Tina Lolla held the door open as the last members of the media exited the room. Saturday’s press conference was short but sweet, focusing more on the explosion of Cardinal Soccer than analysis of the actual game.
Tina stood in the back as her husband, Louisville coach Ken Lolla, answered questions about his top-ranked team’s 2-0 victory over second-ranked UCLA Saturday night.
A record 7,821 fans jammed into Cardinal Park for the game, a rematch of last year’s NCAA Elite Eight matchup, which Louisville also won.
As I left the room, I asked Tina if she ever expected to see such a spectacle for a season-opener. “It’s all part of the process,” she said, giving me a look as if she and Ken had planned for this all along. That’s because they have.
When Ken Lolla joined the Louisville program five years ago, he took over a program that had never seen the national rankings, nor an NCAA Tournament appearance. He earned a reputation of building national powers, much like he did at Akron before taking the Louisville job. Lolla has won more than 70 percent of his games in his 21 years of coaching, and he does so by changing the climate of the program he inherits. If it sounds familiar, it’s exactly what Louisville Athletic Director Tom Jurich is known for.
It’s no coincidence that Jurich targeted Lolla to take over a struggling Louisville Soccer program. It’s also no coincidence that Lolla has the Cards as the odds-on favorites to win the national title this year.
After the Cards made it to the NCAA College Cup last year, the winning mentality Lolla preaches set in completely in his players. The expectations have risen, and Lolla’s players believe in him, his staff, and themselves. Before Saturday’s game, UCLA went through stretches and a few light passes during warm-ups. Louisville, a few yards away, was going through a frenzied drill at full game speed, looking faster and more focused. It showed as the Cards were never threatened in the 2-0 win over UCLA.
When asked about the crowd afterwards, Lolla echoed his wife’s sentiments. “We envisioned it getting like this, and I don’t think this is the end of it. We’re thankful for it, but there are levels higher than this still,” he said.
For soccer fans, it’s a new phenomenon. For Ken and Tina Lolla, it’s all part of the process.
Category: U of L Soccer Report