NCAA Tournament – First Round Preview – Louisville vs Illinois State

Saturday, 1:00 PM – Louisville vs Illinois State

If you like offense, Louisville might tickle your fancy on Saturday afternoon when the home Cardinals face off against an Illinois State side that’s more than capable of causing a shock in this first round game. Louisville was just nipped to the post in the title race in the AAC this season, falling one point short of a league title to champions UCF. The Cardinals scored twenty-six goals in nine league games and had three or more goals in ten of their eighteen games thus far. It’s been a North American connection that’s done the damage for Louisville thus far, with Mexican Charlyn Corral and Canadian Christine Exeter terrorizing opposing defenses all season long. Corral has effective made The Leap this season, scoring thirteen goals and assisting on eleven others, meaning she’s had a hand in over half the club’s goals this season. Exeter’s bounced back in fine fashion after a disappointing 2012 season, getting herself back in the discussion for a potential allocated slot for Canada in the NWSL next season. Nine goals and eleven assists have been a great return, and Exeter and Corral are probably going to need to continue their scoring exploits, as the defense has been far from airtight this season. The 5-4 defeat to Illinois was an eye opener, and Louisville has given up multiple goals in ten of eighteen games this season, including eight goals in their past three. The talent is clearly on the offensive side of the ball, and they’ve also got a rookie in goal in Paige Brown, exacerbating some of the worries. First round opponents Illinois State has the firepower to really give Louisville some trouble, and though I think the home side will squeak through, they are very much on upset alert on Saturday.

Opponents Illinois State themselves have an offense capable of giving many defenses fits. The Redbirds stomped their MVC competition, going a perfect 6-0-0 in the league, scoring eighteen and conceding just two. They finished the job in the MVC Tournament, making one of last Sunday’s most emphatic statements by crushing Indiana State to claim the league’s auto bid. All hasn’t been copacetic in Normal though. This club’s defensive record in the league is very deceiving when you look at their defensive performance in a very tough non-conference season. Four goals shipped to Wisconsin and Minnesota and five to Illinois send up a pretty big alarm. As do defeats to the likes of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Kansas right before the club began to tear apart the MVC. Still, ISU did manage to shock Marquette in mid-September, racing out to an early lead before holding on for dear life. It’s a testament to the club’s attack, spearheaded by Rachel Tejada, who got a great running mate this season in rookie Hannah Leinert, the MVC Tournament MVP and Freshman of the Year. Tejada and Leinert both scored fifteen goals and have a chance to find a lot of joy against a Louisville defense that has definitely shown a soft underbelly at times this year. Add in ancillary weapons like Kyla Cross and Dagny Olson, and you’ve got an offense loaded with firepower. The defense remains a big stumbling block though, as even the displays against MVC opposition aren’t going to wipe away the memories of the non-conference struggles. Goalkeeper Aryn Newsom was the MVC’s best in net, and she’ll need to play out of her mind to give her chance a shot at an upset. ISU’s bound to make it entertaining, and writing them off would be a big mistake given their earlier win at Marquette. On the whole though, Louisville’s got just as many weapons as ISU, is more battle tested, and has home advantage, making it hard to tip the upset.

Prediction – Louisville 3 – 1 Illinois State

Illinois State Tournament Prediction – First Round
Louisville Tournament Prediction – Second Round

This entry was posted in NCAA Women's Soccer on by Chris Henderson.

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