Louisville women’s basketball: Cardinals primed for another deep tournament run

Louisville women's basketball players Emily Engstler and Hailey Van Lith. (Syndication: The Courier-Journal)
Louisville women's basketball players Emily Engstler and Hailey Van Lith. (Syndication: The Courier-Journal) /

The Louisville women’s basketball team has one thing on their mind entering the 2022 Women’s NCAA Tournament: Winning a championship.

The NCAA Tournament has arrived for the Louisville women, bringing them a step closer to their ultimate goal.

After winning 25 games and finishing the regular season ranked No. 5 in the AP poll, Jeff Walz’s team can get down to the business of winning games in March Madness.

The Cardinals have come alive in March more often than not over the last decade. Do they have what it takes to win it all?

Louisville women’s basketball: 1 player to watch – Emily Engstler

Lousiville saw leading scorer Dana Evans head off to the WNBA after last season, opening the door for guard Hailey Van Lith to take her place atop the Cardinals’ stat sheet.

However, the name to watch coming into the tournament is Emily Engstler. Along with Van Lith, Engstler was named to the All-ACC First Team. She was also voted to the ACC All-Defensive team.

The forward finished out the regular season with her best basketball of the year. She had three straight double-doubles while raising her game as a scorer.

On the defensive end, she is essential. She led the ACC in steals this season while ranking fifth in blocks and third in rebounds.

Louisville women’s basketball: 1 reason Cardinals will cut down the nets

The Cardinals are a balanced team that isn’t reliant on one player to get the job done. Their all-around ability is what can take them to the top.

Yes, Van Lith leads the team in scoring, but senior guard Kianna Smith and Engstler are not far behind.

Yes, Engstler is a stout defender but senior guard Mykasa Robinson was also named to the ACC All-Defensive team for the second time.

Yes, Smith leads the team in assists but Van Lith, Engstler, Robinson and senior guard Chelsea Hall each average more than two per game each.

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This is a veteran team with plenty of depth and tournament experience.

And they should be hungry, especially after blowing a 15-point lead in the ACC Tournament in an upset to Miami. They’ve taken a shot, they will have learned their lesson about underestimating opponents or resting on their laurels too early.

Louisville women’s basketball: Recent NCAA Tournament history

The Cardinals have made it to 11-straight NCAA Tournaments with a Sweet Sixteen appearance or better in eight of those.

Last year, they made it to the Elite Eight before running into No. 1 seed Stanford. Their last Final Four appearance was in 2018 with a loss to fellow No. 1 seed Mississippi State in overtime keeping them out of the championship game.

Louisville has been exceptionally successful in women’s college basketball this century but they have never broken through for a championship. They finished as runners-up in 2009 and 2013.

Perhaps this is the year that all changes and they take the program to new heights. It’s up to Engstler and Van Lith to lead the way.

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