CRAWFORD | Louisville soccer knocks off No. 2 Maryland in stadiu - WDRB 41 Louisville News

CRAWFORD | Louisville soccer knocks off No. 2 Maryland in stadium debut

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- University of Louisville coach Ken Lolla said some of his favorite moments since coming to the school have been in the middle of big crowds that seemed to be able to will Cardinal teams to victory.

On Friday night in the inaugural game in Mark & Cindy Lynn Stadium, Lolla got to experience that as a participant.

"I've been part of watching a number of contests, whether it's basketball or football or even baseball, where the fans here, the Cardinal fans, pushed the players on," Lolla said. "I thought tonight was evidently one of those nights."

And it was one of those nights in soccer. A crowd of 7,047 packed the new facility and cheered the No. 9 ranked U of L men's soccer team to a 1-0 victory over No. 2 Maryland.

That came after U of L's women took a 1-0 win over Ole Miss.

Lolla talked about fans willing the team on, but the star of the night was the stadium itself. Maryland, among the nation's leaders in home-field atmosphere, took close notes. Administrators were visiting to get a look at the facility, and went home with some ideas.

Maryland coach Sasho Cirovski said the game was important not just to the teams, but to college soccer.

"Louisville raised the bar," he said. "This is the high tide that's going to raise all the ships . . . I think tonight you saw not just two of the best teams in the nation, but two of the best programs, two programs that care deeply about soccer. This was a great night for soccer."

The energy at the start of the game, in fact, was a bit too much for the Cardinals, several players said. They found themselves playing faster than they wanted to play, an issue the team addressed at halftime.

U of L's best early chance came in the 12th minute when midfielder Romilio Hernandez knocked a shot from just outside the box into the crossbar.

The game's lone goal came when Ricardo Velazco got the ball wide in a counter attack and played it beautifully into the box to Andrew Brody, who headed it in not only for the first men's goal scored in the facility, but also the game-winner."

Lolla said he was happy with the outcome, though he saw a few areas for improvement.

"The reason we wanted to play Maryland first was to have their attention going into this game, but also to experience playing in a big game," Lola said. " I think it was a wonderful experience for our guys to understand how to handle the moment, and the magnitude of the moment. Although we were a little hurried in the first half, I thought we responded well and settled down in the second half and did what we needed to do to win the game. They're a very good team. They move the ball. The first half was like one, long collective breath and we had to exhale, and then move on."

The win was also a milestone for another reason -- it was Lolla's 100th at the school.

"I thought it was a high level of soccer for so early in the year," Lolla said. ". . . Hopefully people tonight had a good experience, not just from the soccer but the venue and all the amenities that go with it."

The women had a similar experience in the first game.

"It probably took us about 25 minutes to settle into the excitement of tonight, but then I think after we got a rhythm and kind of slowed things down, and connected transitions,"  coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes said. "I thought we were the better team for significant portions of the game and significant minutes. With that being said I thought we created a ton of chances in the first half but couldn't finish. In the second half, we were a little bit better in the midfield, which allowed us to get some chances into the final third."

A goal by Chatman DeProspo in the 54th minute, off a cross in the box by Kari Weinland, was the game's only score.

Both teams are back at it in a double-header next Friday, with the women playing host to rival Kentucky at 5:30 and the men facing Cornell at 8:30.

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