It may be the official start of tailgating season today (that’s a local holiday, right?), but let’s take a second and talk about the Kentucky women’s soccer team, who are off to one of their best starts in recent memory. Last night, the women’s soccer team made the trek 70 miles west for their first true road test, with two busses of student fans in tow. The women returned home victorious with a 2-0 win over the #12 and previously undefeated Lady Cardinals, improving their season record to 5-0-0.
The football and basketball teams tend to get the most rivalry hype, but the women’s soccer team embraced the competition all week, with head coach Jon Lipsitz tweeting that if you don’t want to play in this high-pressure game, “don’t come to the University of Kentucky.” Right from the start, the passion inherent in the Kentucky-Louisville antagonism could be seen on the field in both teams’ physical play. Both teams took the “ball before body” mantra to heart , and Kentucky goalkeeper Kayla Price came out on the wrong end of a hard-hitting collision in the box. Price lost her tooth and split her lip in the crash, and Lipsitz came on to the field, crawling on the grass on his hands and knees to help look for her tooth (yes, it was eventually found, and yes, there is a picture that I can’t in good conscience fully display here because it would probably make me throw up. I have a recurring nightmare about losing teeth. So click here if you dare).
Kentucky came out firing offensively, with eleven shots in the opening half alone (two on goal) and three corner kicks. The teams entered halftime tied 0-0, but it easily could have been 1-0 in favor of Kentucky if a Caitlin Landis shot had hit the right post just one more inch towards the inside. Junior Natalie Horner scored for the third time in three games on a header off a corner kick in the 60th minute, and goalkeeper Kayla King (replacing Price after her injury) faced her toughest test in goal all year. King, a Louisville native, stepped up in a big way, collecting six saves (including tipping a high shot over the goal) and making a crucial save on a penalty kick in the 79th minute. Freshman Kelli Hubly scored the insurance goal in transition immediately after King’s big save, off a 35 yard cross from sophomore defender Arin Gilliland.
With the win, the Cats’ undefeated record remands intact, as does Coach Lipsitz’s beard that he’ll maintain until the team’s first loss. The win was the Wildcats’ first win over a ranked team since beating #14 Tennessee in 2011, and Lipsitz’s fourth win over a ranked team in four seasons. The women next play on Sunday at noon against Samford in the Cardinal Classic, and for the team doctor’s sake, I can only hope that everyone leaves the stadium with the same amount of teeth they came in with.