all scores

Top Louisville recruit enters transfer portal as struggles continue

Payton Verhulst, right, entered the transfer portal during a rough start to the season for the Cardinals. (Pat McDonogh/USA TODAY NETWORK)

Louisville sophomore Payton Verhulst is entering the transfer portal, Cardinals coach Jeff Walz confirmed Sunday.

She was just looking for some more opportunities to play and then just decided to transfer,” Walz told reporters. “I’ve never been one to force some kid or try and force them to stay. I wasn’t going to do it. We wished her absolutely the best and hope she has great success.”

The news broke following No. 18 Louisville’s 67-49 loss at the hands of unranked Middle Tennessee. The loss was the Cardinals’ fourth of the season, after they previously fell to No. 4 Ohio State and were upset by Gonzaga and South Dakota State, which dropped them to No. 22 in the latest Just Women’s Sports rankings.

Verhulst was the No. 12 recruit in the class of 2021, and she was courted by several major programs, including Notre Dame, UConn and Stanford. The 6-1 Kansas native also received interest from Arizona State, Missouri, Oregon State, Oregon and Tennessee, per ESPN.

She averaged 15 minutes per game this season, putting up 6.4 points and 1.5 rebounds per contest. As a freshman, Verhulst logged 11 minutes, 3.3 points and 1.9 rebounds per game. 

The Cardinals opened the season ranked No. 7 in the AP Top 25 after making it to the Final Four last season. Since then, though, they have struggled with what Walz called a “Jekyll and Hyde” complex. 

It’s not much fun to be sitting here 5-4,” Walz told reporters on Sunday. “So, we’re just going to have to get back to work and keep grinding. It’s going to be a year if we want to be successful that we’re going to have to grind it out and get really tough.”