Ken Lolla’s soccer team is back. So close. So far.
Final home game, last chance to see a University of Louisville team within three wins of a national championship.
Big challenge, however, with a foe that has won its past 12 games and evoking significant emotional ties for Lolla. In the quarterfinal round, competing for a berth in the 2017 College Cup semifinals.
That foe just happens to Akron University, where Lolla coached for 13 seasons before being recruiting by Tom Jurich to taking over the UofL program in 2005. The same man who made Akron a power has made Louisville a national contender for the past 12 years.
Any match against Akron is an experience for Lolla but none more gut-wrenching than the game between UofL and Akron in the College Cup in 2010. Akron won that game 1-0 in the national championship final at Santa Barbara, Calif.
If he gets emotional about playing Akron again, Lolla doesn’t let it show. “I think the biggest thing is to relish the moment,” he said. “To play in the NCAA Tournament is special as it is. To play for the opportunity to go to the College Cup, the biggest event, is even more special.”
The Cardinals (13-2-4) are led by junior Tate Schmitt who had the game-winning goals in NCAA tournament wins over San Francisco and Colgate. He’s also the team’s leading scorer with nine goals on the season. The Zips (18-3) are led by Stuart Holthusen, a senior from Auckland, New Zealand, with 12 goals.
Lolla himself needs to “relish the moment” while putting Akron behind him this time around.
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A visit to an Akron soccer message board revealed that a sizeable number of fans from the Ohio school will be making the five-and-a-half trip to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium for the game. Seated among them in Section 211 will be Scott Caldwell who scored the winning goal in the 2010 championship game:
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Akron Coach Aaron Embick who felt strongly that fifth-seeded Akron deserved the No. 4 seed over Louisville, telling an Akron newspaper, “I think as a team we felt like we probably did more in the regular season,” he said. “We were a little bit hotter at the end of the regular season than Louisville to deserve the fourth seed.
Nice bulletin board material.