-By Kevin Kernen
-Photos by Seth Spalding
The 4th seeded men’s soccer team started and ended their NCAA tournament on Sunday against Michigan State in the Second Round.
The Spartans, led by 10th year head coach Damon Rensing were only just coming off a first round win against fellow unseeded team Illinois-Chicago on Thursday. MSU posted a 10-3-4 record in the regular season, 4-2-2 in B1G play which was good for 4th overall in the conference.
UofL was looking to get back to the NCAA Quarterfinals for the third straight season.
Senior captain Tate Schmitt was shaken up in the third minute, and had to be replaced by Haji Abdikadir. The Senior CLASS award nominee would return later on in the first frame.
The Cards dominated the opening stanza of this Round of 32 match up, but Michigan State did present a few rare, but threatening runs forward.
The first shot on goal in the contest came in the 15th minute, after a mishandled set piece by the Cards on the edge of the Michigan State box caught the home side out. A 3-on-1 counter attack by the Spartans was capitalized by Midfielder Jack Beck to give the opposition the first half lead.
UofL struggled to turn the tide back into their favor. A shot in the 28th minute by Kino Ryosuke that harmlessly rolled by Spartan Goalkeeper Jimmy Hague would be as close as they would get in the first half.
The match waxed in physicality as the intermission loomed, with both sides beginning to see red. Michigan State showed few signs of cracking in defense, and for just the sixth time in 2018, Louisville would head into halftime trailing.
The intermission did nothing to calm nerves as a fracas broke out in Louisville’s penalty area in the third minute of the second half, as brothers Giuseppe and Hunter Barone both were cautioned for the Spartans.
The Cards lacked the lethal sharpness that had characterized most of their play throughout the season.
It was a fairly processional affair, with Louisville growing more desperate. A deep throw in from within MSU’s defensive third came to Elijah Amo in the 66th minute. Amo’s header nearly found the back post of Hague’s goal, had it not been for a diving fingertip save from the 6-foot-4 netminder. Hague’s four saves were not indicative of how imposing he was in net for the Spartans.
UofL had arguably their best chance of the evening in the 70th minute after a Tate Schmitt shot was saved- but not cleared by Hague, nearly falling to the wrong footed Amo in the box before being cleared to safety.
It looked like the Cards were going to crash out in the Second Round for just the second time since 2009, but a lifeline was thrown UofL’s way in the 77th minute off of a corner kick. A quagmire of players in the box could neither hammer it home for the Cards, nor clear it for MSU. It fell to Lamine Conte inside the Goal Area, who bundled it toward the goal over a couple of bodies wearing either jersey, before Haji Abdikadir’s foot poked it in.
An apparent inadvertent handling by Pedro Fonseca on the goal line was dismissed after the referee, Hilaro Garcia, turned to the review monitor before awarding the goal to Louisville. The Video Assistant Referee is available to referees in the NCAA tournament.
UofL’s Geoffrey Dee nearly won it in the last minute of regulation with a powerful shot from 23 yards out, but a fingertip save from Hague meant that the game would have to be resolved in overtime.
It took just two minutes and 18 seconds for Michigan State to knock in a winner in the first Golden-Goal overtime period off of a failed clearance from a corner. John Freitag bagged the stunner for the visitors.
"To have Adam [Wilson] and Geoffrey [Dee] trust us in their final years of their college career, we're so greatfull that they transferred in, and they were very productive for us. And Tate, he's one of the special ones. for all of the big games that we've played in, hes the guy that showed up for us. He'll have a good career at the next level," Coach Ken Lolla said.
"I wish we had a better week leading into it, I think its a little of a hangover of the week before" Lolla said on the week between the ACC Championship and the NCAA tournament matchup. "You have to be able to let it go, and that's what you have to do"
Louisville’s season comes to a close at 11-5-3.
Louisville: 76:33, Haji Abdikadir (Assist: Lamine Conte, Ziyad Fekri)
Michigan State: 15:36, Jack Beck (Assist: Ryan Sierakowski) 92:18, John Freitag (unassisted)
Kevin Kernen is the senior men's soccer correspondent for River City Cards. He also is the color commentator for Louisville City FC, and co-host of Soccer City Radio... MORE