LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – It’s probably not surprising that many of the highest-level coaches at the University of Louisville, regardless of sport, talk in similar terms when it comes to the end of the season.

Rick Pitino used to talk in terms of the NCAA Tournament being a “final exam” for his players. Dan McDonnell and his baseball team used the phrase “run to the roar,” during their march to the College World Series this season.

On Sunday night, after his team defeated Colgate 2-0 to advance to the NCAA Elite Eight for a second straight season, University of Louisville soccer coach Ken Lolla more than once talked about his players “stepping into” the opportunity, not away from it.

“I think the biggest thing is to relish the moment,” Lolla said. “To play in the NCAA Tournament is special as it is. To play for the opportunity to go to the College Cup, the biggest event, is even more special. For our guys, what we’ll tell them is to embrace the moment and step into it, to be present in it and enjoy everything else.”

Nobody typifies that approach better than junior Tate Schmitt, a forward from Phoenix, Ariz., who has scored the game-winning goal in each of Louisville’s past four NCAA Tournament victories.

Schmitt comes from a soccer family, with a brother who played professionally with Phoenix FC in USL Pro and another who played at Fort Lewis College, a national-championship program in NCAA Division II. Their father played professional racquetball and holds a national championship in his age group.

Competitiveness was not an elective for Schmitt. It was a requirement.

His game-winner on Saturday was his fourth of the season and the 10th in a U of L career that now includes 21 goals over three seasons.

“He’s a player that scores big goals in big games,” Lolla said. “If you go back the last two years, I think he’s had the game-winning goal in all of our, I think, four (NCAA) wins. So he’s a goal-scorer, for sure, and we knew this when he was playing youth soccer. He played on some very successful teams and when the games meant most, Tate usually showed up and had a big impact. And that was one of the things we felt very good about. In those moments, he didn’t shy away from it, he stepped into it. He just has the confidence, the will to win, the competitiveness.”

His goal came with just under 35 minutes elapsed, when he took a well-placed corner kick from senior Tim Kubel just inside the box and drove a header just inside the left post.

Less than six minutes later, Walker Andriot took a pass from Ziyad Fekri and served a ball deep into the box. Schmitt came charging at it on a near-post run, looking to head it home, and just missed, but the ball in the process glanced off the Colgate keeper and into the goal.

That was more than enough for a Louisville team that has given up multiple goals in just four of its 19 games this season.

The Cardinals outshot Colgate 11-5 and gave up just a single shot on goal, while connecting on two of its five. The Cardinals also limited Colgate’s set-piece opportunities, taking four corner kicks to Colgate’s two.

“I thought we handled the whole game really well,” Lolla said. “We controlled the tempo of the game and created some great opportunities. I thought it was a great effort for us, a well-deserved win and an opportunity to keep the journey going.”

Now, the journey runs into a familiar obstacle. The No. 4-ranked Cardinals will face No. 5 Akron in the NCAA quarterfinals on Friday night at 7 p.m. in Lynn Stadium.

Akron is where Lolla was coaching when then-athletic director Tom Jurich hired him to take over Louisville’s program. It had never been to the NCAA Tournament in soccer. Now, U of L has been to 10 NCAA Tournament’s in Lolla’s 12 years, including an appearance in the 2010 College Cup Championship, where it lost, 1-0, to Akron.

“Who do we play?” Lolla joked. “We’re just happy to be in the Elite Eight. Whoever is left in the tournament at this point deserves to be here. We’re really happy to have it at home, and we’ll have our players ready. They’re a very good team. I know they’re on a good run, I couldn’t tell you how many they’ve won straight.”

Louisville is one of three Atlantic Coast Conference teams to make the Elite Eight. Lolla said he just wants his team to embrace the moment, prepare well, and, of course, step into the challenge.

“We’re just glad to get another week together with these guys,” Lolla said. “They’re hard-working and very determined, and I’m very proud to chase dreams with them because of who they are and what they’re about. I’ve so much enjoyed this season, because of this group.”

Copyright 2017 WDRB Media. All Rights Reserved.