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Asher's hat trick sparks Wildcats to third straight victory

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Junior Dylan Asher recorded the eighth hat trick in UK men's soccer history Sunday evening in the Wildcats 5-1 victory Junior Dylan Asher recorded the eighth hat trick in UK men's soccer history Sunday evening in the Wildcats 5-1 victory
Sunday, October 21 was a memorable night for University of Kentucky men's soccer player Dylan Asher. The junior turned 21 years old and, to top it all off, he recorded the eighth career hat trick in UK men's soccer history.

Asher, formerly a defender for the Wildcats, was transitioned to forward for the second consecutive game due to Tyler Riggs' hamstring injury. The Richardson, Texas native netted his first career goal on Wednesday at Marshall before tallying three more in the Cats' 5-1 triumph over Florida International on Sunday at the UK Soccer Complex.

Asher wasted no time getting Kentucky on the board, firing a low ball to the far post past the diving keeper in the third minute of the contest, giving the Cats a 1-0 edge. After Charley Pettys converted on a penalty kick in the 23rd minute, Asher gave UK a 3-0 advantage in the 41st, capitalizing on a great service from Caleb Richardson. The junior finished off the hat trick with a diving header from a Gabriel Conelian cross in the 57th minute for a UK 4-0 lead.

With four goals in the last two matches, the Wildcats look as though they have found a new threat up front. However, the success hasn't come without putting in the hard work.

"It makes me feel really good," Asher said. "I've been working really hard in training and I'm glad to see the goals pay off."

Asher's goal in the third minute snapped a streak of six games in which the Wildcats have failed to find the back of the net in the opening half.

Overall this season, UK has been a stronger team in the second half as a result of the amount of goals scored compared to the first half. Head coach Johan Cedergren said Asher's goal helped relax the Cats and forced FIU to expose themselves.

Although Cedergren would love to see more goals in the first stanza, he is not shocked that his squad has been more successful beating the keeper in the second half.

"I'm not surprised that we score a lot in the second half because it takes a while to wear the other team out so they open up," Cedergren said. "I think it's easier to stay with your man and follow your marking assignment but as we play and move the ball there are going to be openings."

With Asher's electrifying performances the last two games and Lodge always presenting a challenge to opposing defenders, Cedergren has decisions to make with a very deep lineup when Riggs returns. The Wildcats have switched from a 4-5-1 formation that they opened up with to begin the year, to a 4-4-2, which allows more opportunities for his forwards to score goals.

Cedergren joked postgame saying a couple of his guys complain because he doesn't reveal his lineup until about an hour before the game. How can you blame a head coach that has depth at each position on the field.?br />
"I'm to the point now where we are about 15 or 16 deep and there are no easy decisions," Cedergren said. "I think Dylan is a fantastic player and can play anywhere on the field. He was laughing at me when I called him in the office and I said listen I think we are going to play you at forward but you see the results, two games four goals. He's a fantastic player."

The Wildcats are in third place in the Conference USA standings after improving their record to 3-1-1 in league action. Kentucky has all but sealed its position in the conference tournament, which was a goal presented to the squad before the season by Cedergren.

Another highlight to touch on for Kentucky is they Cats are 7-2-1 since beginning the year 1-4-0. Cedergren still admits that all the success dates back to the 1-0 victory at Louisville on Sept. 14.

Next up for the Wildcats is a showdown with currently second place Tulsa, on Saturday, Oct. 27. With three games to play, UK could really make a statement and possibly have a shot at an NCAA bid and even claiming a league title.

Kentucky has come a long way since losing four of the first five games of the year and Cedergren credits the grueling non-conference schedule for preparing his team for an end of the year run.

"I think that we stressed all along, especially when we were 1-4 that there is a method to our madness," Cedergren said. "This is preparing us for conference play and it shows that now. Our non-conference schedule definitely prepared us for Conference USA play."

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