Cardinal Stars: Two new national champions

In each issue of the Louisville SportsReport,'s Howie Lindsey picks out a handful of Louisville student-athletes as Cardinal Stars. This issue's stars include a pair of national champions.
The senior from Rio De Janeiro, Brazil, continued his domination of the 200m freestyle last week by winning the event at the AT&T Short Course National Championship in Knoxville, Tn. De Lucca set a new championship record of 1:31.65, just edging South African 2004 Olympic gold medalist Darian Townsend's time of 1:31.93. The two swimmers are among eight athletes to ever swim the event under 1:32. As a junior, De Lucca won the NCAA title in the 200-free in 1:31.51, the third-fastest time in history. He also placed third in the 100-free in 42.27 and 13th in the 50-free in 19.72. De Lucca went to the London Olympics as a member of Team Brazil. He is expected to make a run at a medal in the 2016 Olympic games - or as he calls it Jogos Olímpicos de Verão de 2016 - in his hometown of Rio De Janeiro.
The sophomore from Mt. Holly, N. J., won the 200-fly in a time of 1:54.12 at the AT&T Short Course Nationals on Friday. It's a huge win for Worrell and Louisville swimming because the event draws former Olympians and world-ranked athletes each year. Worrell beat 2012 Olympian Caitlin Leverenz by just over a second in the 200-fly. Third was 2012 Olympic gold medalist (4x100 medley relay) Rachel Bootsma. Worrell finished third in the 100-fly, just .25 seconds off the winning time set by Olympian Claire Donahue and four spots ahead of Amanda Weir, a two-time Olympian. Worrell also made the finals of the 50-free, finishing eighth in a race won by Olympic legend Natalie Coughlin. Worrell set a new Big East record in the 100-fly last season as a freshman and finished fourth at the NCAA Championships, earning All-American status in her first year of college.
The redshirt junior from Georgetown, Ind., became Louisville's third All-American by finishing in 29th at the NCAA Championships in Terre Haute, Ind., on Nov. 23. By finishing in the top 40, an 86-place improvement from his national championships debut in 2010, Byrne joined Cory Thorne (2007 and 2009) and Wesley Korir (2007) as UofL All-Americans. He completed the 10K course in 30:37.8, the 15th-fastest time at that distance in school history. Byrne has finished in the top 20 in six of seven races this season. At the NCAA Southeast Regional, he broke the school record in the 10K en route to a 10th-place finish and all-region honors. Two weeks prior at the American Athletic Conference Championships, the redshirt junior set the school record in the 8K and won the individual league title.
The senior from Yardley, Pa., transferred to Louisville in 2012 from Mount St. Mary's. He was an immediate contributor to the Cardinals, helping UofL's defense be one of the stingiest in the country. Ockford was honored as the 2013 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year while earning first-team all-conference honors. Joining Ockford on the first team were sophomore forward Ricardo Velazco (Casa Grande, Ariz.) and sophomore midfielder Marlon Hairston (Jackson, Miss.), while freshman midfielder Andrew Brody (Orlando, Fla.) and freshman defender Michael DeGraffenreidt (Baltimore, Md.) were named to the second team. Starting all 18 games along the back line for the 14th-ranked Cardinals, Ockford has been a key defensive presence while also providing scoring punch, connecting for four goals, including three game-winners. Ockford helped Louisville rank among the nation's top-30 teams in shutout percentage (27th overall). Twice this season (Sept. 23, Oct. 7) he was chosen as AAC Defensive Player of the Week. The Cardinals ended their season with a first-round loss at Michigan State in the NCAA Tournament.
The junior from Weston, Fla., was named the AAC Men's Tennis Player of the Month for November. "I am happy for this prestigious acknowledgment for Luis," UofL coach Rex Ecarma said. "He has shown greater dedication to his durability and also his focus on the court. He is going to be an important facet to our spring season. On any given day, he can beat almost anyone in college tennis." The Cardinals concluded their fall season by hosting the Louisville Winter Invitational. Elizondo reeled off four straight wins over players from Illinois State, Purdue, Indiana and teammate Jeffrey Brown to reach the `A' Division finals. Playing in doubles, Elizondo also reached the finals, with wins over duos from Morehead State and Kentucky to advance to the championship. He finished the fall with a team-best 9-2 singles record and compiled an 8-2 doubles mark. The Cardinals will open the 2014 season January 9-12 at the Orlando Invitational.
The first-year player from Pequea, Pa., was named Big East Field Hockey Rookie of the Year at the league banquet in November. Sloss finished second on the team and 10th in the conference with 10 goals and 22 total points. The forward played in all 19 games with 17 starts, and she also leads the Cards offensively in conference play with four goals and one assist for nine points. Sloss helped third-year head coach Justine Sowry post a 15-4 record - the most wins since 2001 - and earn a share of the Big East regular-season title with a 6-1 record in league play. Additionally, Louisville registered a 10-0 record at Trager Stadium for the first time in program history - three of those wins were against top-20 opponents. The No. 14-ranked Cardinals fell 2-0 to No. 5 Old Dominion in the semifinals of the Big East Championships on Nov. 8. This was their final season in the Big East (the AAC doesn't play field hockey). Next season the Cardinals will play in the ACC, the toughest field hockey league in the country.