By Aaron Williams–
After coming just shy of a championship trophy last season, the University of Louisville’s men’s soccer team is poised to make another run at a championship. The Cardinals have been voted as the preseason number one in the College Soccer News 2011 preseason poll, as well as the favorite to win the Big East Red Division in the 2011 Big East preseason men’s soccer coaches’ poll.
They will start their season off at Cardinal Park, in a much talked about rematch against preseason top ten team UCLA on Aug. 27 at 7 p.m. The last time the Cards and the Bruins clashed, it was on a cold, snowy November night at Cardinal Park in the Elite Eight of NCAA tournament.
On Louisville’s side of the pitch, things will look similar to last season. Nine starters from last season’s top-seeded tournament team are returning for the Cardinals, including offensive weapons such as senior forward Colin Rolfe, sophomore midfielders Dylan Mares and Andrew Farrell, senior goalkeeper Andre Boudreax and defenders junior Brock Granger and senior Austin Berry.
It’s not all the same look for the 2011 Cards, though. Four new faces have been added to the roster since the conclusion of the 2010 season; freshman forward Mountan Mitchell from Punhou School in Honolulu, Haiwaii joins the team this year, as well as transfers sophomore midfielder Kegan Harkenrider from University of Denver, sophomore forward Richard Osterloh from Mars Hill College in Sao Paulo, Brazil and junior midfielder Michael Roman from UCLA.
“We are very excited about this incoming group, they will bring an excellent balance of experience and talent,” said men’s head coach Ken Lolla in a press release. “They will be a wonderful addition to an already experienced group.”
For UCLA, offensive threats like sophomore preseason All-American midfielder Kelyn Rowe, senior midfielder Eder Arreola and sophomore forward Reed Williams will be returning to Cardinal Park to take on the Cards Aug. 27, as well as senior goalkeeper Brian Rowe on the defensive side of the ball. The Bruins will certainly be looking to match the ferocity and speed of Louisville’s offensive game and to exorcise the demons of a bitter last second loss to the Cardinals in the post-season quarterfinals.
Student anticipation for the rematch is high and this year the Cards’ fan base has organized into a group known as the Louisville Louligans to rally around the soccer program. Michael Paolini, a senior sports administration major, and administrator for the Louisville Louligans Facebook page, invited Cards fans “to get on board with [The Louligans’] mission to create the best supporters group in the country for the best soccer team in the country. Get your supporters scarf, paint up, warm-up those vocal cords, and join us as we fuel the passion of Cardinal soccer and will our team to an undefeated home stand and national championship! Check us out on Facebook for details on the tailgate and Louligans march for the home opener versus UCLA on August 27. We’re bringing back the snow with a whiteout!”