By Sammie Hill–
Although school ends for most students in early May, University of Louisville athletes remain hard at work throughout the summer in preparation for the upcoming season. Fall sports require an intensive preseason regimen executed to maintain athletes’ fitness, finesse and focus. Over the past few months, U of L sports teams have been busy not only training for the fall season but also participating in community events, adding new members to the coaching staff and more.
On Tuesday, July 24, for the second year in a row, the U of L men’s soccer team hosted a free two-hour soccer clinic for children and adults with special needs. The event, called “Kicking it with JT and Friends,” uses soccer to encourage physical, mental and social development in its participants. Volunteers joined U of L men’s soccer players and coaching staff to run drills and games throughout the clinic. At the conclusion of the event, U of L head coach Ken Lolla spoke to those in attendance about life skills and the fundamentals not only of soccer but also of success.
As August approached, the team received encouraging news from preseason polls. A coaches poll predicted Louisville to finish third in the Preseason Big East Red Division.
This poll also selected junior defender Andrew Farrell as Preseason Co-Defensive Player of the year, a title shared with Georgetown University’s senior defender Jimmy Nealis.
On August 7, the NSCAA announced that Louisville ranked at No. 7 in the preseason poll. This marks the third consecutive year in which the men’s soccer team has begun the season ranked in the Top 10.
In the first exhibition game of the season, the No. 7 ranked University of Louisville defeated the No. 21 ranked University of Alabama at Birmingham 4-3 in penalty kicks on Sunday, Aug. 12. Regulation time concluded with a 1-1 tie; the match then went straight to penalty kicks.
“It was a very good first game for us against a great opponent,” said head coach Ken Lolla. “We dominated possession and showed good character after giving up an early first half goal. We played a solid second half and were able to score the equalizer. We as coaches decided to go to penalty kicks after finishing regulation tied.”
Lolla cited sophomore goalkeeper Joachim Ball as a vital component of the team’s victory, noting his solid performance during the high-pressure penalty kick situation.
During the team’s second exhibition match, Louisville defeated the University of Wisconsin 1-0 with a goal from sophomore midfielder Dylan Mares.
“I thought we did a real nice job tonight,” Mares said. “We did a good job of connecting passes in the final third, and we did a really good job at that in the second half which helped produce a goal.”
“I thought it was another good game against a very competitive team,” head coach Ken Lolla added. “I thought as the game progressed that we went on to find a very good rhythm which resulted in a goal. It was also really good to get a shutout tonight as well. The defense was very solid and both keepers did a great job.”
The University of Louisville men’s soccer team will compete in its first regular season game on Sunday, Aug. 26 at 7 p.m. in College Park, Maryland.
This summer, the Missouri Athletic Club (MAC) named junior forward Christine Exeter to their Hermann Trophy watch list for 2012. The MAC Hermann Trophy, presented during a banquet held each January, stands as the highest individual award in college soccer.
Exeter received the Big East Offensive Player of the Year award in 2011 and a preseason All-Big East selection in 2012, voted on unanimously.
This standout player started in 23 of 24 games last season, earning 14 goals and 3 assists as a sophomore. Exeter excels not only on the field but also in the classroom, exemplified by her place on the Athletic Director’s Honor Roll in 2011.
NSCAA members from Division I programs will narrow down the Hermann Trophy watch list to 15 semifinalists by the end of November. Member coaches and fans will then vote on three finalists, from which the MAC will determine a winner. The MAC will announce the recipient of the award on Friday, Jan. 11.
Exeter and the rest of the U of L women’s soccer team earned a victory in their first exhibition game against Ohio State on Friday, Aug. 10. The match, held at home in Cardinal Park, resulted in a 1-0 win with junior forward Charlyn Corral scoring the only goal in the 19th minute of play.
In their second exhibition game, held at home on Sunday, Aug. 12, Louisville defeated Wright State University, earning the team a second consecutive preseason victory. The Raiders fell to the Cardinals 3-1, marking the completion of the preseason for U of L women’s soccer.
They opened the regular season on Friday, Aug. 17 with a 2-0 victory over Butler University.
