From unranked to the Elite Eight, the UMBC men's soccer team continued its remarkable run through the NCAA tournament on Sunday night.
The Retrievers upset No. 13 national seed Louisville 1-0 on a first-half penalty kick by senior midfielder Mamadou Kansaye (McDonogh), but don't call them Cinderella.
“No, I feel like our team is special in the sense that we play like champions every day, so to say that this is a Cinderella story, I just don't buy into that,” Kansaye said. “When you train like champions every day, the games are just another day. This is not a Cinderella story, we're here and we're going to do the best we can in order to win.”
Retrievers coach Pete Caringi has a term he prefers to Cinderella.
“I just think this is a team of destiny,” Caringi said. “As the [Louisville] shots were going wide, I just didn't think the ball was going to go in for them. ...
“When it's 15 minutes to go and they are sending everything at you and the shots just aren't going in, obviously we are hanging on, but you are start to think maybe this is your year. ... For the last three years we have been very successful, and I think nationally we are never going to be recognized. People don't even know who we are, and I think we feed off of that.”
All of college soccer is watching the Retrievers now. UMBC, unbeaten in its past nine matches and ranked No. 10 in the nation by Top Drawer Soccer, will face 12th-seeded and eighth-ranked Creighton on Friday in Omaha, Neb. The Bluejays (16-3-2) defeated visiting Xavier, 2-1, on Sunday.
The Retrievers (14-5-4) notched their third consecutive win over a national power program. They advanced past Wake Forest on penalty kicks following a scoreless draw, then beat No. 4 national seed Maryland 1-0 before eliminating Louisville.
“We have a chip on our shoulder, and we believe this is our year,” Caringi said. “It seems like every game we play in, everyone is talking about the other team. That is to be expected, but to beat Wake on the road, to beat Maryland on the road and to beat Louisville on the road is quite an accomplishment, but we don't feel like we are done.”
The game-winning goal came in the 22nd minute after UMBC senior forward Kay Banjo took a shot from just inside the box which struck a Louisville defender on the hand. On the ensuing penalty kick, Kansaye struck the ball into the top left of the net above the hands of Louisville's diving goalkeeper, Joachim Ball.
The goal was Kansaye's fifth of the season. Kansaye has taken all three of UMBC's penalty kicks this season, and he scored on all three. The Baltimore native (McDonogh) is UMBC's second-leading scorer behind Banjo, who has eight goals this season.
UMBC was the aggressor for most of the first half. Among Louisville's four first-half shots was one on goal in the 15th minute, a header by midfielder Andrew Brody that UMBC goalie Billy Heavner saved.
Louisville (11-8-3) was more aggressive in the second half as it tried to find an equalizer.
“It was a night where, in the first half, I felt like we just wasted 45 minutes,” Cardinals coach Ken Lolla said. “We didn't put into it what we did in the second half, and 45 minutes of effort wasn't good enough tonight. ... They found a way to get a goal, and we didn't. That's the game of soccer.”
In the 61st minute, Cardinals defender Shane Campbell headed an attempt that lofted just above the crossbar and landed on top of the net. In the 71st minute, Louisville defender Michael DeGraffenreidt, another Baltimore native (Loyola Blakefield), sent a shot wide right of the net.
“Our whole team from Kay all the way back to the back line played incredible team defense,” Heavner said. “We didn't give much up. They were a very good team. They are a very good attacking team. They put some good combinations together, but we made the plays we needed to make and got the shutout.”
UMBC finished with eight shots, including two on goal. Louisville had 13 shots, including four on goal. Heavner finished with four saves. The sophomore has yet to allow a goal in NCAA tournament play.
NOTES: This is UMBC's deepest postseason run in school history. ... UMBC is 9-1 this season when leading at halftime. ... Caringi, now in his 24th season, is 31st in total victories among active coaches. ... UMBC senior defender Jordan Becker played in his 82nd career game, breaking Louie Karko's school record set in 1997-2000. ... Heavner is 11-1-2 on the season.