The Kentucky women’s soccer team jumps right into the fire Thursday, as they host the eighth ranked Texas Longhorns (1-0-0) in their 2008 season opener.
The match represents the first of four contests against Top 20 opponents in UK’s first five matches. Following a trip to Cincinnati next week, the Cats will take on 16th ranked Duke, second ranked North Carolina and 11th ranked West Virginia.
“This year, we’re going out there to see how the first games prepare us for the SEC, because anyone who knows the Southeastern Conference in any sport, knows it’s a grind day in and day out,” said head coach Warren Lipka. “The games are going to be difficult and we need to get these ladies prepared to play at that sort of level every time they step on the field.”
The Wildcats and the Longhorns have never met in soccer, while Kentucky owns a 1-3-1 record against the Big 12.
UT opened their season last week, with a 4-0 victory over Samford. Texas is led offensively by Stephanie Logterman, who tallied two goals and an assist in that match.
The Wildcats will counter the Longhorn offensive attack with a defensive back line that returns all four starters for the second straight season, in addition to sophomore goalie Sydney Hiance.
“Heading into the season, the strength of our team is the defending side of the ball,” said Lipka. “The players with the most experience are our back four. They have been together for over two years now which will work towards our advantage. It’s so crucial in women’s soccer that you have a solid goalkeeper and a good back line because it makes or breaks the game.
“Sydney (Hiance) gained a lot of experience because she was thrown into SEC play as a freshman, and that is a tough thing to handle. I think she did a great job, especially towards the end of the season.”
The UK defense is anchored by junior Julie Hull, a 2007 Great Lakes All-Region performer. Playing along side her are seniors Tara Herold and Kate Hughes, as well as junior Ashley Stack.
Offensively, the Wildcats return four of its top five scorers from last season including Alicia Browning (9p, 4g, 1a), Nicola Holdsworth (9p, 3g, 3a), Laura Novikoff (8p, 4g) and Kate Hughes (6p, 3g).
Kentucky will be facing a Top 15 ranked program to open the season for the second straight year. The Wildcats tied No. 15 Purdue in West Lafayette to open the 2007 campaign.
Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. ET. The first 50 fans will receive a free $5 concessions voucher, while the first 50 UK students will receive a free 2008 women’s soccer t-shirt.