CRAWFORD | NCAA penalty kick loss to Akron is sudden and stinging for Louisville soccer
Louisville played Akron even through regulation, two overtimes and a round of penalty kicks, but came up just short in a bid to return to the College Cup soccer Final Four.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – Whoever decided to call the NCAA Soccer Tournament tie-breaker a “sudden victory” shootout probably never played the game.
Victory is never sudden. It is the result of long training and practice. It comes over time, paid for by sweat and talent. Defeat, however, can arrive in an instant, slamming to a painful close the same hours of work and training in a stop too abrupt to resist the inertia to continue.
The University of Akron soccer team won the sudden victory Friday night in Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Soccer Stadium at the University of Louisville. The home team, the Cardinals, were testament to the real name of the process – sudden death.
The teams played through 90 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods in a scoreless tie. Akron held a 15-11 edge on shots and a 3-2 edge in shots on goal. The teams exhausted a round of penalty kicks still tied, at three apiece. That brought on the “sudden victory” shootout.
You could as well have settled the matter with a coin toss or a game of rock, paper, scissors, but the preferred method in this sport is by kicking the ball past the goalkeeper into the net.
Louisville goalkeeper Will Meyer turned in an heroic effort. He not only stopped two Akron chances with magnificent saves in the overtime, but turned back two penalty kick tries. You stop two PKs, generally, it’ll get you a victory.
Not this time. The attempt in the “sudden victory” shootout by Louisville’s Sawyer Edwards was stopped by Akron keeper Ben Lundt. The Zips’ Akr De Vera then got one by Meyer.
In a zip, it was over for Louisville, a 13-3-4 season, a No. 4 national ranking, and a second straight season falling short of the College Cup in the Elite Eight on its home field.
Louisville players, as the Akron celebration began, went to their knees, some even lying face down on the cold turf.
This is the kind of time you can only hope that you have a coach who not only is a great coach, but a great person. Louisville has such a guy in Ken Lolla, whose demeanor masked his own certain disappointment, as he walked to players, reaching down to say a word, or lift them up, if only for a moment. He knows as well as anyone, there’s no way to keep that situation from hurting.
“I told them I didn’t have words for an ending like that,” he said. “I can’t console them. It hurts, and it should hurt. You put that much into a season, and it ends so suddenly, it’s difficult to process. Only time will allow us to deal with it.”
You need a coach, in this kind of circumstance, for whom the sport is a life passion, but not life itself. Lolla didn’t dare preach that to his players in the wake of such a painful defeat, but he has lived it for them and demonstrated it for them over time.
For players who have exhausted their eligibility, his seniors, Lolla offered gratitude.
“Thanks for the time. Thanks for the investment in our program,” he said he told them. “Over the last two years I think we’ve risen to one of the better programs in the country. I would put us among the class of the elite, and I think a big part of that is what these seniors have done.”
There’s not much more to be said. Louisville did not concede a goal. It did everything it had to do, except score one.
Akron, meanwhile, won its 13th straight, and for the 16th time in 17 matches. The Zips are no joke.
“They are certainly worthy,” Lolla said.
“We had moments,” Lolla said. “I think we talked before the game, for Akron, they want to have the ball, and we were OK with them having more possession, what we wanted were better chances. I felt the first half, coming off the field, we did have that. Even though they had more possession I thought we had more quality chances. In the second half, I thought we had moments of it, but not sustained. We defended a little bit too much. But even still, in the overtime I thought we had a couple of good opportunities but couldn’t put it away.”
And now, Louisville will have to live with another one that got away. There was nothing sudden about this victory. But the defeat brought a fast finality to an otherwise outstanding season.
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