LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky women’s soccer team (13-7-0, 6-5-0 Southeastern Conference) makes its eighth appearance in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Championship Saturday night, hosting the Washington State Cougars (12-6-3) at the UK Soccer Complex at 7:00 p.m. ET.
It marks the program’s first appearance in the NCAA Tournament since 2006.
The Wildcats received an at-large bid, its first since 2002, and are hosting for the first time since 1999, a process three years in the making under head coach Jon Lipsitz.
“We are just starting where we want to go,” Lipsitz said. “We are not where we want to be in the long run, but we are where we want to be today.”
The Wildcats and Cougars are fairly even on paper as well as in the eyes of Lipsitz.
“Pundits around the country are calling this the most evenly-matched first-round game out of the 32,” Lipsitz said. “I think that is pretty fair. I think it will be a very even match and it will come down to a couple of moments, and we know that, as well it should at this level. It should be tough.”
Kentucky and Washington State have met just once before. The Cougars defeated the Wildcats 2-0 in Lexington during the 1997 season.
UK is looking for its first NCAA Tournament victory, while Washington State is 2-5 all-time in the tournament.
The Wildcats are led offensively by senior captain Kelsey Hunyadi. Hunyadi is having a career year, tallying a career-high 36 points in regular season. She’s established career-highs in points (36), goals (13), assists (10), shots (84) and game-winning goals (4).It’s the second most points in a season by a Wildcat since Annie Gage tallied 39 in 1999.
The senior forward from Dublin, Ohio, ranks in the top 25 nationally in four categories and the top 40 of five. She ranks 20th nationally in assists (10), 21st in points (36) and assists/game (0.53), 23rd in points/game (1.8) and 36th in goals/game (0.65).
The Cougars are a very stingy team defensively, having allowed just 14 goals all season, with a schedule that includes top five teams Virginia and UCLA and top-ranked Stanford.
“They are incredibly organized defensively,” said Lipsitz. “If you look at their recent NCAA games, they are always 1-0. They remind me a lot of South Carolina in that way. We struggled with South Carolina in that way, and this year got over the hump against them because we found a way to get through a very difficult team defense to score. We are certainly emphasizing scoring first. The last thing we want is a team that prides itself on not giving up goals to give up one. That is a difficult thing to play against, so we don’t want to chase the game.
“We will be very aggressive, and we will be sending players forward. That is a risk. There is a point that if you send too many players forward, now their counter attack from being defensive will work. We have to be on that line, but we are not going to change who we are. If we want to win, we have to score.”
Tickets for the match are available for purchase by visiting the UK Ticket Office between the hours of 9:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m. ET or by calling 1.800.928.2287. Tickets can also be bought at the gate at the UK Soccer Complex. Ticket prices are $7 for adults, $5 for youth (ages 3-18) and $3 for seniors. Children ages two years and under are free.
University of Kentucky and Bluegrass Community Technical College (BCTC) students get in free with a valid student ID.
A free live video stream of the match along with live stats will be free on UKathletics.com.