Louisville soccer faces streaking UK team

The University of Louisville’s ninth-ranked soccer team will square off against archrival Kentucky Tuesday at the Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, hoping to avenge a 1-0 loss to the Wildcats in Louisville last season.

Ken Lolla
Ken Lolla

Could be a real challenge for the Cardinals because UK hasn’t allowed a goal in four straight wins, one of which was 1-0 decision over then No. 1-ranked Notre Dame. UofL, meanwhile, is coming off consecutive wins over Boston College and Duke and has a 3-1-1 won-loss-tie record.

Ken Lolla’s team is currently in first place in the Atlantic Coast Conference with a 2-0 mark, while UK has yet to play a Conference USA foe.

The game will be televised on SEC Plus, which isn’t available on Time Warner Cable. However, it may be available on ESPN3, where it is listed on the schedule and the slot was working Tuesday morning.

Admission to the game for all fans will be one penny each, with proceeds going to the Mary Todd Lincoln House in Lexington.

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The Louisville vs Wake Forest football game Saturday at Papa John’s Cardinal Stadium will be televised by ESPNU with a 3:30 p.m. kick off and announcers Clay Matvick and Anthony Becht calling the game. The game will also be carried on Sirius Radio on Channel 108 and on XM on Channel 193.

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Mark Blankenbaker, who runs the Crunch Zone fan blog, will be getting married Friday, somehow persuading his bride-to-be not to have their fall wedding on a football Saturday.

He will make the Wake Forest game at Papa John’s but the couple will be honeymooning next week and could miss the Syracuse telecast. One out of two is not bad for the groom.

Best of luck to the happy couple as they begin their journey.

Ken Lolla: New Louisville stadium forever changes college soccer

Mark Lynn (in dark suit) and family cut the ribbon. Twenty-one family members participated.
Dr. Mark Lynn (in dark suit) and family cut the ribbon. Twenty-one family members participated.

A five-minute thunderstorm half way through the ribbon-cutting ceremonies couldn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the crowd that turned out Thursday for the official opening of the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Soccer Stadium on the University of Louisville campus.

The entire setting had an historic feel to it with all dazzling graphics throughout the stadium, the demolition of the silos in the background, and with a 50-car freight train passing by on the north end of the field.

Tom Jurich does it again.
Tom Jurich does it again.

Ken Lolla, coach of the UofL men’s soccer team, thanked Tom Jurich, vice president of athletics for his visionary thinking, proclaiming that college soccer would be forever changed by the completion of this particular stadium.

“Student athletes are going to come play in here and have an experience like they’ve never had,” said Lolla. “There will be coaches who will come in here and go back to their athletic directors and athletic departments and say, ‘We need to do something more. We need to do something better.’

“Because of that inspiration and the vision we have created, the big winner is going to be college soccer. This date is historic. College soccer will never be same.”

Benefactor Mark Lynn, who, along with this wife Cindy, donated $5 million to help build the $18 million plus stadium, said he was just honored to be a small piece of the process. “I love this university and am excited to be a part of such a dynamic program,” he said.

Ken-Lolla-Louisville-SoccerCoach Ken Lolla gets the crown jewel of college soccer stadiums. The silos will be gone next week.

New stadium creating national buzz about UofL soccer

If you thought the winter of 2013-14 was tough, consider the challenges for the Abel Construction workers in completing the new Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Soccer Stadium at the University of Louisville.

All the snow was taking a toll on the construction schedule, pushing the projected opening completion up until around August 29. That just happens to be opening day for both the men’s and women’s teams. Whether they will have time to practice on the new field before their first games is a real question mark.

The men’s team opens the season against Maryland at 8 o’clock that night, following the women’s game against Mississippi at 6 p.m.

But coaches Ken Lolla and Karen Ferguson-Days are ecstatic as they anticipate the new stadium and their first seasons in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

“My heart always beats a little faster when I drive past the stadium,” said Lolla. “It’s going to be the best collegiate soccer stadium in all America.”

Both coaches say the new stadium and conference affiliation are creating a national buzz about UofL soccer, including a boost in recruiting. “It’s an amazing situation for Louisville soccer,” says Lolla.

The men will host ACC foes Duke, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Clemson, along with Indiana and Ohio State. The women host Syracuse, NC State, Boston College, Virginia and Virginia Tech, along with Kentucky and Mississippi.

