When it comes to building a soccer program into a national power, head coach Ken Lolla has the Midas touch, making him the perfect fit when the University of Louisville needed to find a coach that could take a program with no winning tradition and make it into a national contender.
Lolla did that in just two short seasons, turning Louisville into a Top 25 program and earning its first NCAA Tournament bid. And in his fifth season at Louisville, the Cardinals advanced to the College Cup championship game for the first time in school history. Prior to Lolla's arrival, the Louisville men's soccer program had managed just seven winning seasons in 27 years as a varsity program and had never advanced to the NCAA Championship.
In the last eight seasons, Lolla has guided Louisville to a national runner-up, four more Elite Eight appearances and seven total NCAA Championship berths. The 2017 season featured the second straight NCAA quarterfinal berth for the Cardinals, who were 13-2-5 overall and ranked No. 7 in the final United Soccer Coaches Top 25. Louisville finished second in the ACC Atlantic with a 5-2-1 conference mark.
Louisville was led by senior Tim Kubel, who concluded his final collegiate season as a United Soccer Coaches First Team All-American, semifinalist for the MAC Hermann Trophy and an All-ACC First Team honoree while scoring six goals with seven assists in 19 matches in 2017. Junior Tate Schmitt was an All-ACC Second Team honoree and a United Soccer Coaches All-South Region Third Team selection while leading the Cardinals with nine goals, including four game-winners. Senior Mohamed Thiaw was an All-ACC Second Team performer scoring eight goals overall.
The Cardinals ranked sixth in the nation in shutout percentage (.600) registering 12 shutouts in their 20 matches in 2017 as redshirt freshmen Will Meyer and Jake Gelnovatch shared the goalkeeping duties. Meyer earned seven of the 12 shutouts and was in goal for six wins, while Gelnovatch had five shutouts and earned seven victories. Louisville was 12th in the NCAA in goals against average (.661).
In 2016, the Cardinals advanced to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Championship and was ranked No. 6 in the final coaches polls. Louisville was 14-6-2 overall and finished second in the ACC Atlantic Division with a 5-2-1 conference mark. The 14 wins for UofL in 2016 were the third most in school history equaling the totals of the 2011 and 2012 teams, which also advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals.
Thiaw led Louisville with 12 goals, tied for the fourth highest total in a season in school history. Kubel matched a single season school record with his team-leading 11 assists (fifth in the nation), while the 10 shutouts for graduate goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland were the most in a season since Andre Boudreaux had 11 in 2011.
Kubel was named Second Team All-America by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America, was a MAC Hermann Trophy semifinalist and was an All-ACC First Team honoree in 2016. Both Kubel and Thiaw were named to the Top Drawer Soccer Best XI teams as Kubel earned first team recognition and Thiaw was a second team honoree. Thiaw was also an All-ACC First Team selection, while Geoffrey Dee and Daniel Johnson were All-ACC Third Team members.
Following the season, four Cardinals were selected in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Johnson went 11th overall to the Chicago Fire, which also selected graduate goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland as the fourth selection in the second round and 26th overall. Senior defender Michael DeGraffenreidt went in the third round (60th selection overall) to New York City FC and senior midfielder Romilio Hernandez was chosen in the fourth round (80th overall) by the Portland Timbers. The Cardinals equaled a school record with four MLS SuperDraft picks matching the totals from 2012 and 2013. Louisville's four selections also tied for the highest total from any school in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft.
The 2014 season featured the Cardinals' debut in the powerful Atlantic Coast Conference, where they advanced to the title match of the ACC Championship. The Cardinals entered the NCAA Championship seeded 13th overall and advanced to the round of 16 for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Overall, Louisville advanced to the NCAA Championship for the eighth straight season while also hosting postseason matches for the fifth straight year.
The Cardinals also led the nation in total attendance as 46,433 fans attended the Cardinals' 13 home matches this season. With an average of 3,572, Louisville ranked second nationally in per match attendance while the season was highlighted by the 7,047 fans for the opening-night victory over Maryland.
