By Matt Bradshaw —

This past week, women’s soccer ended a successful and uplifting season with a tough loss in the NCAA tournament first round.

U of L lost to No. 2 Tennessee. The Cardinals scored the opening goal and led 1-0 for a majority of the contest, but the Volunteers used two goals late in the match to avoid the upset.

“As far as our players, and our kids, and our team, we defended our butts off,” head coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes said. “But overall, I love the group, I love training them, I love coaching them, and I’m just sad it has to come to an end.”

Overall, Tennessee held the advantage throughout with more possession and a 16-6 shot advantage (9-3 shots-on-goal advantage).

As always with the sport of soccer, Louisville had a chance and took it for the opening goal. Junior Brooklyn Rivers crossed to sophomore Emina Ekic who scored for a 1-0 lead.

Sophomore goalkeeper Gabby Kouzelos compiled seven saves throughout the game. The Vols finally broke through at the 74 minute mark with the equalizing goal following extended possession around the box.

U of L hoped to regain the lead or take it into overtime, but Tennessee used a shot that hit the post and bounced in goal for a 2-1 lead. Trailing at the 85 minute mark, the Cards were unable to tie the game and dealt a tough defeat.

“Obviously it’s really sad, I wish we would have come out on top, but Tennessee gave us a really good game,” senior center back Gabrielle Vincent said. “I’m really proud of my team though, I’m sad, but I’m also happy that I got to spend my last year with these girls.

Louisville finished their season with a 12-7 record and 6-4 in ACC play. They improved greatly from their previous season in which they failed to qualify for the conference tournament.

Losing Vincent at center back is a blow to next season’s defense. However, the Cards feature a plethora of young talent. Based on statistics, they can improve and possibly do better than this season.

Underclassmen Ekic, Kouzelos, Maisie Whitsett, Delayney Snyder, Sarah Hernandez, Nadege L’Esperance and Taylor Kerwin all played significant roles this season and have bright futures ahead.

Juniors Rivers, Arianna Ferraro, Niamh Nelson, Callie McKinney and Allison Whitfield will return with veteran experience for their senior seasons.

You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.

File Photo / The Louisville Cardinal