By Jordan Shim–
For the past three weeks, The Cardinal broke down the women’s soccer team and gave insight on what to expect this upcoming season. TLC now transitions to the men’s team, starting with defense and goalkeeping.
Duplicating last season’s success without Stefan Cleveland and Michael DeGraffenreidt will be a difficult task. The two made U of L one of the nation’s top defenses, conceding 16 goals in 22 games.
Sophomore Jake Gelnovatch (goalkeeper), senior Tim Kubel, redshirt sophomore Cody Cochran, senior Joey Kunkel and junior Danny Reynolds.
With two seniors and a junior expected to start, there likely won’t be a scenario too big for this group. Cochran paired with Kunkel for multiple games last season, including their 1-0 victory over No. 2 Syracuse.
Having Tim Kubel back for his final season is huge as his leadership will help keep the defense organized. A mainstay in the starting 11 since stepping foot on campus, the team captain’s consistency is a huge strength. The All-American will be counted on once again to be the catalyst for the team.
Inexperience is the only issue with Gelnovatch. Son of Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch, the sophomore has high expectations and is a solid replacement to Cleveland. Fans should not expect him to be as consistent as Cleveland immediately. But his performances against the Chicago Fire and the Indy Eleven should give coach Ken Lolla and fans confidence.
There is a possibility Gelnovatch could succumb to the quality of the ACC. Ten of the 12 conference teams all made the NCAA tournament — a gauntlet from start to finish. Away from the conference schedule, the Cards play Indiana, Butler and Kentucky, all NCAA tournament teams.
Player to watch: Tim Kubel
One of the best players in the country, Kubel has game-changing ability and has significant influence even from a defensive position. The German led the team in assists with 11 and broke the school’s record for most assists in a single game with four against Virginia.
With the skillset of a scoring forward, Kubel will be counted on to provide the bulk of chance creations from the flanks. Additionally, he will be expected to track back and keep the defense organized. A lot rests on the shoulder of Kubel, but he turned in top performances every week to be a semi-finalist for the MAC Herman Trophy, an award given to the top collegiate player and is capable of repeating it this season.
Photo by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal