Kellie Young (center, with blonde ponytail) had some words of encouragement for members of her University of Louisville lacrosse team after their 11-8 loss to Northwestern in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Tournament at Evanston Sunday.
Northwestern has won seven of the last nine national championships in 10 straight trips to the NCAA. In other words, the UofL lacrosse team was competing against a dynasty.
The year’s trip was the first for the Cardinals but certainly not the last — as Northwestern can attest. Kelli Young’s program has come a long way in six seasons.
With its impressive play in the NCAA Tournament, the UofL lacrosse team wedged itself into the collective heart of many Louisville fans.
Members of the University of Louisville lacrosse program depart from the team’s training facility on Floyd Street during a sendoff Thursday to board a University bus bound for Evanston, Ill., and the first round of the NCAA Lacrosse Tournament against Ohio State University on Friday at 8 p.m.Kelli Young beams as she accompanies her team on their first NCAA tournament appearance since she was hired as the first head coach eight years ago to create the lacrosse program. Her team had a 15-6 won-lost record this season and was ranked 23rd in the nation. Al Greener (second left) and the UofL Pep Band were on hand, adding to the festive sendoff attended by approximately 100 fellow students, faculty and family members.
About 1,000 people were on hand that snowy day on February 22, 2008 when the new University of Louisville lacrosse stadium opened for the first game, adding a 22nd sport to the program.
Tom Jurich had hired Kellie Young two years earlier to develop another national contender.
Few of the spectators knew what to expect, half of them probably expecting the game to be postponed because of the weather. The event would go on, and what fans would see was a game with non-stop action, requiring high levels of speed and endurance, and lots of scoring.
UofL would win, defeating Bryant College of Rhode Island 22-3.
Six years after that first game, the program is living up to Jurich’s expectations. UofL’s Faye Brust is ranked third nationally in scoring with 67 goals this season and the Cardinals won all seven conference games during the Big East (the AAC doesn’t do lacrosse) regular season and defeated Rutgers and Georgetown to win the Big East Tournament last weekend.
As a result, the Cardinals (15-6) are on their way to their first NCAA Tournament in school history, facing Ohio State on Friday in Evanston, Ill., at 8 p.m. The winner plays No. 5-seed Northwestern on May 11 at 2 p.m.
A sendoff is planned, with the UofL pep band participating, at 10:15 a.m. Thursday at the stadium, providing fans an opportunity to wish them well. The team will be traveling on a University bus to Evanston, pursuing the unimaginable a decade ago.