After 29 years as men's head coach at Duke, John Rennie's career came to an end Friday night when the Blue Devils fell, 1-0, at Louisville in the first round of the NCAA Division I Men's Tournament.
Much had been expected of the Blue Devils' senior-laden team, so Friday's loss was an emotional end.
Besides Rennie, who announced his retirement at the beginning of the season, 13 seniors finished their careers at Cardinal Park. Many of them had been part of the team that reached the Men's College Cup in 2004, the fifth and final final four appearance for a Rennie team at Duke, and won the ACC Tournament in 2005 and 2006.
"It's not so much the loss but the fact that my entire career here at Duke soccer-wise has come to an end," said captain Tim Jepson afterwards. "It's humbling, it's real humbling."
Frank Jonke ripped a shot to the left corner of the net from 20 yards out that beat Duke goalkeeper Brendan Fitzgerald and gave Louisville the win in its first NCAA Tournament game.
Louisville is coached by Ken Lolla, a two-time All-America midfielder under Rennie at Duke and an assistant for the Duke squad in 1985 and 1988-1989.
"It's an honor to coach against him [Rennie] at any point, but this one is bittersweet," said Lolla. "I have such great respect for John and what he's done not just as a coach, but what he's done in my life for me in giving me the opportunity first to come to Duke and then to be a coach at Duke as well. He's done quite a bit for me both personally and professionally."
Duke finished at 11-8-1, having gone one and out in both the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament.
"They scored a great goal," said Rennie. "They took advantage of one of their chances early, so you've got to give them a lot of credit. It's very disappointing obviously."
With the loss, Rennie's record as a collegiate coach finishes at 454-206-50, putting him in fifth place all-time among NCAA Division I coaches for career wins. With his 410 victories at Duke and 95 in ACC play, Rennie has the most victories of any coach in ACC history. He won Duke's first national championship in any sport in 1986.
"It hasn't [hit me yet]. Right up to the end there you're just wrapped up in the game," said Rennie. "After the game, you see how badly the seniors hurt, and I'm one of those seniors, so it's not a good feeling."