Individually, defender Tim Kubel was named 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year while midfielder Ben Strong and forward Ricardo Velazco earned All-ACC honors during the Cardinals' inaugural season in the conference. Along with being named as the ACC Freshman of the Year, Kubel was also named to the All-ACC Second Team and was a member of the ACC All-Freshman Team. Strong was selected to the All-ACC First Team, while Velazco was named All-ACC Third Team.
Following the season, senior defender Daniel Keller was selected in the third round (62nd overall) of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft by the LA Galaxy.
In 2013, the Cardinals won the inaugural American Conference regular season championship, hosted an NCAA Championship match for the 10th time and advanced to the second round before falling at Michigan State. Jimmy Ockford was chosen as the AAC Defensive Player of the Year to lead a group of five all-conference selections, including forward Ricardo Velazco and midfielder Marlon Hairston on the first team and midfielder Andrew Brody and defender Michael DeGraffenreidt on the second team. Both Brody and DeGraffenreidt were also listed on the American Conference All-Rookie Team. The honors continued for Brody, who was named to the Soccer America All-Freshman Second Team and was also a TopDrawerSoccer.com Freshman XI First Team selection.
Following the season, Hairston and Ockford were selected in the 2014 Major League Soccer SuperDraft continuing a trend for the Cardinals. Hairston was chosen 12th overall by the Colorado Rapids to become fifth Louisville player drafted in the first round in the last three years, while Ockford went in the second round at No. 21 overall to the Seattle Sounders.
In 2012, the Cardinals won the BIG EAST Red Division for the third time in four years before advancing to the Elite Eight for the second straight season. Following the season, three Cardinals were selected in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft. Andrew Farrell was the No. 1 overall pick in the draft by New England, while Greg Cochrane signed with the LA Galaxy and Paolo DelPiccolo signed with the Montreal Impact.
In his sixth season Lolla followed up a national championship appearance with another exciting run to the Elite Eight. Lolla set up the toughest schedule in school history to prepare the Cardinals for the postseason and the plan paid off. After struggling early in the year the Cardinals came on strong losing just one game from Oct. 22 to Nov. 28.
Once again the Cardinals made another exciting run into the NCAA Tournament. Louisville was the No. 12 seed in the tournament and earned a first round bye for the second straight year. The Cardinals defeated Bradley 3-2 in double overtime of the second round before winning at Maryland 4-2. Louisville returned home to face UCLA for the third time in a year's span and after defeating the Bruins in the first two matchups, the luck ran out as the Cardinals lost 1-0 in double overtime.
While the season had ended, many honors poured in for the Cardinal senior class. Austin Berry was named an All-American for the second straight year. Seniors Berry, Colin Rolfe, Nick DeLeon, Kenney Walker and Andre Boudreaux all earned All-BIG EAST honors. Rolfe became the first finalist for the Lowe's Senior Class Award in school history. Berry, DeLeon and Rolfe all earned NSCAA Great Lakes Region honors as well.
School history was made when four Louisville players were selected in the 2012 MLS Super Draft. Three of the four players were selected in the first round with Nick DeLeon leading the way as the No. 7 pick by the DC United.
In his fifth season, Lolla guided the Cardinals to a school record 20-1-3 record and their first College Cup appearance. Louisville earned its highest ranking at No. 1 in most polls heading into the postseason. The Cardinals entered their fourth consecutive postseason as the top seed in the NCAA Tournament, marking another first for the Cardinals. Lolla led Louisville to a remarkable NCAA Tournament run that saw the Cardinals draw record crowds of more than 5,000 for every game at Cardinal Park. The Cardinals advanced to their first national championship appearance before losing a heartbreaker to Akron (1-0).
For the second straight season, the Cardinals had two players earn All-American honors. Rolfe was named a consensus first team All-American while Berry earned second team honors. Freshman Dylan Mares was also named a Freshman All-American. Rolfe became the first player in school history to be named a Hermann Trophy Finalist, the most prestigious award in collegiate soccer. Lolla earned numerous honors as well, he was named the 2010 NSCAA/Mondo Coach of the Year, Soccer America Coach of the Year and NSCAA Great Lakes Coach of the Year.
