Louisville relying on camaraderie in tourney run
Sometimes it takes several years to bring success to a
college soccer program. In Ken Lolla’s fifth season as the University of
Louisville head coach, the 46-year-old has the Cardinals on the cusp of a
first-ever national championship.
Louisville (20-0-3), unbeaten all year, qualified for this weekend's College Cup in
dramatic fashion. The Cardinals trailed 2-0 and 3-1 at different points in
last Saturday’s quarterfinal against UCLA, only to fight back in the second half and
winning 5-4 on a goal with seconds left.
“It was tremendous drama for everybody that was there,”
Lolla said. “It was a roller-coaster ride of an evening made it for a great
Holding on against UCLA, and mounting a comeback was
indicative of the season Louisville has had. The team showed toughness and
tenacity in winning the Big East Tournament, and has lived up to its billing
as the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament.
The high ranking meant the Cardinals’ road to the College
Cup was, comparatively, a bit easier. After a slow start in the second round
against the College of Charleston, Louisville took care of business with a 3-1
victory. It followed that up with a steady 2-1 win over Ohio State, before
the thrilling last-minute triumph against the Bruins.
For Lolla, it’s an honor to represent the school and men’s
soccer program he has helped take to the next level.
“We’re excited for the opportunity to win a national
championship here and what it means, not only for the program, but the school as
well,” he said.
Fashioning an unbeaten record at this point in a collegiate campaign
is no easy task, and Lolla has done well to put together a cohesive group and
instill belief throughout the team.
[inline_node:322676]Forward Colin Rolfe has been one of the leaders, providing a
work ethic and setting the tone for others. He’s assisted in attack by Dylan
Mares, a freshman standout and the team’s leading scorer. Other youngsters,
such as Aaron Horton and Charlie Campbell, have coped well with the pressure of
Talent-wise, Louisville might not stand out in the way that
other programs do, with Rolfe the only one earning national accolades as a
Hermann Trophy semifinalists. But the results speak for themselves.
“Overall, I think that it is a resilient group, a group that
has faith and confidence in themselves, and we constantly talk about
controlling what we can control,” Lolla said.
One of the underlying keys to Louisville’s success is the
contribution the Cardinals can count on from every squad member. Last Saturday
against UCLA, Aaron Horton was at the right place at the right time to score
the game-winner. In the Big East championship, 'keeper Andre Boudreaux stuffed
Providence to seal the title. At other times, Rolfe or Mares will deliver that
Now, as the College Cup gets set to kick off on Friday, it’ll take a big-time
performance from one of those players to step up and seize the moment, and cap
a storybook season.
“We have constantly talked about growth and doing things
better moving forward, and we felt like we’ve continued to do that,” Lolla
said. “We’ve continued to mature
as a group. We started with a vision and our focus has continued to get
A maximum of two games remain in Louisville’s season, and
it is one of three teams aiming to secure a first-ever national
championship. For a team that has not lost up to this point in the season,
getting better now could very well be enough to earn that elusive title.
“I don’t think our record means a whole lot right now,”
Lolla said. “There are four teams that are vying for a championship at this
point. I don’t think your past record dictates a whole lot.”
The slugfest continues Friday night, as Louisville faces
the University of North Carolina in Santa Barbara, Calif.