By Matt Bradshaw —
Michigan State (12-4-4) upset four-seed men’s soccer (11-5-3) in the second round of the NCAA Championship.
“It’s a tough way to end the season, especially in overtime,” head coach Ken Lolla said.
The Spartans scored the opening goal then held the home team scoreless until an equalizer from the Cards forced overtime. U of L looked to top their eighth overtime match of the season, but fell 2-1 from a golden goal by MSU three minutes into the period.
Following back-to-back seasons with Elite Eight appearances, an early defeat in the tournament is a disappointment for Louisville. The Cardinals had an inconsistent 2018 run, with wins over top-ranked opponents and losses from unranked ones, but they entered the NCAA Championship with tons of momentum.
The team posted one draw, one win and two losses the final four games of the regular season. Afterwards, U of L beat No. 18 Notre Dame, No. 1 Wake Forest and No. 4 UNC in the ACC Championship for the program’s first conference title.
“It’s a little bit of a hangover from the week before,” Lolla said. “Championship teams learn how to handle success. I wouldn’t say we were intoxicated by it, but it’s so difficult to let it go.”
Lolla’s team had back luck the past two seasons with losses in the NCAA quarterfinals. He last reached the final four of the College Cup in 2010, when the Cards became national runner-ups behind Akron.
Louisville hoped to change that luck with a four-seed, first-round bye and forward motion coming into the NCAA Championship following the conference tournament. Michigan State traveled to Lynn Stadium and ended the chance for a postseason run.
The first Spartan goal came at the 16 minute mark. MSU caught Louisville flat-footed with a counterattack and took advantage with a wide-open score.
From that point on, U of L had chances to score but never capatlized on shots on goal. Senior and ACC Championship MVP Tate Schmitt nearly scored at the 71 minute mark but the opposing goalie saved the shot.
The Cards found their equalizer at the 78 minute mark. A corner kick led to a scramble in the box and, somehow, freshman Haji Abdikadir kicked a ricocheted ball into the net.
Regulation concluded with the score 1-1. It was an intensely physical match with 30 fouls and five yellow cards. Michigan State was not happy with Louisville’s goal and believed it should have been overturned due to a hand ball.
Little over two minutes into the overtime period, Michigan State scored the winning goal after possession around the box.
“We played a very physical team and that’s soccer,” Lolla said. “We’ve seen it many times before – that fine line decides games.”
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Photos by Nancy Hanner / The Louisville Cardinal