Nov. 21, 2013
Junior Joachim Ball earned his eighth shutout of the season and added three stops in the shootout.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Survive and advance is the mantra of the postseason and that's exactly what the 17th-ranked Louisville men's soccer team did against Denver on Thursday night at Cardinal Park. After surviving a 110-minute scoreless draw, the Cardinals earned a 3-2 victory in the shootout to advance past the Pioneers in the first round of the 2013 NCAA Championship.
With the shootout win, the Cardinals (11-4-4) move ahead to a second round match against No. 11 seed Michigan State on Sunday at 1 p.m., ET at the DeMartin Soccer Complex in East Lansing, Mich. The Spartans (12-5-3) earned a first round bye in the NCAA Championship as one of the top 16 seeds overall.
On a rainy night in Louisville, it was defense that stole the show as the Cardinals and Pioneers (13-3-4) combined for only five shots on goal through the 110 minutes of scoreless soccer on Thursday. In the shootout that followed, Louisville junior Joachim Ball (Deutenberg, Germany) continued his stellar work in goal with three stops on Denver's five attempts, while senior defender Jimmy Ockford (Yardley, Pa.) converted the final PK attempt to send the Cardinals and their fans into a jubilant celebration.
"I'm extremely proud of the effort tonight from the guys," said Louisville head coach Ken Lolla. "For such a young group and a new group with a lot of guys playing their first NCAA game tonight, I thought we handled it well. The first 15 or 20 minutes were probably a little shaky, but once we got that out of our system, I thought we played very well. This was very much a team effort."
The shootout started with Denver's Cole Chapleski and Louisville's Nolan Moore (New Westminster, B.C.) each converting in the first round of attempts. The goalkeepers won the second round as Ball made the stop on an attempt by Regan Dunk and Denver's Oliver Brown stopped the try by the Cardinals' Derek McCaffrey (Gronton, Mass.). After Ball made another stop in the third round on a shot by Zach Bolden, Louisville's Zack Foxhoven (Littleton, Colo.) converted his attempt to push the Cardinals in front at 2-1. Ball delivered yet another stop in the fourth round on a shot by Kosta Kordistos, but Brown answered for the Pioneers with a save on the attempt by Daniel Keller (Carmel, Ind.) to extend the shootout to a fifth round. In the final round, Denver's Theodor Remman connected to even the score at 2-2 before Ockford ended the match with his game-winner.
"I'm accustomed to taking penalty kicks, so I've learned to be confident and I don't get nervous or really even think about it," said Ockford, the 2013 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year. "This was my first NCAA Tournament game, so moving on to the second round is amazing."
The match, which goes into the record books as a tie, was the ninth shutout of the season for the Cardinals and the eighth for Ball, who finished with two saves prior to the shootout. Denver finished with an 11-6 advantage in shots, including a 3-2 edge in shots on goal. Louisville had five corner kick opportunities in the match while the Pioneers finished with three overall.
It was the Cardinals' first shootout win since the 2010 Big East Championship title game when they earned a 3-2 victory in penalty kicks against Providence. On that day, former Cardinal goalkeeper Andre Boudreax had four saves in game action before turning away three shots in the shootout to clinch the championship for Louisville.
Thursday marked the Cardinals' 10th NCAA Championship match at home (7-2-1 record) with all of those coming under the guidance of Lolla, who is 9-6-1 overall in the tournament since arriving in Louisville prior to the 2007 season. The Cardinals have advanced to the second round of the NCAA Championship in four straight seasons, including three straight quarterfinal appearances prior to this season.
The Cardinals will travel by bus to East Lansing on Friday before conducting a training session at DeMartin Soccer Complex on Saturday. Sunday's match will be the fourth meeting all-time between Louisville and Michigan State with the series tied at 1-1-1.
"I think there are certain things that we do well that we need to continue to focus on and concentrate on," Lolla said. "Right now, as coaches, we have to get the players prepared to play Michigan State and what they're about. We'll be prepared and ready for Sunday."