Louisville won its second straight BIG EAST Red Division title and captured its first BIG EAST Tournament title in 2010. The Cardinals earned three major BIG EAST awards in the regular season - Berry was named Defender of the Year, Mares was named BIG EAST Rookie of the Year and Lolla and his staff earned Co-BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year honors. Three Cardinals earned first team All-BIG EAST honors, Rolfe, Berry and DeLeon. Mares earned second team and all-rookie team honors. Walker and Paolo DelPiccolo earned third team honors, making the 2010 squad the most decorated in school history. After winning the BIG EAST Tournament Rolfe was named the Offensive Most Valuable Player and Andre Boudreaux was named the Defensive Most Valuable Player. Berry and JT Murray were named to the BIG EAST All-Tournament team.
Capping off a record setting season, seniors Murray and Charlie Campbell were drafted in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft. It was the first time in school history that two players were taken in the MLS Draft.
In 2009, Lolla guided the Cardinals to their first BIG EAST title after finishing 8-2-1 in the Red Division. The Cardinals set records in wins and shutouts with 13. The Cardinals also earned their highest ranking at the time at No. 5 in the nation. The Cardinals also advanced to the BIG EAST semifinals. Senior Phil Edginton was named BIG EAST Co-Defensive Player of the Year while Lolla and his staff were named BIG EAST Coaching Staff of the Year. Edginton and Rolfe earned first team All-BIG EAST honors, marking another first in Louisville history. The Cardinals earned their third consecutive NCAA Tournament bid. Edginton and Rolfe earned numerous All-American honors. Rolfe became the first Cardinal to be named a semifinalist for the Hermann Trophy. DelPiccolo also earned Freshman All-American honors. Topping off an impressive season, Othaniel Yanez was drafted by the Columbus Crew and made the final roster.
In 2008, Lolla guided the Cards to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances. Louisville pulled off upsets of No. 3 Notre Dame and No. 2 St. John's in back-to-back games, earning their highest ranking at the time at seventh in the nation. Once again the Cardinals earned a spot in the BIG EAST Tournament and advanced to the quarterfinals but fell to Notre Dame 1-0 in South Bend. Rolfe earned BIG EAST Rookie of the Year honors while Aaron Clapham and Berry also earned All-BIG EAST honors. The Cardinals then earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, making the first back-to-back appearance in school history. The Cards' season ended in the first round with a 4-3 overtime loss to Jacksonville.
Lolla's 2007 squad put together back-to-back wins over ranked opponents to begin the month of October. The Cardinals defeated No. 12 South Florida followed by an overtime win over No. 13 Indiana. It was the Cards' first win over Indiana and landed them in their first national ranking at No. 25 in the Soccer America Poll. Louisville finished the month of October with just one loss and finished second in the BIG EAST's Red Division and earned a first round bye for the tournament. The Cardinals then tied No. 14 West Virginia in the quarterfinals and advanced to their first semifinals on penalty kicks.
The Cardinals fell to BIG EAST champion Connecticut in the semifinals but earned their first at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. Lolla's squad was not happy just to be there, they were all business as they defeated No. 20 Duke 1-0 in Cardinal Park. Louisville faced No. 14 Ohio State in the second round in Columbus dropping a 1-0 decision to the Buckeyes to end the most successful season in school history.
In his first season with the Cardinals, Lolla doubled Louisville's BIG EAST win total from the previous season to finish with a 4-5-1 record. The Cardinals also qualified for the BIG EAST Tournament, making its first league tournament appearance in three seasons. The Cardinals made a dramatic improvement at the end of the season. Lolla's first squad finished their last three league games with a perfect record of 1-0-2.
Lolla came to Louisville after guiding Akron to its most successful season in school history with an impressive 18-1-4 record in the 2005 season. Lolla guided the Zips to a final ranking of fifth in the nation by the NSCAA/adidas poll and at one point in the season the Zips were ranked at the top of the polls.
Lolla guided the Zips to their eighth Mid-American Conference regular season title and their fourth MAC Tournament title. He was named MAC Coach of the Year for the fourth time. The Zips advanced to the NCAA Tournament Elite Eight and tied eventual national champion Maryland but in the final outcome fell 4-1 in penalty kicks. Akron also became the only school with two players named first team NSCAA All-Americans and a third player named to the second team.
