Kentucky Men's Soccer falls short at Clemson in Sweet 16

(Grace Bradley | UK Athletics)

The University of Kentucky Men’s Soccer team had their season cut short in Clemson on Sunday night after losing a 2-1 thriller in the Sweet 16. This was the third time in four seasons that the Wildcats made it this far in the NCAA Tournament, but the program did not make the leap into the Elite 8 during any of them.

The game’s first goal came in the 14th minute, when Clemson’s Callum Johnson found the back of the net off a deflected right-footed strike. It was Johnson’s third goal of the season.

Despite the blank sheet, the ‘Cats had several promising looks in the first half. They out-shot Clemson 5-3 in the first 45 minutes but unfortunately couldn’t get any of them on goal. Things started getting a little chippy near the end of the half, leading to a UK yellow card on center back Luis Grassow. The ‘Cats racked up eight fouls in the first half.

The ‘Cats found their first shot on goal in the 4th minute of the second half, though it was handled fairly easily by Clemson goalkeeper George Marks. UK was able to find good looks throughout the final 45 minutes, but Clemson’s defense was seemingly always one step ahead.

Kentucky’s hard work finally paid off with just over five minutes left in regulation, when Nick Gutmann found Lucca Rodrigues for a game-tying score. Sweet

The celebration wouldn’t last long, though. After a stellar performance all night, the Kentucky defense let up for just a moment in the final minutes. Clemson’s Alvaro Gomez found a hole in the back line, allowing him to score with 1:08 remaining.

UK’s Conference USA Goalie of the Year Jan Hoffelner had allowed just six goals all season up until Sunday night before giving up two against the Tigers.

Kentucky ended with an 11-5 shot advantage, but only got three of them on goal. The ‘Cats took seven corner kicks to Clemson’s two, but did not find the same success off of set pieces as last weekend.

The Wildcats finished the 2021 season with a 15-2-4 record and another finish in the Sweet 16.