Ebullient, with a palpable joyous relief, Louisville coach Jeff Walz answered the usual pro forma queries in the thrall off victory to the usual pro forma questions.
Happy for the team, went through hardship, never gave up, great group, etc, etc, etc.
Along the way he expressed his gratitude to Tom Jurich for the former AD’s faith when hiring the Maryland assistant coach, an intuitive and adroit move that now sees the former run of the mill program heading to it fourth Final Four, all during JW’s reign.
Wedged between the questioner and the coach was Hailey Van Lith. Displaying but a hint of exhaustion, she kept nodding as if it were still crunch time with minutes to play, the Cards down, and she being advised she needed to make a play.
HVL’s eyes burn fierce.
HVL is a perpetual motion machine. She was still redlining minutes after the buzzer, victory secured.
I’m not sure I can recall a U of L baller of either gender with more motor. Recency bias reminds me of Peyton Siva in the ‘13 title game, but I’m sure there are others. Van Lith is certainly in the conversation, arguably at the top of the list.
Proving it can’t be soon enough that a woman’s image gets on the bill, HVL put up another twenty in the Dance. Double deuces in fact in the sprint away W over #3 seed Michigan to punch a proverbial ticket to the Final Four.
HVL came with the fire. So incendiary, it was still burning minutes after the game was won.
* * * * *
All those Hoozahs to Van Lith absolutely deserved, Emily Engstler’s performance in Monday night’s 62-50 W was perhaps, all things considered, even more wondrous.
She was 1/9 from the field, went ofer on her long balls in five attempts.
But, and it’s a mighty but, EE grabbed 16 rebounds. EE dished out four assists. EE picked the Wolverine’s pockets six times. All the while committing only a single giveaway.
The charge she drew at 52-50 with Michigan surging was a turning point, even if it didn’t lead immediately to a Cardinal tally.
Emily Engstler’s was a performance of a woman in full.
* * * * *
Leading the way early with a boffo first half, Chelsie Hall finished with 15.
Kianna Smith added 11.
* * * * * *
The ending of this victory was a clinic of we’re going to win, you are going to lose.
With 8:06 remaining, Van Lith netted a J for a 52-45 lead.
Louisville did not score for the next 5:14. At the 5:40 mark, Michigan pulled within a deuce at 52-50. Yet at the end of U of L’s above mentioned drought, an Olivia Cochran layup doubled the Cards’ advantage to 54-50.
Louisville’s in your face, woman to woman pressure D was suffocating.
That Wolverine score with just under six to play, that one, that one was the last time they scored.
The Cardinals finished on a 10 zip run.
Cochran scored a couple of other layins in that skein, both of which came as the result of marvelous ball movement and passing. On both OC was all alone under the hoop. Once on a great runout after a turnover. The other on a perfectly run Walz-called set in the half court. Engstler notched the assist on one, Mykasa Robinson on the other.
What a finale.
Thus, the Louisville Cardinals are faced with a good news/ bad news situation.
Bad News: Their next foe is this season’s perennial #1 South Carolina.
Good News: It’s in a Semi Final of the NCAA Championships.
Jeff Walz’s University of Louisville Cardinals are Final Four bound.
— c d kaplan