thursday morning, the duo that many fans came to know as "Salt n' Peppa" through their YouTube variety series last year returned to their college home. Both were present bright and early as this year's Cardinal squad met for training.

As the Cards await this Monday's release of the NCAA tournament bracket, Farrell and DelPiccolo brought plenty of valuable stories with them that they shared during a team meeting that lasted just over a half an hour. They talked to the team about everything from being a professional to how to improve as a player every day.

Farrell was drafted first overall by the New England Revolution, and helped the team to their first playoff appearance since 2009. The former Louisville center back made the transition to right back starting in 32 of the Revs' 34 MLS regular season matches.

"I enjoyed it," Farrell told the team about his season with the Revolution. "We had a good year (in New England), and I think I played well even though I'll keep getting better. The biggest adjustment was the pace of the professional game, so working on tactics was a huge focus for me this season."

DelPiccolo took a different route to MLS, making a brief trip to Frankfurt, Germany for a stint with Bundesliga club Eintracht Frankfurt before eventually landing with the Montreal Impact for the remainder of the 2013 MLS season.

"Living in a different culture was tough," said DelPiccolo to the team about his time in Germany. "It wasn't quite like MLS, and it definitely wasn't like it is here at Louisville. With that said, I learned a lot and it helped me when I got to Montreal, where I got to learn again."

While the two took different paths to MLS after their respective departures from Louisville after the 2012 season, they remain good friends and had some poignant messages for the 2013 Cards. Among those sentiments was a reminder to enjoy every moment of their college careers and work hard in a great soccer environment at Louisville.

"The time that Andrew and Paolo have had with our guys and the experience they've had over the last year is so valuable, and we're glad to have them back as part of the family for the next few days," said head coach Ken Lolla on Thursday morning.

The selection show for this season's NCAA Men's Soccer Championship field will be available on NCAA.com at noon ET on Monday. Tune in and follow the Louisville men's soccer here on the Scoop de Ville, and follow the Cards on Twitter and Instagram (both @UofLMensSoccer), as well as on Facebook.

Jeff Walz Blog #4

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"1st game prep, Cool guy steps, Locker room chat, On to the next

....Season awaiting, Music is blazing, Warm up drills for the fans anticipating

...This is habitual, Game time critical, Catch me on the next Coach Walz Scoop Lyrical." 

 

Just a preview of my thoughts as the team, staff and I prepared for our 1st game last Tuesday against Pikeville.  This exhibition game was the first piece of basketball action this season that our fans saw us take part in.  It was also our Elementary School Day.  Over 4,000 students joined us at the YUM Center to watch the game.  The girls were pumped and energy was high.  I couldn't wait to get a few initial observations of our game play.  Overall, I thought it was a solid effort from my girls.  We were able to run a lot of plays that we're still mastering in practice.  The team chemistry was also good, which carried over into Saturday's game against Loyola University Chicago. 

 

We have amazing depth this year; in both games, at least 11 of our 14 players scored.  When I bring the starting five out, the next five are able to continue the momentum with no hesitation.   So I'm really excited about the depth and talent we have this year, especially with Tia, Asia and Shawnta' coming off of injuries from last season.  In our first game, it was an honor to coach against Hall of Fame player Sheryl Swoopes.  She is going to do great things at Loyola.

 

Our preseason WNIT continued with our game against Quinnipiac last night.  This is a very talented team that came to compete.  Offensively, I thought we were solid.  But to make it to Nashville, we have to do a better job of stopping teams.  We have to become more defensive-minded.  We brought home a win, and next up is LSU tomorrow.  The first 2,500 fans to show up will get free beer on me...of course, you have to be 21 or older ;-)  See you and your family there!

 

Follow the team Twitter @UofLWBB us to win tickets to a few games!  Stay up to date on Louisville Women's Basketball news through this blog and GoCards.com.  Also check out the official team Instagram @UofLWBB, YouTube at University of Louisville Cardinals, and Facebook at University of Louisville Women's Basketball.  You can follow me directly on Twitter and Instagram @coachjeffwalz, and Jeff J Walz on Facebook

 

 

GO CARDS!

Monday's Football Notes; Marcus Smith leads nation in sacks

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Gaines Named the American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week
Sophomore cornerback Charles Gaines was tabbed as the American Athletic Conference Special Teams Player of the Week after his performance in Louisville’s 31-10 win on the road at Connecticut. Gaines blocked a punt and returned it seven yards for a touchdown. It was his third touchdown of the season. He also scored on a 93-yard kickoff return versus FIU and returned an interception 70 yards against USF.

Smith Takes Over the National Lead in Sacks
Defensive end Marcus Smith has taken over as the national leader in sacks, averaging 1.17 sacks per game. With 2.5 sacks on Friday night, Smith has 10.5 sacks this year and has 20.0 for his career. Trent Murphy of Stanford is second in the country with 10.0 or 1.12 per game. Smith has been on a tear in the sacks department, registering 7.5 sacks in the last four games.

“He has grown each and every year,” head coach Charlie Strong said. “He takes coaching well. It is so fun to watch him develop. Usually when you take a guy with a quarterback’s body and make him a defensive player, even with his mentality, it is so tough with a quarterback to tell him he is going to play defense. He accepted that challenge, which was great.”

Smith and Mauldin Impressive Duo
The Cardinals are fortunate to have two of the top 15 pass rushers in the nation in senior Marcus Smith and junior Lorenzo Mauldin. The duo is ranked first and 15th in the nation, respectively, in sacks this season, with Smith recording 1.12 per game and Mauldin notching 0.8 per game. Smith leads the American Athletic Conference and Mauldin is third. The Cardinals are one of only two teams in the country to have two players with 7.0 or more sacks. Texas’ defensive ends Jackson Jeffcoat and Cedric Reed are tied for the team lead and rank second in the Big 12 with 7.0 sacks each.

Cardinals Reach New Interception Record Under Strong
The Cardinals have not had a lot of success in the first three years of the Charlie Strong era in recording interceptions. Louisville registered 11 last season, which was the highest mark since Strong took over the program. The Cardinals recorded 10 picks in 2011 and a low of nine in the first year. After recording three interceptions in the win over Connecticut on Friday, the Cardinals have 13 interceptions this season, which ranks 14th nationally. Terell Floyd leads the team and ranks 14th in the nation in interceptions with four, while Charles Gaines and Calvin Pryor are next with three.

Cards and Michigan State Among the Best Defensively
Louisville and Michigan State are the only two schools in the FBS to rank in the top five nationally in total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, and passing defense. The Cardinals also lead the American Athletic Conference in nine defensive categories (total defense, scoring defense, rushing defense, pass defense, pass efficiency defense, opponent third-down, sacks, red-zone defense and opponents first downs). In addition, Louisville’s defense has allowed just 4.21 yards per play, which ranks No. 2 in the FBS.

First Night Game Since 2009
The Cardinals will play their first Saturday night home game - kick off is scheduled for 7 p.m. - when Houston travels to Papa John’s Cardinals Stadium this weekend. It will be the first one since the 2009 season when the Cardinals defeated Southern Mississippi 25-23 on a late field goal.

“It is different,” Strong said of the expected atmosphere on Saturday night. “As a coach, I like those 3:30 games because you are so anxious and you want to go play. As a crowd, it is better if it is a Saturday night because they have time all day to tailgate and be with friends and have a good time. Then they can come and cheer us on. Explode all that energy out of them.”

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