Nike/LM NCAA Preview: No. 14 Louisville (Women)
Led by one of the top draw specialists in the game, Louisville hopes to perform better in the ACC and ultimately propel itself further in the NCAA tournament.
Midfielder Kaylin Morissette, who has become the face of the program and the team's only All-American in 2015, now has more support to make that a reality.
Louisville at a Glance
2015 Record: 10-8
3 Big Things
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
When Young saw Morissette's physicality and innate ice hockey ability translating to lacrosse as a freshman in 2013, Louisville wanted to get her good on the draw very quickly. Morissette finished first in Division I. But Morissette's numbers dipped in 2015, largely because she tried to do it all. "She has been the face of the program and she cares about that, but it can sometimes slow you down because you think about it too much," Young said. Louisville plans to give Morissette more support on the draw in 2016.
1. Morissette has more support.
She may be the face of Louisville lacrosse, but she can't do it all. In previous seasons, the Cardinals have relied on her strength in the midfield to gain possession and jumpstart the offense, while still sprinting back on defense. That will change in 2016. Heidi Smith will venture off the mark to help on the draw, Cortnee Daley will relieve Morissette in transition and Hannah Koloski's speed and dodging will aid the offense. "There's a lot more support around Kay this year to help her become an all-around player, not just a draw specialist," Young said. "That's our hope, but we don't want her to carry all that weight."
2. They need to perform better in the ACC.
In its first ACC season, Louisville finished in seventh place (of eight teams) with a 2-5 record. The Cardinals' regular-season losses to Boston College, Duke, North Carolina, Syracuse and Virginia were by a combined 32 goals, an average margin of 6.4 goals per game. Young preaches knowing the structure and outworking your opponent, but Louisville lacked consistency, confidence and creativity. "We didn't meet our potential last year. We fell short of our goals. We don't want to do that again," Young said. "We're no longer a sleeper. This is Louisville lacrosse, a program that belongs in the ACC, and they're going to fight for a championship."
3. The offense now is multidimensional.
Louisville has always been a one-on-one team. Both Morissette and Faye Brust were the leaders on that offensive front, but part of taking some of the weight off Morissette's shoulders means providing more options on the attack. When Katie Oliverio was a redshirt senior in 2013, the Cardinals had more of an assisting presence. Midfielders Kelli Gerding, Jillian Balog and Madison Hoover now will be the feeders behind the net. "Bringing that feeding piece into our game will help take the pressure off of our one-on-oners," Young said. "We've been working a ton on the small-sided situations, three-v-threes and two-v-twos, to give them looks inside."
* returning starters
The Ontario native and first-team All-American was dominant on the draw for the Cards with 183 draw controls. She ranked second in Division I with 10.17 per game. Morissette also had a team-high 62 points. "Kay brings size and power," Young said. "She has absolutely turned out to be who we thought we were recruiting."
Ferrara finished her high school career as Morristown (N.J.) High's all-time leader in goals and points. While she was primarily an attacker in high school, she has been filling holes in the midfield. "Ali Ferrara is surprising us," Young said. "She has been the most consistent coming in and contributing."
With the graduation of two-way midfielder Carissa Corbett, Smith is expected to fill that role and improve. She tallied 25 draw controls, 17 ground balls and 11 points in 2015. "She was an unknown kid coming out of high school, unbelievably fast and athletic," Young said. "She plays more of a defensive role for us in terms of the midfield, but this fall, she really stepped up her impact on the offense."
Biggest Question Mark
Their Response to Success
Louisville no longer is an unknown program. The Cardinals broke into the national conversation in 2014, advancing to the NCAA quarterfinals, and now have senior midfielder Kay Morissette as the face of Louisville lacrosse. "People know who we are and are giving us more respect now," Young said. "How will we respond now, coming into year nine of the program, and be able to sustain the success that we've had with people knowing who we are?"
Senior midfielder Cortnee Daley will be another threat in the midfield this spring as she helps take some of the pressure off Kaylin Morissette. (Michelle Hutchins)
What rival coaches say about the Cardinals
"Their drawer gives them a chance every game, but their goalie was non-existent last season. Don't see that changing this year."
"Best draw player in the country, Kaylin Morissette. Sleeper team that can surprise people."
"After a strong fall season, Louisville looks more prepared to compete in the ACC in its second season in the conference. Return first team All-American Kay Morissette, also second in the nation on the draw. A formerly young defense now has leadership and focus."
"A bit of an underdog going into last year. They did a great job of making a case for themselves so they'll be hungry. They return their top center draw kid."
Goal differential between Louisville and Team USA in the fall. The Cardinals tied the U.S. women 7-7 in a back-and-forth, fast-paced scrimmage. "That's now the standard of how we're going to perform," Young said. "It's not about the result. It's not about a tie. It's about the incredible work ethic we saw on the field — from Hannah [Koloski] chasing down a U.S. player and getting the ball back and Kay [Morissette] pushing the ball in transition to our defense running our backer successfully. We want that U.S. performance to define who we are."
12 @ Duke
April 9 at North Carolina
Louisville's most lopsided loss in its first ACC season was to North Carolina by 13 goals, a game in which Faye Brust went down with an ACL injury. "UNC is its own unique day because of losing Faye that game," she said. "That's a psychological warfare that's tough to battle in the moment. We needed to prepare better. We needed to play better. We needed to perform better." The Cardinals want a much better showing this time around.
Louisville has shifted its team's culture to be more player-focused, Young said. "Now it's on the players' shoulders, not just to follow the coaches, but to find their own culture, what matters to them and how good they want to be," Young said. "That's the key to taking us to the next level. We're working on understanding what it takes to be champions."
"We have to have a champion mindset," Young said. "There's a big difference between winning matters and winning's everything. That's our goal, to get them to want this badly."
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