--By Kevin Kernen
--Image by Kevin Kernen
UofL Men’s Soccer held their media day Monday, Coach Lolla spoke with the collected press along with captains Senior Tate Schmitt, Sophomore Liam Bennett, and Junior Cody Cochran.
In their words and attitudes, players and coach alike were confident in the team this season. Despite only being together less than two weeks, everyone is chomping at the bit to get down to business. There were a few overarching motifs on the day, and nobody made no bones about their goals for the end of the season:
On the beginning of the season, coach offered the following:
“As usual there's a high expectation, but I think also strong feelings about this year, encouraged by what we’ve seen so far, and the players we have and the goals ahead of us. We feel this as a staff as well. The 40th year of the program, it's an exciting time”
Lolla also feels that it’s time to push the team a step forward.
“for us, it is important this season that we make some gains to push the program into a new light, to reach new levels and for the future of the program”
Tate was similarly motivated, both by the possibilities ahead and the sting of losing last season two games short of the final.
“From what we’ve seen in the past, what we’ve accomplished, we know we have to build on that, from the past years of finishing in the Elite 8, we know that we were capable of being in the final… we just have to learn from our mistakes last year and what we did well, just continue pushing and continue working”
Transfers are a big talking point ahead of the season, with Lamine Conte and Louka Masset joining the defensive ranks, it’s yet to be seen how they will figure into the lineup.
“We’re still learning a lot about them. What I like most is the type of people they are. When you talk about guys like Kino, Lamine, Louka, the transfers and even the young guys, Pedro [Fonseca], William Portman, those are guys that could factor in this season, but most importantly they’re really good team guys. As far as their impact this season, I think they could be impactful, the big question is how much and we’re still learning so much about them. It’s clear that Kino [Ryosuke] is a talented guy, it's clear Lamine is talented… my guess is that there’s still a lot more out there” said coach.
He continued on Kino Ryosuke working with Tate, compared with Tate and now-pro Mo Thiaw working together last season:
“It’s different. It’s going to be much different. Kino is a much different player than Mo… because Kino is so active, we’re trying to find the best way to play with his qualities, he’s going to be such a great player for us over the next two years”
Although it seems Tate may have to step into more of a midfielder role (further suggested by the fact he’s taken the number 10 jersey and Kino will wear 9), Schmitt is looking forward to the striking pair’s future
“Very excited to play with Kino up top. He had a good last two years in Junior College and this previous summer with the Des Moines Iowa Menace, and he was the PDL player of the year, had a bunch of goals, he’s a very, very talented player. He’s a great guy in the locker room, doesn’t know too much English, but he’s really caring about his teammates a lot, and he’s going to be a good player in that position and he’s going to score a bunch of goals for us this year”
With players of no fewer than 9 nationalities, the locker room is a veritable melting pot of cultures and languages, as Cochran has eperienced:
“I think it’s pretty cool. I grew up here… you come in here, there’s different people, different cultures, different beliefs...just different things around you and you just soak it in, like ‘wow’”
Coach Lolla also commented on the makeup of the team, and touched on what he looks for in a player, regardless of origin:
“Culturally, it’s awesome that they get to experience that. Many times you have to travel to different places around the world to experience different cultures… regardless of where they’re coming from, their character values- who they are- is massive, and i think we have a good group of guys in the locker room, one of the best that I’ve ever had”
“There’s a collective unity to what we’re doing and they know what we’re pursuing”
With the 3 transfers, 5 incoming true freshmen to complement the 5 redshirt freshmen, the squad enumerates 27 in total, there’s going to be rotation and battles everywhere this season, not least of which will be in goal between Jake Gelnovatch and Will Meyer, as Lolla expressed his thoughts on the situation:
“We’re contemplating how to take care of that. With both right now, they’re both deserving of starting for us, and we will decide that… both have different qualities… I feel good with either one of them in any game that we will be successful”
Defense as well will provide a bit of a rotation, as midfielder Cody Cochran commented on:
Cody: “I think right now it’s a toss up between everybody in the back. It’s just competitive. Everybody, from Louka, to Lamine, for the Center Back position, and Chris, it’s a competitive race right now, they’re all fighting for that spot, I just think that we’re solid back there."
Building from the teams comments during the kickoff banquet last Friday, along with a couple of wins in the preseason, there's plenty for soccer fans in the city to be excited about.
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