Jon Lipsitz's reaction to his UK women's soccer team's 1-0 win over No. 19 Georgia on Sunday night said everything.
His program has become accustomed to knocking off high-ranked teams over the past few seasons, but the circumstances surrounding a Sunday-evening matchup of elite Southeastern Conference teams made the game about more than just winning or losing for Lipsitz and Company.
The setting for the win was what caused a rain-soaked and suit-wearing Lipsitz to enthusiastically hug each of his assistant coaches and staff members near the touch line as the referee's whistle blew. After respectfully shaking hands with the opposing coaching staff, the fifth-year coach unleashed at least seven fist pumps and then went to midfield to embrace his players.
The Wildcats passed Sunday's stern test with flying colors. The win was an admirable response to a 3-0 loss to Arkansas on Friday night, and the fact that the game marked the program's annual "Kick Cancer Match," which benefits pediatric cancer -- a cause near and dear to Lipsitz and his players' hearts -- all on a national television broadcast.
"I think today was our best performance of the year," Lipsitz said. "There might have been days where we have scored more goals or had more opportunities, but Georgia is such a fantastic team. We watched a lot of film and saw how difficult this game was going to be. For us to win this game means the world to us."
The Wildcats wore gold jerseys for Sunday's match not as a fashion statement, but as a way to signal the game's significance amd a platform to raise awareness for pediatric cancer, fundraising for research and the fight those affected by the disease face.
"I thanked the team afterwards as I was crying a little bit before the game when (Steve and Crystal Berger) walked out on the field," Lipsitz said of the pregame ceremonies in which the team honored the late Allison Berger. "That's what this game is about. The thought of wearing our gold jerseys tonight on national television, doing that for Allison -- there is nothing better."
The UK women's soccer team chose to play an annual match to benefit pediatric cancer largely because of the Berger family.
"We decided to specifically do something for pediatric cancer research," Lipsitz said. "So many people have done 'pink games,' and what a wonderful cause. A few years ago we got invited over to the hospital to meet a young girl named Allison Berger.
"She had just come out of surgery and we heard she was a soccer fan. She became a part of our family and has since passed away. It's was a very difficult time for all of us, but she has positively impacted all of our lives in such a positive way. We want to do something every year in her memory for all of the kids. We wear gold, which is color for pediatric cancer research, to try and benefit 'Dance Blue,' because they do an amazing job here raising money for pediatric cancer research and we just want to be part of that."
Without doubt, the Wildcats' second win in conference play was important in terms of league positioning let alone bouncing back from Friday's performance. Still the meaning of a win to honor a special cause went beyond the value of three points or any other quantifiable metric.
The gold jerseys UK wore on Sunday -- along with the game ball and Lipsitz's tie -- will be auctioned off on UKathletics.com. All proceeds will go toward the fight against pediatric cancer.