#10 UofL men's soccer headed to Clemson for regular-season finale

#10 UofL men's soccer headed to Clemson for regular-season finale
Head Coach Ken Lolla (Source: WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - A short walk from the Yum! Center practice facility and Grawemeyer Hall, where massive scandals have swirled, another team has been quietly grinding its way to a successful season.

The UofL men's soccer team is ranked tenth in the nation after a 10-2-3 season in the tough Atlantic Coast Conference.

Five other ACC teams join the Cards in the Top 10, including No.1 North Carolina, No. 2 Wake Forest, No. 3 Duke and the Cardinals' regular season finale opponent, No. 4 Clemson.

Head Coach Ken Lolla knows the road game against the Tigers will be a tough matchup.

"You've got to be prepared to battle," Lolla said. "They're a good team. They're very physical. They're athletic. They'll put you under pressure for ninety minutes. For us it's important to be prepared for the battle and still finding opportunities to play when we can."

Lolla's team is coming off a tough home loss to then-No. 4 NC State. The Wolfpack jumped out to an early 1-0 lead at Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium. But, Mohamed Thiaw found the goal twice in the second half to give the Cards the lead.

"We had changed the shape to provide us the opportunity to create chances and get up 2-1," Lolla said. "Hindsight, we were dominating the game so much, I felt pretty good about us staying in that, but ultimately it cost us in the end, defensively."

The Cardinal's offensive mindset allowed two NC State goals to slip through in the match's final ten minutes.

"The biggest issue was we did well getting back into the game and getting up late," Lolla said. "I think the number one thing to address was how we finished the game and how we locked it down."

Louisville has only a short time to regroup after its second loss of the season. But Lolla said his team has channeled that energy into preparing for Clemson.

"I think many times, results provide you with the opportunity to refocus and that's what's happened with our group," Lolla said. "The trainings the last two days have been very focused and intense. It's just provided us that opportunity to regroup and reflect."

It's not often a top-10 team in arguably the sports' hardest conference goes under the radar. But that's what happens when scandals are circling in your athletic department.

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With the basketball bribery scandal, and the departure of Rick Pitino and athletic director Tom Jurich, much of the focus on UofL athletics has been less than favorable. Social media and the news cycle have been dominated daily with the newest detail emerging from the turmoil. But, Lolla said their rigorous schedule has allowed his team to stay focused.

"Preparation, especially in the ACC, the matches we have are always difficult and challenging," Lolla said. "What we found last week was if you're not focused for 90 minutes, they have the ability to make you pay for it. That kind of a schedule and playing those kinds of team has allowed us to stay focused."

Something else keeping his team focused, the knowledge that they could be a bright spot for CardNation so tired of negative headlines.

"The opportunity we had with this season, was to provide a successful season and something for the University of Louisville fans to cheer for. From the very beginning of the season, we've had lofty goals and big reasons we want to achieve those goals. It's not the sole reason, but it resonates with the group."

Lolla and the Cardinals hit the road Friday in hopes of accomplishing something the football team couldn't just weeks prior, defeating a top-five Clemson team.

Louisville will have its hands full with a Clemson team averaging 16.5 shots on goal and 2.5 goals per game. The Tigers have only been beaten once at home, by Notre Dame.

But on the heels of a solid week of training and intensified focus, the Cards could pull off the upset and give Louisville something to smile about heading into the postseason.

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