It's been yet another successful season for coach Ken Lolla and his University of Louisville men's soccer program. With a total of 10 wins already in 2013, the Cards have ensured their sixth-consecutive winning season.
With two regular season games left on the slate, the Cardinals (10-3-2) are currently ranked No. 11 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, and No. 12 in the Soccer America Men's Top 25.
The Cards have notched wins in eight of their last 11 outings. The hot streak has helped the team get back in the right shape after starting 2-3-1. The Card's early schedule was doing them no favors, as they opened the season with back-to-back games against No. 21 Northwestern and No. 11 Virginia, and played a later match with No. 16 UC Irvine.
"With a lot of new guys and a very young group, we knew there was going to be an transition period, a growth period," head coach Ken Lolla said. "We experienced that early, and I thought once we found our rhythm and found the best spots for guys we ended up having a lot more success."
Although the early struggles pushed the Cardinals down the rankings, Lolla is pleased with the way his team responded.
"We've fought ourselves into a pretty good spot at the end of the year where we have it within our control what the outcome is," Lolla said.
With the postseason in their sights, the Cardinals will try to record a pair of wins during the week's end. The two-game homestand will include a match with No. 20 Saint Louis on Thursday night and an afternoon meeting with South Florida on Sunday.
Lolla states that the two games are crucial for the Cardinal's future- not just for momentum, but for tournament seeding, too.
"It's (important) to head into the postseason playing well," Lolla said. "First, we want to make sure we put ourselves in the best place for the conference tournament, and we also want to win the conference out-right, which has been our goal."
"The second thing is heading into the NCAA tournament having the highest RPI possible. Both games have implications because they can do all of that."
One major positive for the Cards as they prepare themselves to compete at the national level: They have not been relying on an particular player to carry them.
Sure, sophomore midfielder/forward Ricardo Velazco has provided an offensive spark, chipping in 19 points, 6 goals, and 7 assists on the year, and junior Joachim Ball has been consistent in the goal for the Cardinals. But the wins have been more of a collective effort.
"That's one of the great things about this team: that there's no one person carrying it," Lolla said. "We've relied heavily on getting it done as a group. Different people have risen to play a different part in it and help us get results."
Following the Cards' matches with Saint Louis and USF, the team, having locked-up the American Athletic Conference Tournament's top seed, will host their first round game of the AAC next Saturday. If they prevail at home, the Cards will then travel to Frisco, Texas, for the tournament's final two rounds.
Their performance in the AAC tournament will factor into the Cardinals seeding in the NCAA tournament, which starts on Nov. 21.