But, at the 85:45 mark, the Wildcats found an opening and took advantage. Sophomore Isak Krogstad received a pass from sophomore Bryan Celis down the far sideline. From there, Krogstad sent a cross into the box where he found senior Brad Doliner who sent the ball into the back of the net, giving Kentucky a 1-0 lead and eventually a season-opening win.
The goal for Doliner was the first of his career and couldn't have come at a better time. The Cape Elizabeth, Maine, native spent his first three seasons as a defender, but received his first career start at forward on Sunday afternoon versus the Panthers.
"It was great, all week and all preseason we've been working on playing up-back and through, movement off the ball and making a near-post run and someone getting on the end of it," explained Doliner. "I saw the opportunity and got it."
Indeed he did. Doliner and the Wildcats just couldn't seem to find an opening on the offensive end for much of the game, until the end.
After spending most of his career as a defender, switching to a forward isn't just an easy task.
"It's a lot different," Doliner said. "I'm seeing the game from a completely different perspective, so I can see holes to come into. I can hold the ball up and link up and hopefully produce some goals."
The win gives UK a boost of confidence as they head into the rest of the season. Getting that first win always seems to be the toughest.
"I liked the patience (we played with) and I think Georgia State really gave us a tough game," said second-year head coach Johan Cedergren. "(Georgia State) had a very clear game plan. They were patient in terms of sitting back in their half and waiting for us to break it. I think the guys were unhappy at halftime and maybe we could have played a little faster, but we just kept trying and kept trying and then at the end we got an absolute fantastic goal with a great cross from Isak and fantastic finish from Dolly (Doliner)."
With the lack of scoring through much of the game, the two teams made up for in physicality. The teams were constantly battling for position by way of pushing, pulling, grabbing and any other verb you can think of to describe physical play.
"Every game in college is going to be physical, so it's good to get our first one out of the way," Doliner said. "It's good to get a lot of the freshmen and new guys in to show them how physical college soccer can be. It's going to be a grind all the way through, so we just have to keep going."
Cedergren was certainly pleased with his team's effort during the game and couldn't have been happier for Doliner when that game winner slammed into the back of the net.
"I think what Dolly gives you is 100 percent and what we have here with 15 new guys coming in, there's a lot of competition and what we're trying to teach the guys is that it doesn't matter how talented you are," Cedergren said. "If you don't combine that with effort, skill doesn't mean anything and Dolly maybe has a lot more effort than skill, but in the end he's a great guy and he works really hard. The guys all love him and in the end he's the only one that could have gotten that ball. He's the only one of our forwards that was willing enough to go in there in a dangerous area."
The win could springboard the Wildcats into the rest of the season, as UK looks to get back to the NCAA Tournament for a second consecutive season.
"It definitely wakes you up," said Cedergren about the intense season opener. "Maybe we don't tackle as hard in practice as you do in games, but I think the speed of how Georgia State played and definitely how they went into tackles was maybe an eye opener. We had four sophomores and four freshmen in the starting 11 and we had three new guys come in off the bench. In the end there was a lot of new guys for Kentucky and I think a game like that gets you fiery. I think we can play a little faster next time we play."
Cedergren postgame video
Doliner postgame video