LEXINGTON, Ky. -- For the fifth time in the history of the Kentucky men’s soccer program and the first time since 2003, the team has earned a NCAA Tournament bid and will host Xavier in the first round. Kickoff is slated for Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at the UK Soccer Complex.
Kentucky will be making its fifth all-time NCAA Tournament appearance and its first appearance since the 2003 season. UK will be hosting for just the second time in school history, also hosting Cincinnati in the first round in 2003. The winner of the UK-Xavier game will advance to face No. 16 seed Indiana in Bloomington, Ind., the following week.
“We are thrilled for our student-athletes,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “They absolutely deserve the opportunity to play in the NCAA Tournament and our coaching staff could not be more excited that their hard work and dedication has paid off. This is the first step in building our program to where we want it to go and their commitment and work ethic have truly been a joy to be a part of. I am so proud of this group and can’t wait to experience the NCAA Tournament with them and all of Big Blue Nation on Friday.”
The game with Xavier will be broadcast live on the UK IMG Radio Network, with Neil Price calling the action. Fans can hear the game live on UKathletics.com, in addition to a live blog from the UK Soccer Complex. The game will also be streamed live to UKatlhetics.com.
The berth for the Wildcats was earned during the first season for Cedergren, who along with his assistant coaches David Casper and Erik Imler, have helped transform UK from its first ever exclusion in the Conference USA Tournament in 2011 to just the fifth NCAA Tournament bid in program annals.
UK opened up the year with a 0-3 record and a 1-4 start, facing three top-25 teams to open its slate. After a 1-0 loss to No. 4 Charlotte, UK posted a 1-0 win at No. 18 Louisville to kick off a blistering pace to conclude the regular-season. Over its last 15 games, the Wildcats have posted a 9-4-2 record, setting new school records for games played against top-25 foes and wins over ranked opponents. In addition, UK posted a 6-2 record on the road in 2012, its best road record since the 1995 season.
Kentucky enters the NCAA Tournament owning a No. 25 RPI, its highest NCAA RPI to conclude the regular-season in the modern-era history of the program (2003-present). UK, which owns the second-best RPI in the league – also boasts the No. 22 strength of schedule in the latest Massey Ratings.
The Wildcats are coming off a third-place finish in the C-USA Tournament, hosted by UAB at Regions Park in Hoover, Ala. UK posted a 1-0 win over Memphis in the quarterfinals, before facing regular-season champion, No. 19 SMU in the semifinals. The teams played through two overtimes to a 2-2 draw, with the Mustangs advancing to the title game on penalty kicks, 4-1.
UK senior midfielder Cameron Wilder and junior first-team All-Conference USA defender Steven Perinovic were named to the C-USA All-Tournament Team on Sunday. Wilder, a second-team All-Conference USA selection, netted his first career goal in the draw with SMU. UK also got the first career goal from senior defender Jacob Kemper in the win over Memphis, a majestic strike from 30-yards out for the game-winning tally.
LEADING THE WILDCATS
UK has been led in 2012 by an explosive offensive attack under Johan Cedergren, an attacking system that utilizes a possession-based style. UK has averaged 1.70 goals per game in 2012, totaling 34 tallies in 20 games. UK has averaged 13.2 shots per contest and owns a 124-89 advantage in corner kicks. Defensively, UK boasts a 1.22 goals-against average with six shutouts.
Individually, Tyler Riggs has led UK with 18 points, netting seven goals with four assists on 38 shots. First-team All-Conference USA midfielder Matt Lodge has seven goals and three assists, while senior Charley Pettys has six goals and three assists. Senior midfielder Gabriel Conelian has added five goals and three assists, while third-team All-Conference USA defender Dylan Asher has four goals. Jacob Kemper leads the team with five assists and a goal, while freshman Bryan Celis has a goal and four assists. Cameron Wilder, Steven Perinovic and Dustin Scibilia have each charted a goal, while freshman Kristoffer Tollefsen has two assists.
In goal, junior Jack Van Arsdale – a second-team All-Conference USA honoree – has a 1.11 goals-against average in 18 games, saving 55 shots and charting five clean sheets. Freshman Callum Irving has started three games in the between the pipes for UK, owning a 2.00 goals-against average with a shutout and seven saves.
SCOUTING THE MUSKETEERS
Xavier (13-2-5, 6-1-2 Atlantic-10) has outscored its opponents 47-19 in 2012, averaging 2.35 goals per game and 16.8 shots a contest. XU has a 120-79 advantage in corner kicks and boasts a 0.90 goals-against average. Xavier has wins over Wright State, Cincinnati, IUPUI, Milwaukee, IPFW, Missouri State, Thomas More, Saint Louis, Butler, St. Bonaventure, Richmond, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Xavier’s only two losses came to No. 25 St. Louis – one of two top-25 foes – and a 4-1 setback at Virginia Commonwealth. Xavier has ties with No. 20 Northwestern, Virginia, Dayton, Duquesne and Dayton.
The Musketeers are coming off a 1-0 loss to No. 2 seed St. Louis in the A-10 Tournament in Charlotte, N.C. XU posted a 1-1 draw with Dayton in the opener, before advancing on penalty kicks, 3-2.
Xavier has been led individually by Luke Spencer, who has 13 goals and seven assists, firing 66 shots. Matt Walker has 10 goals and nine assists, while Gino DePauli has six goals and nine assists. Will Walker has added seven goals and five assists, while Adar Cohen has eight assists. In goal, Justin Marshall has played in 20 games with a 0.88 goals-against average, saving 54 shots.
UK leads the all-time series history with Xavier, 6-3, trailing 2-3 all-time in games played in Lexington. UK won the last meeting between the two teams in 2009, a 1-0 result in Cincinnati. Xavier won three consecutive meetings in 1996-2001-2008, before UK’s 1-0 win in 2009. UK opened the series with five consecutive wins, including a 2-1 result in the first meeting in the series.