The past four years have been quite a ride for Louisville fans in just about every sport. Jeff Walz's women's basketball program has been no exception, and a good part of its success is owed to this season's senior class.
That historic group played its last regular season game in the Yum! Center on Thursday, helping No. 8 Louisville to a 77-60 victory over Boston College in front of a crowd of 10,488. The Cards moved to 24-4 on the season and are currently No. 3 in the ACC with a 12-3 conference record.
With the victory, Shawnta' Dyer, Sara Hammond, Jude Schimmel, Bria Smith and Sheronne Vails have now compiled 109 career victories over their Louisville careers, the most ever by one class in program history.
Dyer led the seniors against Boston College with 13 points and six rebounds, while Schimmel and Smith added 11 points apiece.
Hammond, who leads the senior class with 10.8 points per game this season, delivered the reflective quote of the night postgame.
"These past four years, it’s been a great journey," said Hammond. "We’ve had lots of ups and downs, all of us, but for the most part it’s been fun. I never would have dreamed being from where I’m from being able to play for a national championship or go out to L.A. for an ESPY Award. Things like that have changed my life."
Not many athletes in college, regardless of sport, can say they've played for a national championship and then gone to the ESPYS. That's pretty cool.
Thursday's game was also Louisville's second Native American Night at the Yum! Center. Last year's first-ever Native American Night received an incredible amount of support, as 22,163 packed the arena to support Shoni and Jude Schimmel, who are both members of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla in Oregon. Louisville said at least 14 tribes were represented at this year's game.
Just as Louisville's best class is on its way out, a new one looks ready to make sure the Cards don't skip a beat going forward. Freshman Mariya Moore tallied a game-high 18 points in 19 minutes, and joining Moore in double-digit scoring was fellow freshman Myisha Hines-Allen with 12 points.
For good measure, another incredible freshman class will be joining Moore, Hines-Allen and co. next season.
We talk a lot about an "era of good feelings" in Cardinal athletics, and this team has certainly been a part of it. They win games in the NCAA Tournament (the 2013 run to the title game that included the upset of Baylor was a blast to watch), and the fact that the program is consistently in the top ten is quite an accomplishment that almost gets taken for granted at this point.
This season, Louisville has one more regular season game at Virginia before the ACC Tournament tips off March 5. As the No. 8 team in the country with a top-ten RPI, they'll likely be put in a decent position to go on a run again when the NCAA Tournament rolls around.
It feels like we do this every year now, but congratulations are in order for Jeff Walz and another outstanding group of seniors on a great regular season. Can't wait to see what this group can do in March.