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Louisville Soccer Gears Up For Another NCAA Tournament Run

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The Louisville men's soccer team earned its seventh-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament when it was announced as an at-large selection into the 48-team field Monday morning.

The Cards will begin what they hope is their fourth straight trip to (at least) the Elite 8 on Thursday night at 7 when they host Denver in a first round match. The winner of that contest will travel to face No. 11 overall seed Michigan State on Nov. 24.

For a complete look at the tournament, check out the NCAA's interactive bracket.

Summit League champion Denver, which is riding an eight-game winning streak and a 14-game unbeaten streak entering Thursday's match, will be making its third NCAA Championship appearance since 2008. The Pioneers earned an at-large berth in 2010 and an automatic bid in 2008, falling in the first round in each of those seasons.

The Cardinals are led this season by AAC Defensive Player of the Year Jimmy Ockford, as well as first team all-conference players Ricardo Velazco and Marlon Hairston. Starting all 18 games along the backline for Louisville, Ockford has been a key defensive presence while also providing scoring punch connecting for four goals, including three game-winners. Velazco was one of the most versatile and explosive offensive players in the conference this fall leading the American in points (23), while ranking second in assists with nine and placing fourth in goals with seven. Hairston, who started all 18 games for the Cardinals playing both in the midfield and as a forward, scored three goals with two assists.

Senior Zach Bolden, the Summit League Offensive Player of the Year, leads the attack for the Pioneers with 10 goals and nine assists in 18 matches. Senior Theodor Remman was selected as the league's Defensive Player of the Year, while junior Oliver Brown was chosen as the Goalkeeper of the Year.

Thursday's match could very well be the last major U of L soccer event to take place inside Cardinal Park. Next season, the Cards will move into the new Dr. Mark and Cindy Lynn Stadium, which is currently under construction across the street from PJCS.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Ken Lolla leading the Cards on a postseason run has become one of my new favorite holiday traditions. Here's hoping we get to enjoy another helping over the course of the next few weeks.