LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Senior forward Luke Spencer netted the go-ahead goal in the 86th minute to lift No. 19 Xavier to a 1-0 win over Kentucky in the first round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament, on a chilly Thursday night at the UK Soccer Complex.
Kentucky (10-9-2) hosted just its second NCAA Tournament game in the history of the program and its first since 2003. UK’s NCAA Tournament berth was also its first in nine seasons, with the Wildcats making its fifth all-time postseason appearance.
UK battled the high-powered Musketeers through the first 86 minutes, before Spencer connected on his team-leading 14th goal of the year. After XU held a 6-1 advantage in shots in the first half, UK mustered an 8-4 margin in shots in the second frame. XU finished with a 7-1 margin in corner kicks.
UK keeper Jack Van Arsdale kept the Wildcats in the game throughout, making three stellar saves, including two challenging efforts in the first half. A native of Richmond, Va., Van Arsdale finished his first year as the starting keeper with a 1.10 goals-against average, ranking as the 11th-best total in UK single-season history. Van Arsdale owns a 1.21 goals-against average in his two-year UK career, ranking sixth-best in UK history.
The Wildcats finished head coach Johan Cedergren’s first season with the NCAA Tournament hosting bid, a quarterfinals berth in the Conference USA Tournament and school-records for games against top-25 foes and wins over ranked opponents. Cedergren’s explosive offensive system resulted in one of the best teams in program annals, ranking 11th in wins (10), 10th in points (95), fifth in shots (274), 11th in goals-against average (1.10), fourth in corner kicks (125) and 10th in shutouts (six).
UK was led offensively by senior Matt Lodge, who shifted into the forward role vacated by UK injured leading scorer, Tyler Riggs and all-conference performer Dylan Asher. Lodge fired six of UK’s nine shots vs. XU, with junior Steven Perinovic, senior Jacob Kemper and freshman Bryan Celis each mustering an effort. Celis’ early shot in the first half forced a team save from Xavier.
A native of Rossington, England, Lodge and fellow co-captain Cameron Wilder helped lead UK back into the NCAA Tournament with inspired play throughout the year. Wilder anchored UK from a defensive midfield post, while Lodge will exit Kentucky as one of the most prolific goal-scoring threats in program history. Lodge finishes his UK career with 74 games played and 68 starts, totaling 24 goals and 18 assists, setting the UK career record with 209 shots. Lodge ranks sixth in UK career history in points, third in game-winning goals (nine), fourth in goals, third in assists and 10th in games started.
“I couldn’t be any prouder of these guys and the reason to why Matt (Lodge) and Cam (Wilder) are sitting here with (captain) arm bands is because they are two fantastic players and two fantastic people and I could not be any prouder of the two of them and what they’ve done this season,” Cedergren said. “They were here three years before we got here and it’s been some tough years for them but everything I have asked of them they have bought in 100 percent and they have been a huge part of why we have done so well this year.”
UK’s 2012 historic season was also boasted by the leadership from seniors Gabriel Conelian, Jacob Kemper, Charley Pettys and Byron Vega. Conelian finishes his UK career with five goals and three assists in 22 games, while Pettys nabbed 10 goals and 11 assists in his UK career. Kemper, who shined at outside back in Cedergren’s new attacking system, finished with a team-high five assists in 2012, owning a goal and seven assists in his career.
Xavier (14-2-5) keeper Justin Marshall worked his fourth clean sheet of the year, facing nine UK shots. The Musketeers will advance to face No. 16 overall seed Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., on Sunday in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
“I’d like to first thank the University of Kentucky for a first-class event,” Xavier head coach Andy Fleming. “From the minute we got notification that we’re playing here, I was blown away by their professionalism and attention to detail that facilitated us to playing an away game. I also want to commend Johan (Cedergren) and his staff, having taken over a program myself, it’s not the easiest thing to get everybody on board and find immediate success. That being said, they did it, I think there is certainly a great core there and if you look what is going on around here I think this program is certainly going to do great things.”
Xavier got the goal in the 86th frame, as Matt Walker and Will Walker took advantage of a counter-attack chance for the Musketeers. The Walker brothers found the dangerous Spencer at the top of the six-yard box, with the senior firing a one-touch volley into the back of the net at the far post for his 14th goal of the year.