If one subscribes to the theory that the University of Louisville women’s basketball program reloads every season, one may be onto something. Despite seven newcomers, the Cardinals are in a good position to make still another long post season run during the 2023-24 season.
Top new talent includes Sydney Taylor, a transfer from UMass, who made the winning shot in the Toronto summer exhibition tournament. Jayda Curry, by way of the University of California, made 104 three-pointers before transferring and had a streak of 51 straight games with 3-point makes.
UofL, 26-4 last season, finished runner up to Virginia Tech in the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament — just shy of the Final Four before losing to Iowa in the regional finals. Still another terrific season, with Coach Jeff Walz’ team making the Elite Eight for the seventh straight year.
Walz boasts quite an astounding resumé that includes 12 trips to the NCAA Sweet 16, eight trips to the Elite Eight, four trips to the final four and two trips to the national title game. Overall, he has compiled a 40-14 record in NCAA Tournament games and ranks eighth all-time and fifth among active coaches with a 74.1 NCAA Tournament winning percentage.
The Cardinals lost several key players, including a five-year ball of fire in Mykasa Robinson, along with Liz Dixon. Chrislyn Carr, Josie Williams, Morgan Jones and Noriko Konno. Last, but not least, was Hailey Van Lith, an honorable mention All-America, who transferred to LSU.
At an ACC media event Tuesday, Coach Walz was proud of the program’s status, noting that programs like UConn, Stanford, South Carolina, which have national championships can’t match UofL’s Elite Eight streak. “We’ve been fortunate here that we’ve been able to sustain success for years.”
With senior center Olivia Cochran, a four-year starter, and guard Merissah Russell returning, Louisville has a strong base. “I don’t want to say our team is old — but everybody is older,” he said. Cochran averaged 8.4 points and 6.5 rebounds. Russell averaged 4.5 points and had 33 assists.
“Just emphasizing what Louisville stands for, like pushing (each other) that and making people want to be tough because we (don’t) have to teach that, everybody having played for Louisville,” said Cochran. “I feel like I’m tough and I have a tough coach. Being tough we have to show the newcomers what being tough is.”
Being tough means playing through bad streaks, getting the tough rebounds, and making difficult shots under pressure.
Walz teams do that.
Any team with sustained success is good at setting up teammates. “I always say when we stop setting our teammates up for failure and we set them up for success,” said Walz. “We have to set each other for success instead of failure. That comes from playing with each other.”
Louisville opens the season Nov. 6 at Cincinnati. Toughness will not be an issue.