It's the heaviest picture in college sports: the crestfallen senior who realizes she's played her final game. Memphis goaltender Elise Kuhar-Pitters — owner of more shutouts than any Memphis soccer player in history — sat in front of the goal she'd protected so well for four seasons. Ten minutes after time had expired in the Tigers' 2-0 loss to Louisville at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex, there Kuhar-Pitters sat, comforted by coaches and teammates, but crestfallen just the same. A great career ended.
Memphis entered their second-round match with a sparkling 22-0-1 record, one of two remaining undefeated teams in the tournament (the other being Stanford). But the Tigers were unable to find the Louisville net on a cold, blustery night that put a premium on sharp passes and protecting bad bounces.
There's considerable irony to the Cardinals' decisive goal being scored on just that: a bad bounce. In the game's 68th minute, Kuhar-Pitters misplayed a high lob that managed to get over her head for an easy tap-in header by Cardinal forward Kim Sharo. Certainly one of the softest goals allowed in her stellar career. Seven minutes later, Louisville again connected with a header, this one a brilliant dive inside the far post by Zakiya McIntosh on a low cross. It marked only the third time in 24 games that Memphis allowed multiple goals this season.
The Tigers outshot Louisville, 14-12.
Another great career cut short tonight was that of sweeper Lizzy Simonin. Conference USA's Defensive Player of the Year and a player Tiger coach Brooks Monaghan calls the finest captain he's ever coached, Simonin pulled her jersey up to her face as the final buzzer sounded. The jersey featured the same number 21 Larry Finch made so famous as a Tiger basketball star nearly two generations ago. Just like Finch, Simonin's career ended with the sudden heartbreak tournament play brings every team but one. For several minutes, Simonin bent over, away from her teammates and the celebrating Cardinals. Absorbing and rationalizing how something so great could turn so sour. So fast. Crestfallen.