--By Jared Anderson
--File photo by River City Cards Staff
Following a rough conclusion to last season the Louisville women’s soccer team hopes to climb the ladder this season. In 2017, the Cardinals finished 9-7-2 and posted a 3-5-2 mark in conference play. Looking ahead to the 2018 season they have a chance at improving those numbers.
Emina Ekic (MF): As a freshman led the team with seven goals and tied for most assists with three. Unfortunately, she suffered an injury late in the season that took much off the offseason to recover from. The Louisville native is on the preseason watch list for the MAC Hermann Trophy, an award given to the top men and women’s soccer players. Ekic will be THE player opponents will game plan around.
Gabby Kouzelos (GK): The redshirt sophomore heads into her second season as the starting goalkeeper, where she captained the Cards last year. Kouzelos saw action in every game and saw 97% of the action last season among the goalkeepers. Having recorded 50 saves in 2017 she stopped nearly three-quarters of shots on goal. The Ohio native averaged one goal per game last season, which gave the offense a fighting chance every game.
Gabrielle “Gabi” Vincent (MF/D): Entering her senior year, Vincent is expected to maintain one of the centerback positions, where she and Inger Katrine-Bjerke manned the defense last year. One of the fastest and most agile players on the team, Vincent is tough for opposing attackers to maneuver around. Vincent has been a vocal leader and has proven that she is not afraid to get physical against stronger opponents.
Other players to keep an eye out for include Taylor Kerwin, Mollie Rouse, Brooklynn Rivers, and Allison Whitfield.
Keys to Success
Avoid Intimidation: The ACC is a powerhouse in soccer just like it is with most sports. Almost every opponent will be ranked or have an RPI in the Top 25. Instead of being scared look at it as an opportunity to be the underdog to take down the beast.
Play ‘Til the Final Horn: Often soccer players will slow down and not push as hard as the clock winds down into the final minutes. Whether trailing or deadlocked at an even score keep pressing forward. A late goal to even the score can break the spirits of the opponent heading into overtime. Getting that late goal could easily turn a loss into a draw or a draw into a win.
Avoid Injury: This one isn’t really in the hands of the players other than proper conditioning and stretching. Injuries affected the outcome of several matches last year. Big time players such as Emina Ekic, Taylor Kerwin, Allison Whitfield, Niamh Nelson, Sarah Feola, and Shelby Cohen all spent some part of the season in recovery mode. A minor injury to a player or two won’t ruin a season, but a small group of them can quickly send a season south.
Five of the 17 opponents are ranked in the preseason Top 25 with a couple more in the receiving votes category. Luckily, for Louisville those are all conference opponents and will come in the back half of the season. They can use the opportunity early in the season against weaker teams to build confidence going into conference play.
I expect to see Louisville finish in the ballpark of 9-6-2, like last year’s result. ACC play will improve some as the Cards go 4-4-2. The bunny games should be sure-wins and some of the road games against ranked opponents will be tough. As long as this roster remains healthy this squad has the talent to square up against any team in the country.
The Louisville women’s soccer team shares one of the best collegiate soccer stadiums in the country with the men’s soccer team. Just being able to experience the venue in person should draw a crowd but watching the crazy talent on the team seals the deal. Soccer games are ticketed events. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the gate. Please note the clear bag policy the remains in effect from last year.
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