A reported crowd of 7,047 showed up to witness a dream start for both University of Louisville men’s and women’s soccer programs at the new $18.5 million Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium on Friday evening.
Fans were treated to a high level of soccer, fireworks and music aplenty on an entertaining and balmy evening, one which saw temperatures in the 80s.
The natural turf field, adjacent to Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium, is surrounded by chairback seating for 2,300 in the main grandstand, bleacher seating for 900 in the east-end zone, and two berms which can accommodate 2,100. (Yes, after getting out the rusty calculator, I wondered how there were over 7,000 too!)
Add to this wonderful attraction the additional pulling power of a 15,500-square-foot training center – not to mention separate team locker rooms and lounge areas for the men and women – and it’s almost odds-on that both programs will get even stronger in the coming years.
The women’s team was up first and battled to a 1-0 victory over Ole Miss. That lone goal – the first at the new stadium – was scored by freshman Chatham DeProspo about eight yards out to the left of goal after 56.06. Sending in the cross was sophomore Kari Weinland.
Following the introduction to the crowd of benefactors Dr Mark and Cindy Lynn, a rendition of the national anthem by the college marching band and the unfurling of one very large American flag in the middle of the pitch, the men’s team – ranked No. 14 in the NCSAA soccer coaches’ preseason poll – took to the field in a new-look claret and blue outfit against the traditionally black Maryland, ranked a lofty No. 2.
A quiet enough first half, in which Maryland held the upper hand, preceded a better second period which saw sophomore midfielder Andrew Brody head home in the 54th minute after he met a well-placed cross from the right by junior forward Ricardo Velazco.
Despite the Terrapins outshooting Louisville 10-7, and having a 5-0 corner-kick advantage (the last of which in the 87th minute almost saw Maryland tie the game), the Cards held on for a memorable win.
It was coach Ken Lolla’s 100th victory at Louisville (his record thus far is 100-47-23) in what is his ninth season at the helm.
My only real crib is current ticket pricing, which is $9 for general admission, and $12 for reserved chairback seats ($5 for youths for either). If you want to make comparisons to other Division 1 soccer programs, it’s $5 general admission to both Indiana and Kentucky games ($3 for youths at Indiana; $2 at Kentucky).
It will be up to the casual soccer fan to decide whether watching the Cards at the new facility is worth shelling out that much on a regular basis.
So one year almost to the day, it’s the same scenario for University of Louisville’s men’s soccer team.
A NCAA quarterfinal home tie against UCLA at Cardinal Park (Saturday 7 p.m.), and a place at the College Cup just one tantalizing game away.
There won’t be too many complaints from Louisville fans if there’s a repeat of last year’s result also. The 5-4 thriller in the snow will go down as one of the most exciting soccer matchups ever held in the area at any level.
However, the Cards have had a slightly different journey this time round to reach the top of the same stairway.
Last year, Louisville went into the Elite Eight game with an unbeaten 18-0-3 record and a No. 1 seeding. The Big East Tournament champions were pretty much expected to be still hanging around in the latter stages and duly obliged with a couple of home victories against Charleston and Ohio State.
This fall has not been such a smooth ride, and the Cards — ranked No. 1 preseason – go into Saturday’s game at 14-6-2 carrying beside their name the number 12.
That, however, should not have fooled anyone at the start of the tournament. The six losses this season have been against top opposition and have made the team even more battle hardened than last year.
To prove the point, Louisville came from a goal behind against Bradley last week to score twice in a 42 second span, only to concede a last minute equalizer.
Without feeling too sorry for themselves, the Cards found the golden goal it needed in overtime with the teams just 2:18 away from penalty kicks.
On Sunday, Louisville took the lead twice against No. 5 Maryland, with goals from Nick DeLeon and Colin Rolfe, only to be hauled back to 2-2. It’s hard enough to score just once away from home against one of the best teams in the nation, without doing it a second time, so the Terrapins’ double comeback seemed ominous for the Cards.
Not so. Ken Lolla’s charges proceeded to notch up a third through Daniel Keller with 11 minutes remaining before Michael Roman put the game beyond Maryland’s reach with a fourth in the 84th minute.
Now, Louisville finds itself facing a team it overcame last year, when it set up a final four game against North Carolina.
A win on Saturday, and a trip to Alabama for the College Cup, could see the same opponents standing in the way of another championship appearance, as the victor will face No. 1 Tar Heels (conquerors of Indiana on Sunday) or unranked surprise packet St Mary’s.
One step at a time though. Despite Louisville having already beaten UCLA 2-0 at the start of the season (when the teams were No. 1 and No. 2 respectively), Bruins coach Jorge Salcedo feels they are now a much better team that is equipped to go on the road.
They are talented all over the field but Chandler Hoffman, with 18 goals to date this year, is the target man to keep a close eye on.
Last year, 5, 467 officially attended the game (not including those watching from the berm), and the Cards will be hoping to beat that this time round with the help of a little less snow and warmer temperatures than 33 degrees.
Tickets can be purchased at the U of L athletics ticket office or by calling 502-852-5151. Tickets are $7 for adults and $5 for youths, students and senior citizens.
NCAA quarterfinals: Louisville (12) v. UCLA (13); North Carolina (1) v St Mary’s; Connecticut (3) v. Charlotte; Creighton (2) v. South Florida (7).
The University of Louisville men’s and women’s soccer programs have been busy with their postseason forays, and on Sunday the pair had contrasting results in their respective NCAA Division 1 championship matchups.
By having beaten Dayton (2-0) and nationally No. 5 ranked Memphis (2-0) in the first and second rounds respectively, the women’s team had already posted its greatest postseason run.
Unfortunately, the journey – described by coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes as “magical” – came to an end in the last 16 on Sunday afternoon, with ninth ranked Florida State running out 2-0 victors.
