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.