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Women's soccer responds in second half for 2-1 win over Auburn

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Olivia Jester scored her first goal as a Wildcat on Sunday, the game winner in a 2-1 victory over Auburn. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Olivia Jester scored her first goal as a Wildcat on Sunday, the game winner in a 2-1 victory over Auburn. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky and Auburn found themselves in similar places heading into a match on Sunday. Both the Wildcats and Tigers have clinched places in the Southeastern Conference Women's Tournament and now have their sights set on seeding and reaching the NCAA Tournament.

Even though the two teams were in comparable positions, UK head coach Jon Lipsitz didn't think they looked like it through 45 minutes. Kentucky headed to the halftime locker room trailing 1-0 and Lipsitz delivered a very simple message.

"The message was just that it looked like they were playing for more than we were," Lipsitz said.

Lipsitz didn't throw things. He didn't break out a fire-and-brimstone speech.

"I just felt like they were playing harder than us," Lipsitz said. "It was a calm talk. It wasn't yelling or anything like this. It was just, 'We're better than this.' "

The Wildcats didn't waste any time heeding their coach's advice. UK erased the halftime deficit in just 183 seconds on one of the Cats' prettier goals of the season. Defender Alyssa Telang delivered a perfect cross in front of net and forward Arin Gilliland deftly volleyed it into the net for her third goal in as many games and team-leading seventh of the season.

"I assume we'll respond," Lipsitz said. "It would have been more surprising if we hadn't."

The goal seemed to give UK a shot of energy. Less than six minutes later, the Cats scored the go-ahead tally and it was Telang triggering the attack again with her fourth assist of the season. She sent a corner into the box and freshman Olivia Jester headed in the first goal of her career.

"Obviously when it's a goal, it means more in the end, but I think we're just motivated by watching our teammates really work hard and that's as a coaching staff too," Lipsitz said. "When we see people really putting out everything on the field, it's exciting."

It wasn't just the UK offense that got a boost from the goals. Facing a Tiger attack that has scored three goals or more three times in SEC play, the Kentucky defense turned a solid first half - one that was marred only by a missed assignment on a set piece that resulted in a Tatiana Coleman goal - into an even better performance once the Cats grabbed a lead.

"Really, really good," Lipsitz said of the play of UK's back line, "but it always comes down to 11 of us defending. It doesn't come down to a back line just like our attack never comes down to just three forwards."

With the defense holding it together and the offense keeping the pressure on, UK came away with a 2-1 win to move to 12-5-1 (7-4-1 SEC). The victory means the Cats are on a four-match winning streak heading into the regular-season finale and Senior Night against Vanderbilt on Thursday at 7 p.m.

"I'm pleased to get six points," Lipsitz said of the two wins this weekend over South Carolina and Auburn. "I'm pleased with many things that we did, but it's not enough. We've got to get better. We've got to be better tomorrow than we were today and we've got to be better Tuesday than we were Monday."

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