A season out from finishing below .500 for just the second time in the Coach Lolla era the Louisville men's soccer team found themselves back up in the elite. The Cardinals finished the season 14-6-2. In conference play they finished third at 5-2-1.
Coach Lolla's squad advanced to the Elite Eight, where they fell to eventual champion Stanford 2-0. On their way to the Elite Eight the Cards defeated UCLA and Notre Dame.
Louisville relied on some big time playmakers to propel their season this year.
Mohamed Thiaw played a key role this season, scoring 12 goals on the year. His 12 goals ties him at fourth on the season goals in program history with Simon Bird and Ali Elwakhi. Thiaw's 26 points this season is seventh at U of L in that category. Only a junior, fans hope Thiaw will return for his senior year, which is currently expected.
Tim Kubel was one of the captains as a junior. He was a semi-finalist for National Player of the Year. Kubel tied a single-season record at U of L with 11 assists. Kubel's 49 career points cracks the top ten at U of L. However, his 19 19 career assists is tied for fifth in U of L history and has a strong chance of breaking Paolo DelPiccolo's record of 23 next season.
Stefan Cleveland transferred in for his final year of eligibility and the beginning of graduate school. Cleveland started every game at goalkeeper and recorded 10 shutouts, tied for third in the season statistics at U of L. Cleveland's time with the Cards was short, but he will continue his education at Louisville.
Louisville finished sixth in the final rankings. Their rpi ranking came in at eighth. The rpi reflect how difficult of a schedule Louisville faced. 12 of their games were against ranked opponents. Louisville was on the road against some of their strongest opponents such as Wake Forest (twice) and rival Kentucky. Other opponents such as Indiana and Notre Dame (twice) visited Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium, where the Cards went 10-3-1 at home.
Who is leaving Theo Jamilloux- The goalkeeper held the number one spot on the team last season before taking a backseat to Cleveland this year. Jamilloux was with the Cards for two years, but only played in the 2015 season where he recorded 32 saves in nine games.
Michael DeGraffenreidt- This defender was a brick wall on the back line. Opposing teams found themselves gameplanning around him in hopes of scoring. DeGraffenreidt started 76 games and appeared in 77 games. He also recorded an assist his junior year.
Jerry Ramirez- The red-shirt senior continued his education at Louisville, going straight into graduate school. Ramirez went through double-hip surgery before his senior year and did not see much playing time in year five. He scored twice in his career with one of them being a golden goal over #2 Syracuse his junior year. Ramriez was a co-captain and a vocal leader off the pitch.
Romilio "Romi" Hernandez- This midfielder picked up the dirty work for the Cards, having to find a balance between offense and defense. He disrupted opposing teams on transition moments to give the defense an opportunity to get set. Hernandez recorded three goals and four assists in his career.
Daniel Johnson- He had a quiet big two years as a midfielder with Louisville after transferring in from Maryland. He scored seven goals and assisted five times in 41 games. Johnson is planning to go pro and will enter the MLS draft.
Stefan Cleveland- See above.
Who/What to look for next season The big question to ask is "Who will be the new goalkeeper?" Cleveland and Jamilloux are both graduating or have graduated. Either current freshmen Will Meyer or Jake Gelnovtach appear to be the current favorite, but Nick Jeffs will be a senior next year, or who knows what Coach Lolla has rolled up his sleeve with bringing in transfers.
Mohamed Thiaw and Tim Kubel. Assuming both of them return for their senior seasons Louisville will have their number one scorer and their assist leaders back, and both should be co-captains.
Cherif Dieye. Dieye came off the bench and usually subbed for Thiaw, but he could be potentially as good as Thiaw with speed and agility. He will be a sophomore next year.
Tate Schmitt is currently a sophomore, but is an offensive threat that complimented Thiaw this past season. Schmitt has 12 goals and six assists and continued to be highly rated by Top Drawer Soccer.
Conclusion This was a fantastic year for the Cardinals. It was heart-breaking to see such a talented group of guys lose, but falling to the eventual champion isn't too terrible. To match the success of this year for 2017 the Cards will have to put in loads of off-season work.