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Women's soccer using first top-10 win as stepping stone entering SEC play

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(Chet White, UK Athletics) (Chet White, UK Athletics)
 Following his program's first NCAA Tournament victory in November 2012, UK women's soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz became noticeably emotional.

"I thought about what I was going to say in this moment so many times and now that I'm at the moment I'm at a little bit of a loss," Lipsitz said just minutes after Kentucky's overtime first-round NCAA Tournament win last autumn. "This is a really special moment for this program. One of the things I talk about is leaving a legacy while you're here ... I was brought here four years ago to make it to this moment."

The huge step forward was emotional for all involved with the program that has done nothing but progress since the fifth year coach took the helm.

Last season's postseason victory marked a major milestone for Kentucky women's soccer, but UK also took another big leap forward last weekend with the program's first win over a top-10 team, at West Virginia.

Lipsitz's reaction to the West Virginia win said a great deal about the state of the 2013 team, and the program as a whole, especially considering how emotional he was following the 2012 NCAA Tournament victory.

"We went into the match at West Virginia expecting to win," Lipsitz said. "I think that's where our program is. It doesn't mean that we didn't expect that last year. That (the 2012 NCAA Tournament win) was a huge momentous occasion that can never happen again. That was the first one.

"This is just a step along the way in a long season so last year I was excited for what that meant to the program, to get over the hump. Beating West Virginia on the road, I was excited for how well we played, but it's a very small step in what will hopefully be a successful and long season."

The Wildcats were no doubt ecstatic to pick up the program's first win over such a highly ranked opponent -- with an emphatic 4-2 score line no less -- but the Wildcats' expectations far exceed one win in September.

Those in and around the UK women's soccer program wouldn't trade the noteworthy victory over West Virginia for very much, and the victory surely turned some heads around the country, but Lipsitz is using the milestone victory as a new challenge to his team. After all, UK, which entered the national polls for the first time in 2013 at No. 19 this week, begins Southeastern Conference play on Friday at Auburn.

Indeed Kentucky is looking to exorcise the demons that go along with a recent history of disappointing results following strong performances.

Take the 2012 season for example.

After an emotional upset win over then-No. 12 Louisville on a Friday night, UK fell 3-1 to Samford two days later. UK defeated top-15 Florida last season as well, but lost to Arkansas the next time out. Again after a hard-fought draw with No. 6/8 Texas A&M in late September, the Wildcats lost 2-1 to Alabama two days later. Even after the NCAA Tournament victory of UT-Martin last November, Kentucky lost to an admittedly superior UCLA team in the second round.

The 2013 Wildcats are looking to prove they're a different group. The Wildcats did well to prove that point in their first opportunity to do so two weeks ago as they topped Dayton 3-1 two days after a 2-0 win over Louisville.

The proposition is very much the same as UK will look to extend its six-game winning streak with Friday's SEC-opening trip to Auburn.

"The SEC is a different level," Lipsitz said. "We as a staff keep telling our young players that they have never experienced soccer at this level. They all thought the Louisville game was tough, but SEC soccer is another animal. I trust my captains and upperclassmen to guide them along the way, and we are looking for a great challenge from a very well-coached and extremely organized Auburn team."

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