LEXINGTON, Ky. -- On a Senior Day Sunday at the Kentucky Soccer Complex, senior forward Tyler Riggs netted goals in the 46th, 57th and 65th minutes for the ninth hat trick in school history, leading the Wildcats to a 6-1 smashing of Florida Atlantic to clinch a berth in the Conference USA Tournament.
Kentucky (6-8-2, 3-3-2 Conference USA) used the ninth hat trick in school history from Riggs for the win, which, combined with a Tulsa win over Florida International on Sunday, clinched a UK berth in the league tournament in Charlotte, N.C., Nov. 10-15.
A native of Louisville, Ky., Riggs battled tears during Kentucky’s pregame senior day festivities pregame, joining the four-man class of Brad Doliner, Steven Perinovic and Jack Van Arsdale. After freshman Kaelon Fox gave UK the lead in the 34th minute and Perinovic – a preseason All-America center back – netted the eventual game-winning goal in the 37th frame, his second career goal and first of 2013, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead at halftime.
Riggs then made history with his three-goal second half, getting his third goal of the year in the 46th minute, his fourth in the 57th and completing the hat trick in the 79th minute before subbing out for the remained of the match. Overall, he led UK with seven shots and his three goals came in just 24 minutes played in the second half.
“It was great for Riggs to get a hat trick,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “It just shows the kind of quality player he can be when he is really switched on. Tyler is just a couple of goals short of the all-time goal scoring record and maybe if we keep going for a while he will get there. A game like today, where he is switched on and is working really hard and is fighting for his team, there are few guys out there that are better. He is going to be huge for us going into the conference tournament.”
Kentucky added the first career goal from freshman Ryan Creel in the 79th minute for its final tally, with FAU getting a goal with five seconds remaining on the clock in regulation from Ronald Garcia for the 6-1 tally. UK got two-assist games from three players, including freshmen Napo Matsoso and Sam Miller, and junior Justin Laird. Sophomore midfielder Bryan Celis also recorded his third assist of the year and Creel assisted on the final Riggs goal of the game in the 79th minute, his first career.
Riggs, a St. Xavier product and three-time All-Conference USA selection, now has 28 goals in his decorated three-year career, the fourth-most in school history. Riggs has 65 points in his career, the seventh-most in UK history, with his 136 shots rank sixth in school annals and his seven game-winning scores checking in sixth-best. With the game-winning goal at Marshall on Wednesday, the two-time Academic All-America selection had four goals during the two-game week.
The hat trick marked the first for Kentucky since Dylan Asher netted three goals in a win over FIU in 2012. It marked the third consecutive year Kentucky has had a player go for a hat trick, as Matt Lodge scored three goals in a win over IPFW in 2011.
“Seemed like everything I touched, went positive,” Riggs said. “I am so thankful and it couldn’t have come at a better time. It is exciting. I have been waiting for (a hat trick) for a while. I have had a couple of two-goal games in my career but I couldn’t have pictured it any better than tonight. This was just a perfect night.”
Kentucky’s 6-1 win marked its most goals scored since a 6-0 win over Central Arkansas in 2008, with UK’s six goals marking the fourth-most in single-game history, done four times in UK history. The win was the largest in UK’s history (2004-13) in C-USA and marked UK’s largest league win since a 6-0 win over Marshall in 1999.
“What I liked about the team was they were really switched on,” Cedergren said. “They worked hard defensively. I feel really bad for Jack, giving up a goal that late. He is in the treatment room right now. But, it was close to being a shutout, which is very important to us. Overall, it was good, everyone got to play and everyone played well. We moved the ball around and we worked as a team. Team is something we have been stressing over the last couple of weeks that no matter what happens we have to stay together and stay as a team. I thought the guys did that tonight.”
UK honored seniors Riggs, Perinovic, Brad Doliner and Jack Van Arsdale pregame as part of senior day festivities.
“We are just a group of four that is very, very close,” Riggs said about the senior class. “They are just like my brothers. I am just happy to have been able to share this for them.”
“They bought in from day one,” Cedergren said about the senior class. “They tried to lead in their way. They have done what you’ve asked them to do. They are all four fantastic guys off the field. They work extremely hard in the classroom. It has been a real blessing to have them for two years. I am quite sad that I can’t have them for another. They have been really, really good. They have been a huge part of what we’ve done to this point and what we are doing going forward.”
The Wildcats finished with a 25-5 advantage in shots and a 9-3 advantage in corner kicks. UK sophomore goalkeeper Callum Irving worked 64 shutout minutes in the start, saving one shot, before Van Arsdale worked the final 25 minutes, surrendering the late tally to spoil the clean sheet.
“We knew we had to come out and get a result tonight and everyone came out and played really well,” Perinovic said. “Everyone knew what they had to do. Defense played well and our offense was firing on all cylinders tonight so it all came together.”
Florida Atlantic (6-6-2, 1-6-1 C-USA) got five saves from goalkeeper Theo Jamilloux in his 90 minutes.
UK will return to action in its home finale on Tuesday vs. Wright State at 7 p.m. ET at the UK Soccer Complex.
