By Lilly Trunnell
On a rainy Thursday night, 765 fans turned up at Cardinal Park to watch the men’s soccer team in their NCAA Tournament first round matchup against Denver. The first 90 minutes of regulation play were a defensive battle. Both teams started weakly and gradually built up.
“The first 15, 20 minutes probably were a little bit shaky, but once we got that out of our system I thought the end of the first half and the second half we played very well,” Cardinals head coach Ken Lolla said.
While that may be true, the University of Denver Pioneers countered everything the Cardinals did, making the game a true battle. There were 13 total shots recorded between the two teams during regular play. None of those grew into anything, and at the end of the first two halves the score was tied at zero.
“We just didn’t get a touch on it, we couldn’t finish it off,” Lolla said. “To give them credit, they survived. There’s a reason why they have a good record, and they’ve done well all year. I thought, again, we did well in creating the opportunities and put them on our heels for a good part of that second half.”
Despite the best efforts of both teams, the game went into overtime with the score tied at zero. Denver recorded four more shots in the twenty minutes, but again, none of them amounted to anything. The defense on both ends was just too good.
Officially, the game goes down in record as a nothing-nothing draw. However, someone had to advance. The teams were now pitted against each other in a penalty kick shootout to advance to the second round of the tournament.
Both of the teams made their first penalty kick. In the second round, both goalkeepers were able to stop the ball. Louisville goalkeeper Joachim Ball made the third round save, and things were looking up for the Cardinals as Zack Foxhoven pushed them ahead with a goal, making it 2-1. Again, the goalkeepers both stopped the ball in the fourth round, pushing the teams to a fifth round do-or-die shootout.
When the Pioneers made their fifth-round shot against Ball, Cardinal Park fell silent. It was now up to senior Jimmy Ockford, 2013 American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year, to cinch the Cardinal’s appearance in the second round of the tournament.
“Just don’t think about it,” Ockford said after the game. No matter his thinking, the fans erupted as Ockford’s kick smoothly passed Oliver Brown and ensured No.17 Louisville’s place in round two.
Though Ockford made the winning goal, it’s impossible to neglect goalkeeper Joachim Ball’s instrumental part in the Cardinal’s advance.
“I thought we deserved the victory tonight,” Lolla said.
Though technically a tie, advancement would not have been possible without Ball’s unwavering determination to not let anything by him. Penalty kicks for advancement hasn’t been on Louisville’s resume since the 2010 Big East Tournament.
“It’s always a new situation,” Lolla said. “But it’s something we’ve trained for.”
Round two of the tournament for Louisville is Sun., Nov. 24 at 1:00 pm in Michigan.