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Louisville Field Hockey Falls to Michigan in National Semifinal

 The Cardinals had made their first ever trip to the Final Four.

The third-ranked University of Louisville field hockey team lost 2-1 to No. 2 Michigan in a sudden-victory shootout in the NCAA semifinals Friday evening at North Carolina's Karen Shelton Stadium.

The Cardinals conclude the season with a 14-6 overall record after making the first NCAA semifinal appearance in program history.

"Making a Final Four is something that our players have always dreamed of and that's what we've been working toward for many years now, so I'm really proud to get to this point, " said UofL head coach Justine Sowry. “We came up against a formidable Michigan lineup, and we knew it was going to be tough. So I congratulate them, they're well-coached, they're great from top to bottom. I'm so incredibly proud of our student-athletes and what they've endured this season. They've endured a lot and it's been one long season – two seasons – and we just stuck together as a unit, as a team, as a coaching staff and we're just really proud. Very disappointed, heartbreaking to lose a game like that, but we have accomplished much."

In the game, Louisville held an 8-7 edge in shots and an 8-4 advantage in corners. Sophomore Emilia Kaczmarczyk‘s goal with 1:18 left on the clock in the fourth quarter evened the score at 1-1, sending the contest into overtime. The teams battled through two overtime periods before proceeding a shootout - the first in an NCAA semifinal game since 2017. Louisville goalkeeper Sam Minrath finished the contest with four saves.

"It was a very exciting and a really fun game for us," said UofL senior defender and team co-captain Meghan Schneider. "Michigan is a great opponent and we were prepared to have a great game against them, and they came right back at us with it. It was a great game, really fun and I'm glad we got to be part of it."

The teams played through a scoreless first half with each earning one penalty corner and Louisville owning a 1-0 edge in shots.

Michigan (15-2) struck in the fifth minute of the third quarter when Anouk Veen converted on the Wolverines' second penalty corner of the contest to give her team a 1-0 lead.

Louisville gained momentum in the fourth quarter, earning six penalty corners in the frame. With 3:57 left in regulation, Sowry lifted Louisville goalkeeper Sam Minrath  in favor of an extra field player and the move paid off in the closing minutes of the game.

With 1:26 left in fourth quarter, the Cardinals earned their sixth corner of the fourth quarter. Alli Bitting got the corner started and Meghan Schneider provided the stop for Mercedes Pastor who slid a pass to Minna Tremonti to set up Kaczmarczyk's shot into the right corner of the cage with 1:18 left on the clock. The sophomore's fourth goal of the season evened the score at 1-1 with 1:18 left in the game.

The game stayed tied at 1-1 through the remainder of regulation and the teams entered the first of two sudden-victory overtime periods with the field reduced to seven players apiece.

Louisville was able to register one shot in the first extra frame, but Tremonti's attempt went wide and the contest proceeded to a second overtime. Michigan went on the attack the second OT, but Louisville defense withstood a pair of Wolverine corners with Minrath picking up three saves.

The contest entered a best-of-five shootout with Meghan Schneider, Charlie van Oirschot and Mercedes Pastor converting on their attempts. Michigan also finished three attempts, and Minrath thwarted a pair of Wolverine tries, sending the game to a sudden-victory round. The Wolverines prevailed 1-0 on their first attempt to advance to the national championship game to face top-ranked North Carolina on Sunday.

Louisville's NCAA tournament run capped a historical season in which the Cardinals achieved numerous milestones. In the fall, the Cards won the ACC regular season title and earned the top seed in the conference tournament after producing a 5-1 record which included a win over two-time defending national champion North Carolina, snapping the Tar Heels NCAA-best 47-game win streak. Louisville posted a runner-up finish to UNC in the fall ACC tournament.

With the NCAA championship moved to the spring due to COVID-19 precautions, the season would continue in unprecedented fashion. Louisville went on to earn the highest ranking in program history at No. 2 despite the loss of three seniors who opted out for the spring campaign. The Cardinals earned the overall No. 3 seed in the NCAA tournament, marking the second straight season as a national seed. Louisville went on to beat No. 6 UConn in the quarterfinals to advance to its first NCAA semifinal.

Reflecting back on the season, Schneider said, "Our program has been building momentum for years and years and I think it's going to keep building and we're going to keep finding success. Reaching the Final Four for the first time was something that was just so incredible for us, especially this year with all of the things that we struggled with, that everybody around the world has been struggling with. It just a great positive end to this year to get to the Final Four. We watched a really beautiful video from our alumni all telling us good luck, so that was something that was really amazing that we got to experience as well - feeling that support from the people in the community and who came before us."You can follow Louisville Report for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on Twitter:

 

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