Fox, a native of Louisville, Ky., got UK on the board in the 34th minute, with his second goal of the year. He got the ball in midfield, shifting through traffic and finishing it at the top of the 18-yard box past the keeper at the far post.
In the 37th minute, the Wildcats got a corner kick goal, with Matsoso lofting a gorgeous cross into Perinovic, at the middle of the top of the six-yard box, who skied to head home his first goal of the year and the second of his 75-game UK career. It marked Kentucky’s first goal off a corner kick in 2013.
“I’ve been looking for a goal on a corner kick all year,” Perinovic said. “Napo whipped in a good ball today and I just got on the end of it and put it on frame. It was good to get on the board.”
Just 23 seconds into the second half, Riggs struck for his first goal, as Celis played the ball to Laird, who found Riggs for his third goal of the year.
“It is funny because at halftime, I told the guys that the next goal is either going to make it really interesting if they score or if we score it is going to kind of kill the game off,” Cedergren said. “Off course, Riggs couldn’t wait so he just scored right away.”
In the 57th minute, Matsoso took the ball down to the endline, lofting a cross into Laird, who flipped it off his head and to Riggs, who settled it with his left leg, bounced off his right foot and smashed home a low liner past a diving keeper at the far post.
Creel got his first career goal in the 65th minute, with Miller once again sparking the offense with a ball played through traffic. A native of Knoxville, Tenn., Creel settled it and fired it in the net at the far post.
Riggs completed the hat trick in the 79th minute, with Miller getting the ball from about 30 yards out, from Creel, and sending a left-footed ball through traffic towards the streaking, goal-scoring senior. He settled it with his left foot before getting off a low shot that, despite being deflected by a sliding defender, slipped into the goal at the far post, clinching the historic hat trick.
In the 90th minute, with five seconds remaining in regulation, Garcia finished a header at the far post, with Deniz Bozkurt, notching the assist.
KENTUCKY GAME NOTES
• Kentucky won its first meeting with FAU since 2006 and is now 2-0 all-time vs. the Owls.
• The hat trick marked the first for Kentucky since Dylan Asher netted three goals in a win over FIU in 2012.
It marked the third consecutive year Kentucky has had a player go for a hat trick, as Matt Lodge scored three goals in a win over IPFW in 2011.
• UK’s 20 points in the game marked its most since scoring 25 vs. Georgetown (Ky.) in 2008 and the fifth-most in UK history.
• The win was the largest in UK’s history (2005-13) in C-USA.
It marked UK’s largest league win since a 6-0 win over Marshall in 1999.
• UK’s four goals in the second half is the third-most in school history.
• Kentucky’s 6-1 win marked its most goals scored since a 6-0 win over Central Arkansas in 2008.
• UK’s six goals marking the fourth-most in single-game history, done four times in UK history.
• With the win and the Tulsa win over FIU on Sunday, Kentucky clinched a berth in the 2013 Conference USA Tournament.
Senior forward Tyler Riggs completed the ninth hat trick in program history with his first career three-goal game.
All of Riggs’ three goals game in his 24 minutes played in the second half.
It marked the fourth two-goal game of Riggs’ career and his first since two goals vs. IPFW in 2012.
Riggs now has 28 goals in his career, the fourth-most in UK history.
Riggs has 65 points in his career, the seventh-most in UK history.
Riggs has 136 shots, ranking sixth-most in UK history.
Riggs has seven game-winning goals, the sixth-most in school annals.
Riggs has four goals over the last two games.
Riggs notched his third goal of the year just 23 seconds into the second half.
Riggs goal 23 seconds into the second half, marked the third-fastest goal to start the second half in UK history and the fastest since Michael Strong got on the board 21 seconds into the second half at UAB in 2004.
Freshman Napo Matsoso made his first career start at forward, starting each of UK’s previous 15 games in the midfield.
Matsoso recorded his third assist of the year on the corner kick, with the freshman taking just his second and third corners of the year in the win, and his first since at Old Dominion on Oct. 4.
Sophomore midfielder Isak Krogstad was UK’s first substitution off the bench, checking in for Kristoffer Tollefsen.
Freshman midfielder Kaelon Fox notched his second career goal.
Senior defender Steven Perinovic recorded his first goal of the year and the second of his career.
Perinovic’s goal was UK’s first off a corner kick in 2013.
It was Perinovic’s first goal since the game-winning tally vs. East Tennessee State in 2012.
Perinovic has now played in 75 career games, ranking 13th in UK history.
Perinovic ranks 10th in UK career history with 69 starts.
Perinovic won 8-of-10 contested header attempts in the game and has now won 125-of-162 on the year, a 77-percent clip.
• Sophomore goalkeeper Callum Irving worked 64 consecutive shutout minutes to start the game, lowering his goals-against average to 1.06. Irving has now worked 166 consecutive scoreless minutes, dating back to the 78th minute vs. FIU.
• Freshman midfielder Ryan Creel netted his first career goal. Creel also added his first career assist.
• Freshman forward Sam Miller recorded his second career two-assist game.
• Junior forward Justin Laird notched his team-high fifth assist of the year.
• Sophomore midfielder Bryan Celis recorded his third assist of the year and the seventh of his two-year career.