Behind goals from Will Vitalis and Ricardo Velazco, the 14th-ranked Louisville men’s soccer team advanced to the title match of the 2014 ACC Championship with a 2-1 triumph over No. 1 ranked Syracuse in Friday night’s semifinal at WakeMed Soccer Park.
Making its first conference tournament title game appearance since winning the 2010 Big East Championship, sixth-seeded Louisville (10-6-3) will face 19th-ranked and fourth-seeded Clemson on Sunday at 2 p.m., ET in a nationally televised match on ESPNU. The Tigers earned their title match berth by defeating No. 2 Notre Dame in penalty kicks (5-4) after playing to a 1-1 draw in Friday’s first semifinal.
“It’s been a tremendous growth experience for us to play levels of competition like Syracuse tonight and we feel because of that we continue to get better,” said Louisville head coach Ken Lolla. “I’m proud of their effort and we are excited to be playing in our first championship game and having the chance to win an ACC title.”
The Cardinals opened the scoring late in the first half on Friday when Vitalis (Crestwood, Ky.) scored inside the left post from six yards away for a 1-0 advantage in the 42nd minute. The chance started when Velazco (Casa Grande, Ariz.) played a cross from the backline into the box where Vitalis charged inside a Syracuse defender and got a boot on the ball for his second goal of the season. The assist for Velazco was his team-leading fifth of the year.
After holding the one-goal cushion into the halftime break, Louisville added to the margin early in the second half when Velazco was on the finishing end of a free kick chance for a 2-0 advantage in the 65th minute. Tim Kubel (Stuttgart, Germany), the 2014 ACC Freshman of the Year, set the table with a free kick deep into the box where senior Daniel Keller (Carmel, Ind.) headed the ball to the far post for the finish. It was the fifth goal of the season and the 12th in the two-year Louisville career for Velazco.
Syracuse (15-3-1) cut the deficit in half in the 77th minute when Alex Halis finished from inside the six following a rebound off a saved shot by Louisville’s Joachim Ball (Villingen-Schwenningen, Germany). However, the third goal of the season by Halis was as close as the Orange could get as they were beaten by the Cardinals for the second time this season. In 19 matches in 2014, Syracuse has allowed just nine goals with Louisville scoring four in those its two wins.
“I think we just play our style and try to find the back of the net every time we play,” Velazco said. “It’s the same if we play Syracuse or Notre Dame or whoever it is. We have the same goal and the same mentality.”
Ball finished the night with four saves for the Cardinals, who won for the second straight match despite being out-shot as the Orange finished with a 7-5 edge on Friday. The teams combined for only three corner kick chances with Syracuse holding a 2-1 advantage.
Louisville has four wins this season over opponents ranked either No. 1 or No. 2 in the nation, including each of the first two victories in the ACC Championship (No. 2 North Carolina in the quarterfinals). Friday’s triumph is also the Cardinals’ first win over a No. 1 ranked team since defeating top-ranked UConn in 2005.
2015 Season Tickets
Season tickets for Louisville’s second season at Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium are now available. To obtain tickets for the 2015 soccer season, call Dan Cerwinski in the Louisville ticket office at (502) 852-0120 and place your $70 deposit. Ticket prices for the 2015 season will remain the same as the inaugural season and will start as low $45.
Season tickets for 2015 include every home match for both the men’s and women’s soccer programs. Men’s home matches at Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium will feature former Big East and American Conference rival Connecticut as well as in-state foe Kentucky. The women’s side will again feature the top programs in the ACC highlighted by 21-time national champion North Carolina, 2013 College Cup runner-up Florida State and Duke.
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