Lolla spent the last 13 seasons at the University of Akron. During his tenure at Akron he compiled a 160-68-25 record along with eight MAC Championships and a school record five straight NCAA Tournament appearances.
In 2004, Lolla directed the Zips to the MAC Tournament title and a then school record fourth-consecutive NCAA Tournament berth. The Zips finished the season with a record of 13-5-3, making Lolla the all-time winningest coach in the program's storied 50-year history.
In 2003 Lolla's Zips finished 15-5-2 and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. Akron also became the first-ever MAC school to earn a tournament seeding, claiming the No. 15 spot and a first-round bye. During the 2002 season, the Zips made their second-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and won their second MAC Tournament championship.
That came after a 2001 season which was marked by several milestones for Lolla and his team. He notched his 100th coaching victory at Akron on Oct. 14, 2001 with a 1-0 win over Wright State. After a 10-6-1 season and second-place finishes in the Mid-American Conference regular season standings and tournament, the Zips became the first MAC school to receive an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Lolla's Akron squads were 62-9-5 all-time in regular-season MAC play and he has tutored 38 first-team All-MAC players.
In 1998, the Zips captured the regular-season MAC title with a 7-0-1 mark, and won their first MAC tournament title with a 4-1 win over Bowling Green to advance to the NCAA Tournament. Lolla earned his third MAC Coach of the Year honors and was named the NSCAA Great Lakes Region Coach of the Year.
The 1999 season brought Akron an unbeaten mark of 6-0-1 and its third-consecutive MAC title. Although the Zips posted a 4-2-0 MAC mark in 2000, they finished in a four-way tie for first place during the regular season.
In 1993, his first Akron squad captured the school's initial MAC title with a perfect 5-0-0 league mark. In 1995 the Zips once again went through MAC play 5-0-0 record. Lolla earned MAC Coach of the Year honors both seasons. Lolla was inducted into the Akron Hall of Fame last year.
Lolla has also taken his skills to the national level. In the fall of 1999, he was appointed head coach of the U.S. Soccer Federation Under-15 National Team. His travels with the national team have taken him around the world, including stops in Italy and South America.
Prior to his stint at Akron, Lolla posted a 49-16-3 record in three seasons at Belmont Abbey in Belmont, N.C., including a 19-3-2 mark in 1992. The Crusaders were the sixth-ranked team in the NAIA that season.
His Belmont Abbey clubs won three consecutive Carolinas Conference Championships which earned Lolla numerous accolades. He was named the Carolinas Conference Coach of the Year in 1990. In 1992, Lolla received NSCAA-NAIA National Coach of the Year honors.
As a player, Lolla was considered one of the finest midfielders in the Atlantic Coast Conference, earning all-conference honors three times and earned All-South and All-America honors in 1981 and 1983 while at Duke University. In 2002 he was one of 55 players named to the ACC's 50th Anniversary Men's Soccer Team.
Lolla played professionally for the Canton Invaders of the National Professional Soccer League from 1984 through 1988. In 1984, Lolla played professionally with the Charlotte Gold of the USL. He then moved to the Canton Invaders of the NPSL and finished his playing career with the New Jersey Eagles and the Penn-Jersey Spirit of the ASL in 1988 and 1989, respectively.
He also served as the Youth Development Director for the Canton Invaders in 1985 and 1986. He handled community and public relations in 1987 and 1988 in conjunction with appearances as a player for the NPSL franchise. Following his professional career, Lolla returned to Duke as an assistant coach in 1985 and then again for the 1988 and 1989 seasons.
Lolla holds a bachelor's degree in biology from Duke, which he received in 1983. He was a high school All-America pick in 1980 at St. Rose High School in Belmar, N.J. and also played on the U.S. Olympic Sports Festival teams in 1979 and 1983.
While playing in Canton, Ohio, Lolla, met his wife the former Tina Bowman. The couple resides in Louisville with their three children, Tyler, Kristiana and Elijah.