CHARLOTTE, NC – University of Louisville women’s basketball coach Jeff Walz doesn’t balk at the question about his hopes for the future of his program.
“We want to win a national championship,” Walz said during the ACC Women’s Basketball Tipoff on Tuesday at the Westin Charlotte. “That’s our goal.”
The Cardinals have done just about everything else during the first 15 seasons of the Walz era, winning 414 games, including 151 in the past five seasons, claiming at least a share of the ACC regular-season championship four years in a row, making it to Four Final Fours, and two NCAA championship games.
Now, Walz has re-tooled his roster again and is ready for yet another run.
Louisville returns a pair of starters – Hailey Van Lith and Olivia Cochran – and several other key players off last year’s team that lost to South Carolina in the NCAA Tournament semifinals. The Cardinals have also added seven newcomers, including three high-profile transfers.
“I like this team a whole lot,” Walz said. “I’ve got a great group of leaders here who aren’t selfish. They’re not worried about how many points they score. They’re worried about the success we have. It’s going to take a little bit of time. . . . But I’m looking forward to this season and I am expecting another great year.”
U of L is coming off a Final Four season where the Cardinals earned a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four seasons The Cardinals are one of just two teams to make the Elite Eight or further in each of the last four seasons and the only program in the country to be a No. 1 seed in three of the last four tournaments.
Van Lith led the team with 14 points a game last season, while Cochran started 32 of 33 games and averaged 8.6 points and 5.1 rebounds. Graduate senior Mykasa Robinson is one of the top defensive players in the country, while Liz Dixon was a key cog last season. Norika Konna and Merissah Russell are both back from last season and Walz is expected a big jump from sophomore Payton Verhulst.
The Cardinals added Florida State transfer Morgan Jones, who was an All-ACC performer and scored more than 1,000 points during her career with the Seminoles, and Syracuse transfer Chrislyn Carr, who was second on her team in scoring at 14.2 points a game. The other transfer is 6-foot-5 post player Josie Williams, who was fourth in the nation with 24 double-doubles last season ad a senior at Utah Valley State.
Walz said he feels like that has the making of another Final Four team.
“We have several still here that were a big part of that team,” Walz said. “Obviously, we graduated some talented kids off that team. They were some really, really good players but we have brought some in. I think it’s a realistic goal for us. It’s going to take a lot of work and then we’re going to have to continue to get better and better as the year progresses.
“But this team has a chance to be really good.”
Van Lith agrees with Walz that the Cardinals have the ingredients for a run at the title.
“I think we have the talent,” Van Lith said. “On the roster sheet, we have the talent it’s just going to be up to us to make that jump like we did last year where we all came together and ir was obvious that it was a collective unit and we were doing it for each other and we all bought into our role.
“If we go out and do that this year, we will be hard to stop, and we are very capable of a national championship.”