Long View

U of L soccer may be peaking at right time in NCAA tourney

By Andrew Melnykovych

A few thoughts while awaiting the University of  Louisville men’s soccer NCAA quarterfinal match up with UCLA at Cardinal Park on Saturday – a rematch of the Cards’ 2-0 win in their season opener, which was itself a rematch of the epic 5-4 UofL win in the Snow Bowl quarterfinal a year ago, (and which could lead to further rematches):

  • High national rankings and conference championships are nice, but the most important thing is using the season to get into and ready for the NCAA tournament, and then making a run to the College Cup. The W-L may not be as impressive this year, but Cards Coach Ken Lolla has this team playing at its peak at precisely the right time.
  • That is exemplified in the play of senior striker Colin Rolfe, who seems to be back at full strength and is again a dominant offensive force. With a goal and three assists, he had a hand in every tally in UofL’s 4-2 defeat of fifth seed Maryland, which was surprisong only that it occurred on the Terps’ home field.
  • As the Maryland game showed, seedings mean little in the men’s tourney. Sure, the 1, 2 and 3 seeds are in the quarterfinals, but then it’s 7, 12 (UofL) and 13 (UCLA), along with two unseeded teams. (In contrast, the women’s semis include the top four seeds.)
  • On the other hand, conference affiliation is telling. With three of the eight teams in the quarters (No. 1 UConn, No. 7 South Florida and the Cards), the Big East has cemented its spot as the toughest conference in the land. No other conference has more than one team left in the mix.
  • Louisville gets to play this game at home only because Rutgers (there’s the Big East again) knocked off No. 4 Boston College before losing to UCLA in the round of 16, leaving the Cards as the highest remaining seed in their quarter of the bracket.
  • With a win Saturday, the Cards could set up a rematch of another rematch in the semis. They are on the same side of the bracket as top-seeded North Carolina, a team they defeated in the semis last year and lost to early this season. Two other teams that defeated the Cards earlier this season, UConn and USF, are on the opposite side, so any possible rematch with one of those two would come only in the final.

Finally, about that weather…low 40s or high 30s at game time. But no snow in the forecast. Yet.

What went wrong for UofL soccer

By Andrew Melnykovych

What happened to the University of Louisville soccer team, everybody’s preseason No. 1 team?

The Cards were returning nine starters to a senior-laden lineup, including all-everything striker Colin Rolfe. They were expected to challenge for the national title that narrowly eluded them last year. A number of factors combined to produce a disappointing season:

  • The loss of sophomore midfielder Dylan Mares for the season with a knee injury incurred during an exhibition game in August. Mares was a top scorer for the Cards last year and was Big East Rookie of the Year. More importantly, he was the creative engine in central midfield – the guy who made the offense go. His loss was huge.
  • No Charlie Campbell. One of last year’s two senior starters, Campbell proved harder to replace than classmate J.T. Murray, an All-American defender. While Austin Berry capably filled in for Murray on the back line, nobody really assumed Campbell’s role as a flank player who not only was an excellent crosser of the ball but also had a knack for being in the right place to receive balls coming from the opposite side.
  • Rolfe, while not missing any games, was hobbled all season by nagging injuries and, while still dangerous in front of goal, was not the 90-minute attacking threat of last year.
  • Aaron Horton to the pros. Horton was instant offense off the bench, scoring memorable last-minute game-winners against UCLA and North Carolina in UofL’s run to the NCAA final last season. He went to the Columbus Crew as an undrafted player under an exemption that allows teams to sign players who came up through their youth systems.
  • Inconsistent defense. The defense, while generally solid, has been prone to periodic lapses and breakdowns at key junctures in games. Berry, Andrew Farrell and Greg Cochrane have been steady, but the fourth spot on the backline has been inconsistent. Fortunately, goalkeeper Andre Boudreaux has had a great year.
  • The Bust. While it occurred back in April, the Marijuana-related arrests of Nick DeLeon and Brock Granger (along with citations issued to Rolfe, Mark Knight and Mike Mauro) certainly didn’t help. All the players were able to get back in Coach Ken Lolla’s graces by the start of the season, but that kind of distraction is not what a team needs.
  • Inability to finish. Time and again, a Louisville player would find himself open in front of the goal, only to put the ball high, wide or right at the ‘keeper. The numbers don’t lie. As a team, UofL placed a lower percentage of shots on goal, and scored on a lower proportion. Kenny Walker put well over half his shots on frame last year; this year, it was just over a third.

The worst thing about losing your finishing touch is that the problem seems to get worse the harder you try to fix it. It kills confidence, makes it impossible to play relaxed and eventually can infect an entire team, leading to results such as the 0-0 overtime game against a Syracuse squad that was out shot 31-7 by the Cards.

So where does that leave UofL heading into the NCAA tournament selection Monday? Although there has been some criticism of Lolla for playing an extremely difficult non-conference schedule, it will likely be a strength when the 48-team field is selected and seeded. That schedule gives the Cards a likely top-16 RPI and, with it, a first-round bye, the near-certainty of hosting their opening tournament game, and a good chance of hosting a round-of-16 game if they win the opener.