By Jordan Shim-
The No. 7 Louisville men’s soccer team lost to No. 5 Clemson 1-0 in their regular season game and senior night at Lynn Stadium Oct. 28.
Clemson improved to 11-3-4 (4-1-3 ACC), while the Cards fell to 11-4-2 (5-2-1 ACC). Malick Mbaye’s goal in the 61st minute was the game-winner.
“I thought we created enough opportunities to score,” Louisville head coach Ken Lolla said. “But we didn’t take care of it. I thought in the first half we were good, the second half we weren’t. And in the end, we didn’t deserve to win the game based on how we took our chances.”
U of L spent the majority of the first half looking like the more dangerous team. The first chance came in the 30th minute. Tate Schmitt crossed the ball into the box. Mohamed Thiaw headed the ball to the back post, where Jack Gayton was there to volley, but sliced it just wide of the left post.
Both teams had their chances, but the first half could only muster two two shots on goal, both for Louisville.
Clemson came out of the second half with two early chances. Grayson Raynor forced Cleveland into a tough save in the 47th minute. In the 56th minute, Hernandez gifted Diego Campos with an erratic back pass, but he could not take advantage blasting his shot over the left post.
Continued pressure rewarded the Tigers with the opening goal in the 61st minute. Mbaye headed home a cross sent into the box.
“We knew they were going to be a handful on restarts, and that’s how they ended up scoring,” Lolla said.
U of L almost equalized in the 83rd minute. Cherif Dieye found space on the right flank and whipped in a cross. The cross found Schmitt unmarked, but his header went just wide left.
“We had the opportunities,” Lolla said. “The keeper made a big save on Mo. Then we hit the post. And even late we had another good opportunity. If you don’t finish those, it’s tough to beat a good team like Clemson.”
U of L finished the game with a 10-7 shot advantage, however, were on par with the Tigers with three shots on goal. Mohamed Thiaw led the way with a game-high three shots.
Theo Jamillioux, Stefan Cleveland, Daniel Johnson, Romilio Hernandez, Michael DeGraffenreidt and Jerry Ramirez were all honored before kickoff for senior night.
“I think this is the best team we had in a while because of the leadership of the older guys,” Lolla said. “I give them all credit. They have been awesome.”
It was a sour way to end the regular season, but Louisville finished third in the ACC. Wins over No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 3 Syracuse and No. 16 Virginia were marquee wins for the Cards that will hold significant value for the NCAA tournament.
The Cards season was filled with top performers. Thiaw’s ACC-leading 11 goals was the most a player has scored since Simon Bird scored 12 in 2003. Tim Kubel led the ACC with nine assists and broke the school record for most assists in a game with four against No. 16 Virginia. Cleveland led the ACC with nine shutouts.
Inconsistency with scoring cost the Cards a few games this season. They started the season having difficulties scoring against Butler and Quinnipiac. They did score six against Virginia and Belmont, however, taking the entire regular season into account, those were mere aberrations.
Averaging just under two shots per contest, the Cards need to find a way to give Thiaw more chances to score. He is lethal, but if he is not given chances to shoot, Louisville will have difficulties finding the back of the net.
Big game pressure has caught up to the Cards. Their ability to completely shut down opposing offenses yielded a 4-1 record against ranked opposition, and a +8 goal differential. Since winning four of five, they are 0-3 against ranked teams, with a -3 goal differential. All three losses came from top defensive teams.
U of L’s success in the conference has granted them a bye in the first round of the ACC conference tournament. Therefore, their next outing will be at Lynn Stadium Nov. 6 in the quarterfinals. Their opponent has not been named.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal