The University of Louisville women's basketball team made a dramatic run to the NCAA Tournament national championship game last month.
The Cardinals lost to Connecticut in the NCAA National Championship game and return most of the team for next season. Several early preseason polls have the Cardinals ranked in the top 10 heading into next season.
Two players who will provide help next season are current freshmen Megan Deines and Cortnee Walton. Both played key minutes throughout this season but expect a greater role on the roster next season.
"They're going to have to step up," U of L coach Jeff Walz said. "They're both very good players and they're only going to get better and better. They'll be more comfortable after being here for a year and yeah, we expect a lot from them."
The two players arrived at U of L last summer but both said it was a tough process to make the transition from high school to college ball, especially playing at the level the Cardinals' are at in the Big East Conference.
"We just have to get in the gym and work on our game," Walton said. "I want to contribute even more next year, so I know I have to work that much harder.
Added Deines: "We set the bar pretty high for the next couple of years as a team. We'll just keep working hard and doing whatever coach says."
The 6-foot-3 Walton is from Surprise, Ariz., and played in 33 games for the Cardinal this season, averaging 2.8 points and 2.5 rebounds in 11.9 minutes a game.
Walton scored a career high 12 points against Wagner in early December and had seven rebounds against Georgetown in February. She played 17 key minutes – without a point – but had four rebounds and played solid defense in the stunning upset of No. 1 Baylor and All-American Brittney Griner in the NCAA.
"With me, I think it's mostly just confidence," Walton said. "I need to be more confidence taking care of the ball and I need to get stronger.
"It's just the little things to make me better."
The 6-foot-1 Deines is from Springfield, Mo., and actually started the first 15 games of the season for the Cardinals. She then came off the bench the rest of the season and played in 37 of the 38 games for the Cardinals.
A three-point shooter, Deines hit 20 of 64 from long-range and averaged 4.9 points a game in 15.8 minutes a contest. She had a career-high 19 points against Wagner and she made four three-pointers in a win over Gonzaga.
"Obviously, I need to keep working on my three's," Deines said. "I heard a lot from coach that I stand up too much (on defense), so I need to work on getting lower. I think just being more aggressive overall."
Both players noted making it to the title game in their first season was special, while Deines said the team has lofty goals from here on out.
"The whole experience was crazy," Deines said. "You get a feel for what it's like, so now we're going to keep working hard and hopefully see this again."