“It’s always nice to start the season with a win,” head coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes stated. “I didn’t think we were sharp at all in the first half, but I was very pleased with our second half performance. It’s a great starting point to build upon.”
University of Louisville women’s soccer will host its first home game on Friday, Aug. 24 at 7 p.m., where they will face Purdue University.
Admission is free with a student ID, and the first 200 fans to arrive will receive free Adidas t-shirts.
In early July, Kirstin Gebhart joined the University of Louisville field hockey coaching staff as an assistant coach. The 2011 graduate of American University is a certified United States Field Hockey Association Level 1 Coach.
“It’s an exciting time for the Louisville Field Hockey program as our coaching staff is finally complete one month before the start of preseason,” said head coach Justine Sowry.
Sowry regards Gebhart’s “zest for life and specifically toward field hockey” as an asset to the team.
“She brings enthusiasm for the coaching profession and values the overall experience that our student-athletes can have here at the University of Louisville,” Sowry revealed. “Kirstin comes from a strong hockey background and this, coupled with her intelligence and the ability to learn quickly, will provide an immediate impact to the program.”
Following Gebhart’s hiring, the team received more exciting news, for the Big East Field Hockey Preseason Coaches’ Poll picked U of L to finish third in the conference.
The poll also named three U of L players to the Big East Conference preseason team: sophomore midfielder Dominique Pasqualichio, sophomore fullback Alyssa Voelmle, and senior goalkeeper Erin Conrad. Voted onto the team unanimously, Dominique Pasqualichio earned All-Big East second team honors last season. Alyssa Voelmle started every game throughout her freshman year, and this marks the second consecutive year that Erin Conrad, one of the team’s co-captains, has been named to the Big East Conference preseason team.
On Friday, Aug. 17, the team held a preseason scrimmage against Indiana University at home, in which the Cardinals defeated the Hoosiers 3-0.
“It was a great game, a great first step for us,” said U of L head coach Justine Sowry. “Erin Conrad had a great performance and our back fielders in general were pretty good.”
The University of Louisville field hockey team will face Northeastern University on Friday, Aug. 24 at home in the first regular season game of the year. The match starts at 6 p.m. with free admission.
Throughout the past few weeks, several players on the University of Louisville volleyball team, including senior outside hitter Kaitlynn James, freshman defensive specialist Haley Pouliezos, senior outside hitter Lola Arslanbekova and freshman middle blocker Davionna Holmes, have been updating an online blog that reveals the daily routine in which they are immersed.
This blog gives readers a glimpse into the dedication it takes to prepare for the strenuous volleyball season as well as the camaraderie built among teammates as they strive to make 2012-13 their best year yet.
The players explain in the blog that practices held at the KFC Yum! Center begin in the morning with a warm up led by the team’s strength coaches. The players then progress to ball-handling drills, requiring each team member to work with a partner to practice ball-control as well as digging and passing techniques. Following the partner work, players typically move into more individual activities, such as self-start serving. During this drill, the team’s technical video coordinator tracks the speed of the ball to measure the intensity and effectiveness of the serve. Once the morning session concludes, the players receive treatment and ice baths from the trainer, then indulge in a merited meal at the Ville Grille.
The players return to the KFC Yum! Center in the afternoon or evening for another training session. Once again, the practice commences with a warm-up, proceeded by a fun, competitive game that stimulates the players and gets everyone engaged. The team then usually dissolves into small groups where they practice blocking, passing and position work. These small groups often scrimmage in an attempt to make not only themselves but also each other better. When this second session ends, the team returns to the Ville Grille for dinner, followed by an educational meeting with the coaches.
This routine demonstrates the demanding regimen employed throughout the volleyball preseason.
“I’m very excited and impressed with the work ethic our team has showed,” said freshman defensive specialist, Haley Pouliezos, in the online blog. “We have a lot of great leaders on this team that hold each other accountable. We are going to be very successful this year, so…come down and see us!”
The players will have the opportunity to showcase the result of their hard work in the season-opener held at the KFC Yum! Center on Friday, Aug. 24 at 7:30 p.m.
U of L students that present a student ID receive free admission to volleyball games held at the KFC Yum! Center.
Photos: Eric Voet/The Louisville Cardinal