Soccer team comes through for UofL, on to the Elite 8

Having sat through three consecutive University of Louisville losses over the extended holiday weekend, one was more than little apprehensive about showing up for the UofL-Notre Dame soccer NCAA tournament game on Sunday.

Mohamed Thiaw put UofL ahead in the first half with his 12th goal of the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
Mohamed Thiaw put UofL ahead in the first half with his 12th goal of the season (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

Losses to Baylor in men’s basketball on Friday, Kentucky in football on Saturday, and South Carolina in women’s basketball on Sunday. A dark weekend for UofL athletics.

Why risk more disappointment? Probably because the soccer team has L-o-u-i-s- v-i-l-l-e on the front of the jersey and this UofL fan believes his team is always going to win the next game. 

The Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium turned out to be the perfect place to shake the doldrums, with more than 1,858 fans in attendance. Their enthusiasm embodied in the raucous group of students behind the east goal who never stopped singing. 

The Louligans bring a raucous atmosphere to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).
The Louligans bring a raucous atmosphere to the Dr. Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium (Cindy Rice Shelton photo).

The UofL soccer team would not disappoint any of them. The decisive goal coming at the 19:53 mark in the second half — an in-your-face boomer by sophomore Tate Schmitt of a corner kick by his classmate Danny Reynolds. 

Freshman Cherif Dieye would break free for another goal with six seconds remaining to seal a 3-1 victory over Notre Dame. The win sends Louisville to the NCAA’s Elite Eight for the first time in four years and the fourth time in the seven years.

Louisville soccer ending the weekend on a high note, evoking memories of a deep tournament run in 2010, creating the vision of some special magic over the next couple of weeks. The Cardinals will next clash with Stanford here on Saturday .

UofL fans needed some positive news and the soccer team was happy to oblige.

Solak seals win in opener, Louisville takes Notre Dame twice

Gotta love those welcome home committees at home plate.

Bottom of the 11th inning, two outs remaining, Louisville trailing Notre Dame by a run, the first game of a doubleheader at Jim Patterson Stadium. Runs hard to come by, UofL hasn’t led all day. Now or never.

Stepping up to the plate for UofL is Nick Solak, the player with the Hollywood looks, the player born for these kind of situations,  with a runner on first base. He will not disappoint, blasting the baseball into outer space, a 380-foot drive easily clearing the 2007 College World Series sign in left centerfield.

Nick Solak sends one into orbit.
Nick Solak sends one into orbit.

The two-run home run capping a third come-from-behind effort in the game, giving Louisville a dramatic 4-3 win before 2,288 fans at Jim Patterson field.  His third hit in the game, extending his hitting streak to 11 games. Zack Burdi having shut down Notre Dame with a runner on third in the top of the 11th, claiming his first win in relief.

Especially encouraging is Kyle Funkhouser, the starting pitcher, going eight full innings, allowing only one run on three hits. The senior right hander has now pitched 311 innings, the most ever for a UofL pitcher, surpassing Mike Shields during three seasons in the late seventies.

UofL will win the nightcap 8-2 behind left handed pitcher Brendan McKay, striking out 13 batters, allowing only three hits in six and two-thirds innings. He’s off to a 4-0 start and hasn’t allowed an earned run yet. The sophomore also had two hits, including a double, while driving in two runs. Solak also had a couple of hits in the second game, raising his hitting streak to 12 games.

The defending ACC champs are off to a 2-0 start in conference play, with a 12-2 overall record.

Louisville, Notre Dame reshuffle with doubleheader

So much for the balmy weather all week long, perfect baseball weather negated by spring showers arriving a month earlier than expected.

The University of Louisville baseball team has revised the schedule for the weekend series against Notre Dame, attempting to work around the ongoing weather challenges. The Cardinals and the Irish will play a doubleheader Friday, starting at 3 p.m.

Righthander Kyle Funkhouser (2-1) will be on the mound for game one, followed by lefty Brendan McKay (3-0) in the second game.

Promotions for dollar beers and small Pepsi products, stadium blankets (for the first 500 fans) and UofL baseball trading cards for what hopefully will be fair weather at Jim Patterson Stadium.

The third game has been reset for 1 p.m. Saturday, with Sunday as another option.

 

Louisville baseball preps for Notre Dame, ACC opening weekend

The forecast is for sunny skies and light breezes later this week.

Shaping up as perfect weather conditions as league play begins in earnest for Atlantic Coast Conference baseball teams. Notre Dame arrives for a three-game series with the University of Louisville, with the first pitch scheduled at 3 p.m. on Friday and 1 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Louisville is ranked fifth in the USA Today Coaches Poll with a 9-2 won-lost record. Notre Dame is 6-5.

Friday is Budweiser Buck Night, with draft beer and small Pepsi products going for $1 each. Saturday will include a stadium blanket giveaway, with Adidas UofL blankets to the first 500 fans and free buckets of popcorn for fans wearing UofL baseball caps. Sunday’s giveaway will be the first in a series of five UofL baseball trading card sets and $1 hot dogs.

No excuses for not making it out to Jim Patterson Stadium. Nothing on TV, just conference basketball tournaments.

Louisville basketball teetering with six games to go

 

A couple of weeks ago it was possible to envision a magical ending for the University of Louisville basketball team this season. My, how the outlook has changed, making it easy to expect a near collapse with six games to go.

The Cardinals were sailing with a 18-3 record, 6-1 in the conference, and on a four-game winning streak. Then came the baffling 16-point loss to Virginia at home, followed by a six-point win over North Carolina. Back on track, anything still possible. Then there was the bleak Friday afternoon when the UofL administration announced the self-imposed ban on post season play.

Rick Pitino saying the absence of post-season play making the remaining nine games much more important, providing extra motivation, trying to have fun, needing to finish strong. That doesn’t seem to be working out with the Cardinals having lost two winnable games out of the past three.

The magic has dissipated, replaced by something resembling a process of simply going through the motions. Fortunate to still be hanging around at the end of games. Six more to go under a dark cloud, each a major challenge in this atmosphere.

The latest loss a 71-66 decision to Notre Dame on Saturday afternoon, Louisville bowing after owning an 11-point lead with 15 minutes remaining in the game. Problem was the Cardinals could only manage three more field goals over that span.

— Damion Lee, with three 3-pointers in the first half, unable to hit another until the game was all but out of reach with 16 seconds remaining. Gets his share of points, 13 against Notre Dame, but those dreams of his, of hitting winning shots against major opponents have yet to come to fruition.

— Trey Lewis picked up 11 points. Has yet to exhibit any ability to take over a game, the leadership lacking, the distance between Cleveland State and Louisville becoming too much to overcome.

— Chinanu Onuaku draws a lot of raves from the analysts and some fans expecting him to be headed to the NBA after this season. But he still lacks the ability to stay out of foul trouble, catch a pass from his teammates, and makes making an easy layup really difficult.

Onuaku is the starting center for a good reason but he rarely proves it. He has come a long way, but he is not even close to arriving.

— Quentin Snider not making many turnovers but he’s not capable of making those Russ Smith or Peyton Siva moves under the basket. Frustrating for him, frustrating for his fans.

— There was that blocked shot and subsequent dunk by Matz Stockman to end the first half, but Matz would not return. Thanks for the bright spot, Matz.

One could go on but this observer doesn’t want to add to the negativity. There will be more than enough of that in the days, weeks and months ahead.

As for this season, things had better get better quickly. Maybe a relief when it does end and what may have been a mirage or a crazy dream becomes a tarnished memory.