The Tailgater: Cards More Than Compete in College Cup

Trevor Griner

Since I’m getting such a late start on this whole blogging thing, I feel like a brief introduction is necessary. I’ve been a fan of sports for as long as I can remember, and not just one or two sports, I love all sports. Whether I’m following pro baseball, college basketball, or the National Hockey League, sports just rev my engine in general. In terms of actual playing experience, I’ve been playing soccer competitively for about a decade. So on that note, I’d like to start off by bringing UofL’s recent success in men’s soccer to light.

The University of Louisville Men’s soccer team transcended any and all expectations that were set forth prior to the season. Even though a polished incoming class of freshman was expected to bring the school some national notoriety, no one could have predicted the success the Cards would enjoy during the regular season. The Louisville Cardinals finished the regular season 14-0-2 (14 wins, 0 losses, and 2 ties), and would go on to tie Providence in the Big East Conference tournament finals.

Success enjoyed by the Cardinals during the regular season would lead to the overall number one ranking in the NCAA Men’s soccer Tournament. This was something special because even in the state of Kentucky where basketball and the Wildcats reign supreme, every Kentuckian was rooting for the Cardinals, even die hard Wildcat fans.

The Cardinals made a magical run deep into the tournament, winning almost every game by a one-goal margin. Perhaps the most memorable game was their come-from-behind victory against soccer powerhouse UCLA. The Cards found themselves down 3-1 early in the game before mounting a comeback, capping off the rally was freshman Aaron Horton’s game winning goal in the dying seconds of the match to put the Cards ahead 5-4.

After beating UNC in the semi-finals, UofL prepared to face Akron in the finals. Akron lost last year’s College Cup final in a heartbreaking penalty kick shootout to the UVA after two scoreless overtime victories. To add to the drama, Louisville’s head coach, Ken Lolla, had built up Akron’s soccer program before leaving to coach the Cardinals five years ago. Akron would go on to defeat the Cardinals 1-0 and crush UofL’s hope of a national championship.

Although their dream season came to an end, all was not lost. Interest levels in soccer rose throughout the state to an all time high. Being able to root for local athletes such as freshman standout Andrew Farrell (Atherton) and junior midfielder Ryan Smith (St. X) were added incentives to watch the games. This season gave me hope that maybe Kentucky sports won’t always revolve around Wildcat basketball.