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Returning Raetzman fearless in 2-1 win over No. 13 Florida

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Courtney Raetzman scored her first career goal in a 2-1 victory over No. 13 Florida on Friday night at the UK Soccer Complex. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Courtney Raetzman scored her first career goal in a 2-1 victory over No. 13 Florida on Friday night at the UK Soccer Complex. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
If you've seen the picture, you know Courtney Raetzman had every reason to be a little hesitant in her return to the field. In practice last week, the freshman took an errant elbow to the face going up for a header, leaving her with a nasty black eye.

The photo of her injury - which looked like the work of a movie makeup department - made rounds among coaches, teammates and fans and the swelling forced her to miss a pair of games last weekend.

On Friday night, the diminutive midfielder made her return in Kentucky's first match of Southeastern Conference. If there were any lingering psychological effects, Raetzman certainly didn't show them.

"Being out for a week and a half, I was just so eager to get back and I think all my adrenaline just came out and I really wanted to show that I could come back and not be soft," Raetzman said.

Raetzman - the shortest player on the team - scored the first goal of her short UK career as the Wildcats got a big 2-1 victory over No. 13 Florida. Her goal just 1:46 into the second half proved to be the game winner, completing the comeback from a 1-0 deficit. Sophomore Arin Gilliland scored the Wildcats' first goal on a penalty kick in the 30th minute.

Raetzman's fingerprints were all over the win, which moved Kentucky to 6-1 on the season, a perfect 1-0 in SEC play, and it was about much more than the goal she scored.

"She's a tough kid," head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "She got really upset last week when I told her she couldn't play. To have her back on the field meant a huge amount to this team, both because of her toughness but also because, technically, she helps us to really keep the ball."

From the opening kick, keeping the ball was what this game was all about. Florida is among the nation's best teams because of their ability to maintain possession.

"One of the things that we talked about before the game at halftime is the best way to play against a great possession team is to possess the ball," Lipsitz said. "I think we needed to stay calm, we needed to possess the ball."

In Raetzman's absence, the Cats experienced uneven results. They picked up their biggest win of the season on the road against Louisville last Friday before faltering against Samford on Sunday in a 3-1 defeat, their first of 2012.

"We can do it without her, but when we have her, we're better," Lipsitz said.

Raetzman has stepped into a starting role from the moment she arrived, serving as a key cog in the UK midfield. She had a pair of assists in her first two games, but the goal on Friday was her first.

"It feels amazing, that's for sure, but it's just like any other game in the SEC," Raetzman said. "It's going to be tough no matter what game, so any goal's going to feel great."

Raetzman's perspective is a mature one for someone playing her first conference game, but it's exactly what Lipsitz is looking for. UK found out the hard way last weekend that a great performance on a Friday guarantees nothing on Saturday and now finds itself in a similar set of circumstances just a week later. The Cats scored their first goal against Florida since 2009 on Friday and picked up their first win over the Gators since the 2006 SEC Tournament Championship.

"It says three points and that's all," Lipsitz said. "One of the things that I think we learned last week is we had a big win on Friday. A huge win over Louisville and we laid an egg on Sunday. We came out flat."

UK will turn around and host Mississippi State on Sunday with less than 48 hours rest looking for a much different result than the last time it came off an emotional victory."

"I think mental strength is a huge part of it," Lipsitz said. "We do everything we can to physically recover, but we all know the Friday-Sunday is not easy. It's not going to be an easier for Mississippi State."

One player pretty much guaranteed to deliver maximum effort on Sunday at 1 p.m. is Raetzman. She's had enough of that whole rest thing.

"That was the worst thing ever just to see with one eye and have to watch everything," Raetzman said. "I'm so happy to be back."

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