Later in the evening, it was the turn of the men’s team, with Ken Lolla’s troops entertaining Bradley of Peoria, Illinois at Cardinal Park.
Louisville, as we know, made it to the NCAA title game last season, losing to Akron, and on the way to the championship decider there were some thrilling finales.
So why should it be any different, one year on? The Braves took the lead on a wet evening in the 55th minute with a Scott Davis goal, and the Cards left it until the 87th minute to score not one, but two, goals in a 42 second span, thanks to Colin Rolfe and Kenney Walker.
However, there was still plenty of time for more drama, and Bradley’s Bryan Gaul provided it by bagging an equalizer with just 26 seconds left on the clock.
In the second period of overtime, and the game seemingly heading to penalty kicks, Nick DeLeon haeded a shot past keeper Brian Billings with just 2:18 on the clock.
The Cardinals (13-6-2) now move on to the last 16, where they will face No. 5 seed Maryland at their College Park home patch on Sunday at 5 p.m.
Maybe it’s a cultural difference — me being from planet Europe — but I can’t seem to get my head around these preseason ‘awards’ they dish out to college players.
Congratulations to University of Louisville’s preseason Big East winners, including preseason co-offensive player of the year, Colin Rolfe; preseason defensive player of the year, Austin Berry; and preseason goalkeeper of the year, Andre Boudreaux.
On the ladies’ side, you have preseason All Big East team selection Christine Exeter, a promising sophomore striker who bagged eight goals last year as a rookie.
Great things are expected of the four above named Cards this fall, and I personally expect them – among others — to deliver with some top performances, health permitting.
Then again, Germany was expected to win this year’s Women’s World Cup; Mike Tyson was expected to pummel Buster Douglas in 1990; and our cat Bailey expected to get her usual dish of half and half this morning, except I rushed out the door for work in a hurry and it totally slipped my mind.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t say no to someone giving me a topper media award today for a cracking hot exclusive that I might happen to write in October based on previous scribbles if it helps boost my profile. There’s that.
However, I just wonder what else can come of doling out such absurd in-advance plaudits, other than to possibly instill complacency or alter the work ethic among the chosen ones. On the flip side, the ignored might just feel they’ve a point to prove.
Can’t we just wait and see how the season transpires. You know, like reward the athletes for what they actually do on the field as opposed to what they might end up doing judged on past performances?
Speaking of which, one game you’d probably be mad to miss this weekend is the nationally No. 1-ranked Louisville men’s season opener against No. 2-rated UCLA at Cardinal Park on Saturday (7 p.m.).
The pair last met in the quarterfinals of last year’s NCAA Division 1 championship, when Ken Lolla’s charges won a thrilling 5-4 encounter in the snow to progress to the College Cup.
There might be some postseason ‘Players of 2011’ on show!
It was mentioned more than once prior to University of Louisville’s NCAA Division 1 championship decider against Akron that a victory would provide a great opportunity to start a soccer dynasty at the college.
The truth is that the start of such a dynasty commenced before they lost 1-0 to the Zips on Sunday at Santa Barbara, Calif.
The program has grown steadily over the past few years under the stewardship of Ken Lolla, but it came to life this year thanks to an unbeaten regular season and No.1 ranking which led to numerous 5,000 plus crowds at Cardinal Park during the NCAA tournament.
Already, the area’s young talent must be dreaming of playing with Louisville, not Indiana, UCLA, Ohio State or anyone else for that matter.
And the future looks bright for the Cards. Only two of Sunday’s starters were seniors, while regular standouts such as Dylan Mares, Louisville’s Andrew Farrell, and supersub Aaron Horton are freshmen.
Akron is proof that a program can be built steadily to become a soccer powerhouse. The Zips were runners-up in 1986, grew steadily in stature under none other than Ken Lolla from 1993 to 2005, and have been mainstays come the business end of the NCAA tournament under current coach Caleb Porter.
On Sunday, they became the first team from the college to win an NCAA championship in any sport, solidifying its status as a modern soccer powerhouse to boot. Great encouragement can be garnered from that.
Louisville’s performance this year comes at a good time for local soccer. You should see a number of their players over the coming years taking the field for River City Rovers, a USL’s Premier Development League team which will play its first games next summer.
The league is seen as a shop window for Major League Soccer clubs looking to discover and identify aspiring pros.
Rovers themselves will be pleased with the Cards’ profile boost, as having recognizable names on its roster will help with attendances. So too will indoor pro outfit, Louisville Lightning.
These three teams should be responsible for more young players getting involved in the game and prolonging their involvement in it. We should also see a new facility in the not too distant future in the shape of a soccer stadium, or a much revamped one at the very least.
What is needed next is the go ahead from U.S. Soccer for a Development Academy, which would feature teams at U15/16 and U17/18 levels.
There are currently 78 top youth soccer clubs – including Indiana United from Carmel and academies from many Major League Soccer franchises – fielding teams in a league which focuses on player development rather than going after results.
For example, the ratio of practices to games is around 3:1, and the re-entry of players into games once substituted is eliminated.
A joint bid by Javanon and Mockingbird failed earlier this year, but the general feeling is it’s only a matter of time before one is introduced locally.
So will any of this help the game in southern Indiana? It can only have a positive knock on effect, as hopefully extra exposure to the game and opportunities to watch more quality live soccer encourages more to take it up.
And whether the best and improving players from New Albany, Jeffersonville, Floyd Knobs, Clarksville, Sellersburg or anywhere else head to Louisville teams or not, they will still be part of our high school teams in the fall. (As a sidenote, it remains to be seen what effect, if any, tolling the bridges would have on such traversing.)
I get the feeling that the game in greater Louisville is ready to make a major leap forward, and hopefully we can leap with it.