Jon Lipsitz predicted Friday night's match against Texas A&M would be interesting. The sixth-ranked Aggies were coming to Lexington for their first-ever matchup with Kentucky as members of the Southeastern Conference. With its high-pressure style, Lipsitz called A&M the "exact foil" for the Wildcats' possession-based approach.
The contrast made for a thrilling match that ended in a 2-2 tie after a pair of 10-minute overtime periods, proving Lipsitz right.
"I just thought it was a fantastic game and Texas A&M is just pure class," Lipsitz said. "Getting to play them and knowing we're going to get to play them year after year is only going to make our program better."
UK (8-2-1, 4-0-1 SEC) twice took second-half leads after a scoreless first. True freshman Kelli Hubly scored both goals - bringing her season total to four - but A&M (10-1-1, 4-0-1 SEC) answered with the equalizer within 15 minutes each time. The game would end in a draw, but not before the Wildcats dodged a Texas-sized bullet when Shea Groom's shot went inches wide as the final seconds ticked down on regulation.
"That's what I want from a big-time matchup," Lipsitz said. "I want to play the number (six) team in the country. I want it to be a great game without bad fouls. I want it to be exciting for the fans."
Hubly's goals were certainly the highlight for the 1,006 fans in attendance at the UK Soccer Complex. The young forward is coming on strong in her first season, having scored 10 points in her last seven matches and five in her last two.
"Kelli is a very talented player and what Kelli's learning, like most young players, is you can't fade in and out of training," Lipsitz said. "You can't fade in and out of games. We see what her talent is and we expect it all the time."
It was the first tie of the season for both teams, and it left the Cats with a curious feeling. On one hand, they couldn't help but be happy to be the first SEC team to register a point against the Aggies, one of the best teams in the nation. On the other, UK wanted more.
"I want the players to be disappointed when we tie," Lipsitz said. "I think that says a lot about our attitude and where we're coming. If Texas A&M is the benchmark in our conference right now, we're doing pretty well."
Both teams in this back-and-forth battle were visibly tired by the time it ended, but they have to turn around and play again on Sunday. Kentucky host Alabama on Sunday at noon with little time to rest, but that's why the Cats worked so hard this offseason.
"We came in fit to preseason," Lipsitz said. "We came in over-the-top fit. That is because last year we were really bad on Sundays. We took it as a personal challenge to come in fit, to take care of our bodies, do a better job and be ready on Sunday."