December 3rd, 2010
St. X Grads Helping Cards Make History
Crick, Smith enjoying UofL's rise to soccer prominence
A little more than three years ago, Jimmy Crick and Ryan Smith were celebrating with their St. Xavier High School soccer teammates at Georgetown College's Toyota Stadium.
They had just captured the KHSAA boys soccer state championship and finished the season undefeated, 25-0.
Today they are still teammates, they are still playing, and they are still undefeated.
Crick and Smith are members of the country’s top-ranked University of Louisville men’s soccer team. The Cardinals are 18-0-3, the top seed in the NCAA championship and host UCLA Saturday at Cardinal Park. The winner heads to California and continues the quest for the College Cup, soccer’s version of the Final Four.
Crick, a junior midfielder and 4.0 student, says winning is an attitude which he’s blessed to have been part of at St. X and UofL.
“Coach (Ken) Lolla pushes us to be better in everything, in training, in school, everywhere,” Crick explains. “Every day we want to be better than the last day. We always believe we’re not as good as we’re going to be. To get to this point, playing for a national championship, you have to have that attitude. It was like that at St. X with Coach (Andy) Schulten, too. We expect to go into a game and dominate.”
The Cardinals have blasted onto the national soccer scene in just five years under the direction of Lolla. In his first season, UofL won five games. The Cardinals have won a total of 53 in the past four seasons, including 18 victories this year.
A good chunk of that success comes from recruiting. Crick admits that even though he is a Cardinal fan, he really wasn’t interested in attending UofL.
“I liked the idea of going away for college until Coach Lolla contacted me.” Crick admits. “Academically, with athletics and the facilities, it became more apparent to me that soccer was going to go places here and would be on the national stage soon. I wanted to be a part of that.”
His longtime teammate, sophomore midfielder Ryan Smith, came in with another view. He grew up in a house full of University of Kentucky fans.
“It was UK the whole time until my senior year,” Smith quips with a grin. “When I met Coach Lolla, I saw the style of play and saw what the team did on a daily basis I decided to be a Cardinal.”
Smith has even said Coach Lolla’s positive demeanor may be the coach’s most amazing personality trait.
“He is always so positive. He sends us an email or text every day reminding us to be positive,” Smith continues. “Even on days when nothing is going right or it may be hard to push a little more, he’s there. He’s there to encourage us and help us fight through it.”
When the Cardinals host UCLA Saturday night at 7pm, they will have at least a couple things in their favor.
One, the Bruins will be dealing with cold temperatures (game time temperature is expected to be around 37 degrees), something they aren’t used to in California.
Two, the crowd will be large and loud. In the past two NCAA tournament matches, an average 5,000 fired-up Cardinal fans converged on Cardinal Park to witness more Louisville sports history. Smith says, “the support you feel, knowing they are there to watch you succeed, you don’t want to let them down. It’s an awesome feeling.”
“We feel that lift,” Crick adds. “There’s no doubt about that.”