It’s one of the crowning moments of March Madness, learning your team’s first opponent in the NCAA tournament.
When the Louisville Men’s Soccer team learned of their NCAA fate Monday afternoon at Cardinal Park, there were no cheers, gasps, or verbal emotions of any kind.
In fact, I had to look at the screen twice to make sure it read ‘Louisville’ because there wasn’t a sound coming from the crowded room.
It’s not that the Cards aren’t excited about receiving a first round bye and hosting another tourney game at Cardinal Park, it’s that they know they have business to take care of.
“We’re excited, but we didn’t show it,” All-American Austin Berry said after the announcement. “It’s not just getting into the tournament, but performing once we’re in there.”
Berry remembers what it was like last year, when Louisville entered the 48-team field undefeated.
The Cards were among the favorites last season, but now enter the tournament seeded 12th.
They’ll have a first round bye and face the winner of Loyola-Chicago and Bradley Sunday night at Cardinal Park.
The Cardinals aren’t being mentioned as favorites this year, but that doesn’t bother this team.
“There is a feeling that we may be a little underrated heading into the tournament,” said Director of Operations David Horne said.
Coach Ken Lolla met with the media following the selection program, but his first reaction wasn’t a verbal one.
He smiled when his team’s pairing was announced, then smiled again upon hearing the names of several Louisville opponents.
“It’s a good draw,” he said to his team initially. “I like this draw.”
Lolla knows that his team is playing well, but still hasn’t peaked.
He has said he believes this team is playing better soccer than his national championship runners-up team was playing this time last year.
Of course, the Cards have to prove it now, and they enter the tournament with a little bit of an underdog role this time around. For a team still improving, that may be just where they want to be.
Louisville hosts the winner of Loyola-Chicago and Bradley Nov. 20 at 7 PM at Cardinal Park. For tickets, call 852-5151.
Category: U of L Soccer Report