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Kentucky Men’s Soccer Takes Back-to-Back Conference Titles

Article written by:On3 imageKatelyn Perkins
On3 image
Photo by UK Athletics

On a cold Sunday afternoon at The Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, #1 seeded Kentucky men’s soccer (14-0-5, 8-0-5 Sun Belt) faced off against the #7 seed James Madison (8-8-4, 2-4-3 Sun Belt) in the Sun Belt Conference title match. It was another day for the record books as the Wildcats cruised the Dukes 2-0 to take the league championship, marking the program’s second consecutive conference title. Kentucky also won the C-USA championship in 2021.

The ‘Cats are now the only undefeated team remaining in the country and currently hold a No. 2 national ranking. The current #1 ranked Washington Huskies were beaten by Oregon State on Thursday.

Big Blue Nation: Most loyal fan base in the country

Big Blue Nation withstood the frigid temperatures to root on their Wildcats. Almost 2,400 fans were in attendance on Sunday.

In the first five minutes of the match, the ‘Cats made it worthwhile for the BBN and found an early goal from team captain Luis Grassow off of a rebounded corner kick. This fast score put Kentucky up one-nil.

Early goal leads to slow rest of half

After getting on the board early, there was little excitement as both teams had a couple of corners and shots on goal, but none were successful.

The ‘Cats maintained possession and kept the ball on their end of the field for the majority of the first half.

Although they had some good looks at the goal, the score remained 1-0 going into the half with Kentucky leading.

But as the second half was underway it was clear that the Dukes from James Madison were not planning on going down without a fight.

There was an energy coming from their side of the pitch that had not been there in the first half.

Emotions are running high

Going into the 70′ there had not been another goal for either team. Both squads were playing aggressively and in the 72′ one of James Madison’s players received a yellow card while UK’s Eythor Bjorgolfsson was hit with a red card and sent off the pitch.

Due to Bjorgolfsson’s disqualification, the ‘Cats were down to 10 men. However, this did not stop them from finding the back of the net in the 84’.

Junior Enzo Mauriz was assisted by senior Danny Evans to get the score and put UK up 2-0 with only six minutes separating the ‘Cats and another conference title.

Kentucky tallies back-to-back titles

After a hard-fought match and support from the loyal fans of the Big Blue Nation, Kentucky became the 2022 Sun Belt Conference Champions. The 2-0 shutout victory made it back-to-back conference titles for the Wildcats after winning the C-USA tournament last season. UK also won the regular season Sun Belt Conference title.

11 Wildcats were tabbed to the 2022 Sun Belt Men’s Soccer All-Tournament Team, led by Kentucky’s Clay Holstad, who was named the event’s Most Valuable Player. He was joined on the All-Tournament Team by teammates Casper Mols, Eythor Bjorgolfsson, and Luis Grassow.

Kentucky’s championship win earned an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The NCAA selection show will be held on Monday, November 14th at 1 p.m. EST on ncaa.com, and the ‘Cats have a strong case to be named the #1 overall seed. The first round of NCAA tournament play will commence on Thursday, November 17th.

2022 Sun Belt Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament

Bell Soccer Complex – Lexington, Ky.

Sunday, Nov. 6

Match 1: (4) West Virginia def. (5) Coastal Carolina 1-0
Match 2: (1) Kentucky def. (8) South Carolina 2-1
Match 3: (7) James Madison def. (2) Marshall 1-0
Match 4: (3) Georgia State def. (6) Old Dominion 3-1

Wednesday, Nov. 9

Match 5: (1) Kentucky def. (4) West Virginia 1-0
Match 6: (7) James Madison def. (3) Georgia State 5-0

Sunday, Nov. 13

Match 7: (1) Kentucky def. (7) James Madison 2-0

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2023-01-30