By Jordan Shim–
As the players undergo summer training in preparation for the upcoming season, the women’s soccer team have a lot to look forward to.
The Cards started strong at 7-2-2 and jumped all the way to No. 24 in the Soccer America polls for the first time since 2013. However, they finished winless to close out the season after running into the strength of the ACC.
A year’s worth of experience will substantially benefit the young Cards team, and TLC will break down positions to give you a better understanding of what to expect. This week will begin with the women’s goalkeeping and defense.
Redshirt freshman Gabrielle Kouzuelos (goalkeeper), sophomore Niamh Nelson, senior Inger Katrine Bjerke, junior Gabrielle Vincent and senior Shelby Cohen.
The trio of Bjerke, Vincent and Cohen started together for two consecutive years now, and all four defenders started all 18 matches together last year. As the unit has amassed a total of 162 starts, there will be hardly a scenario or hostile venue on the schedule that will rattle this group.
Vincent is the only player that has pace on the back line. She consistently runs down the opposition on the flanks when they counter. Bjerke tends to sit deeper at the back, Nelson is bigger in stature and tends to press high up the field and Cohen isn’t the quickest player but makes up with endless stamina.
Coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes combats Louisville’s lack of pace by having her defense to play high and pressure the ball to thwart any counterattack, allowing the midfield to recover and reorganize.
Kouzuelos is a solid replacement to Taylor Bucklin, but she will be tested. She has a solid defense in front of her, but she must make saves and be assertive in the box. Thus, she is susceptible to making mistakes due to her inexperience at the collegiate level.
While playing in the ACC, arguably the strongest soccer conference in the country, there will be no shortage of quality that will test her right away. Conference games do not begin until midseason, so Kouzuelos will have plenty of games to settle into her role.
Player to watch: Gabrielle Vincent
The Maryland native can do it all. Recruited initially as a midfielder, her athleticism and physical play made her an ideal partner to pair with the more finesse, Bjerke. The defense did not enjoy the best statistical season, but Vincent was stellar and earned All-ACC honors. She still has a nose for goal and is a consistent threat on dead ball situations. She is the team’s primary direct free kick taker and scored three goals last season, all via corner kicks.
Fans can expect Vincent to build off of her success and guide the team to a NCAA tournament berth.
File photo / The Louisville Cardinal