Antonita Slaughter working on bucket list

Antonita Slaughter

Louisville native Antonita Slaughter is among the group of seniors that will be honored prior to the Cardinals regular season finale against top-ranked Connecticut on March 3. The senior visited with Cardinal Authority to discuss her career in the Red & Black.

A product of Louisville's Christian Academy, Antonita Slaughter is one of four seniors that will be honored when they take the floor for the final time, in a regular season game, at the KFC Yum! Center on March 3 against the nation's top-rated Connecticut Huskies.

Slaughter became a key contributor immediately upon her arrival at U of L. The 6-foot-1 guard saw action in nearly every game as a freshman and sophomore. As a junior she stepped into the starting rotation and helped the Cardinals reach the NCAA Championship game for the second time in the program's history.

Now, with one final home regular game remaining, Slaughter is looking forward to playing in front of what will likely be there largest home crowd of her career.

"Knowing that they are already 16,000 tickets sold, it's going to be a great atmosphere," she told Cardinal Authority. "There's nothing like playing in front of our home crowd."

However, an on-the-court scare in early December nearly brought her career to an abrupt and premature ending.

Less than three minutes after scoring the first basket of Louisville's home game in a blowout victory over Missouri State on December 3, Slaughter suffered what head coach Jeff Walz described as "seizure like episode" and collapsed. She left the arena on a stretcher headed for Jewish Hospital for testing, where she was diagnosed with having a blood clot in her lung. The immediate prognosis was that Slaughter would miss the remainder of the season.

A month later, after being referred to the Mayo Clinic for further evaluation, Slaughter learned that all test results have come back within normal limits and she was given full medical clearance to play once again. Cleared to play, she made her return on January 4, playing 16 minutes in the Cardinals win over rival Cincinnati. She received a standing ovation from the Cardinal faithful when Walz summoned her from the bench.

"I never got down on myself, not once," she explained. "I was always there supporting my teammates, encouraging them, telling them we can still make it to Nashville. I never got down because of them, and I just want to thank them for that."

Slaughter credited her family, teammates, fans and coaching staff for keeping her spirits up during her time away from the court. As he has been since her arrival on campus in 2010, Walz constantly motivated her to remain positive despite the struggles.

"He's meant a lot to me," she said. "He's helped me to learn to fight through adversity when things aren't going your way and that it is important to always work hard."

Slaughter returned to the starting lineup two weeks later, scoring 17 points in the Cardinals win at SMU.

In the lineup or not, Slaughter's goals for her senior season have never waned. Fueled by their run to the last season's title game, the Cardinals are aiming at a return trip to the Final Four. With Sweet 16 and Elite 8 rounds scheduled to be held in the KFC Yum! Center and with the championship being held in nearby Nashville, Tenn., she and her teammates believe the time is now.

"There's no other option and there's no better time," said Slaughter. "We've got two games left and this season has really flown by, so with the tournament coming up, we are going to give it our all."

The Cardinals travel to Cincinnati on Saturday before closing out the regular season against the No. 1 Huskies. Like the rest of the nation, Louisville has struggled against perennial power Connecticut. The Cardinals are 0-10 versus UConn under Walz. The Huskies have defeated the Cardinals during the regular season, conference tournaments and twice in the national championship game – 2009 and 2013.

A victory over the Huskies on senior night would cap the program's most successful regular season with an exclamation point and Slaughter believes the losing streak to UConn is near its end.

"That's definitely on my bucket list," Slaughter said. "To beat UConn and win a national championship are both on my bucket list. I think March 3rd is the day we're going to [beat UConn]."

As she nears senior night, Slaughter can't help but think back on her career. She'll be honored with fellow seniors Tia Gibbs, Shoni Schimmel and Asia Taylor prior to the March 3rd contest.

"The program has definitely grown for the better," she said. "To be in this senior class means a lot. We have a lot of people going out together and we were all a big part of this team. I'm excited that I'm apart of that group."

As she looks back on the successes of her career, many great moments stand out, but the victory over top-ranked Baylor in last season's Sweet 16 tops the list. Baylor had won 32 straight before facing the 5th-seeded Cardinals last season and were expected to win a second consecutive NCAA title. However, great team play, which included a career-best seven three-pointers from the hands of Slaughter, the Cardinals surprised the nation with an 82-81 victory.

"Definitely the Baylor game," explained Slaughter. "Going into that game no one thought we would come out with a win. We stood together as team. It was kind of like a movie, no one thought we could win and we did it as a team. The whole run last year really stands out to me."

A victory over Connecticut on senior night may just provide the spark to ignite another memorable run for the Cardinals.

Tickets for the March 3 contest are still available, including upper bowl seating for only $5.

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