Johan Cedergren is in his second season as Kentucky men's soccer head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It took coach Johan Cedergren just 11 months to lead Kentucky men's soccer to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2003.
Entering his second year, the 38-year-old native of Solvesborg, Sweden, has his Wildcats primed for future success, despite a youthful roster that is feeling its way into collegiate soccer.
When Cedergren was announced as the third head coach in program history in December of 2011, he spoke eloquently about his goals and ambitions for the program.
He wanted to create a highly professional atmosphere, a die-hard commitment to recruiting the best, intense knowledge of the tactics and fundamentals of the game, and be on the cutting edge of the technological innovations in the sport.
Flash forward 21 months to three games into his second season and Cedergren has successfully transformed the UK program into one of the nation's rising units, while systematically checking program goals off his list.
A former All-Conference USA standout at Cincinnati, Cedergren built a dynamic and highly respected coaching staff with assistants David Casper and Erik Imler, director of operations Marco dos Santos and a former full-time assistant at Dartmouth currently serving as UK's volunteer assistant, Lucas Richardson.
He has transformed UK's video scouting and development system, created a heart-rate monitoring program and implemented innovative approaches to recovery from the physical nature of college soccer.
In his first season, Cedergren led Kentucky to the historic NCAA Tournament hosting berth, helped guide UK to school records in wins over top-25 foes and the highest final season RPI in school history (No. 25). He routinely credited UK's senior leadership, competitive edge and willingness to buy-in as a reason for UK's 2012 success, something he is looking for from his second-edition.
As time has progressed, Cedergren's fingerprints on the up-and-coming program are increasingly present.
With a roster of 19 underclassmen among its 25 players, just three games into the 2013 campaign, the youth movement's impact on the program and the development of the veterans under Cedergren's tutelage is apparent.
The evidence was on display during UK's 4-0 win over IPFW last Sunday, as UK shattered the program record for shots in a game (34), eclipsing the previous record set in 1994. Playing 13 newcomers in the game, including six freshmen starters, UK's offense was historically sensational. It included a 21-shot output alone in the second half that saw UK score all four of its goals and hit the post or crossbar three times.
With such a young roster, ups and downs, however, are to be expected. Six days after the record-setting win, the Cats lost a hard-fought 2-1 rematch with 2012 NCAA Tournament opponent Xavier.
But with dynamic talent in the likes of freshmen Napo Matsoso, Charlie Reymann, Alex Bumpus, Kaelon Fox and Jordan Wilson, combined with a vibrant sophomore class, upperclassmen leadership, and the infectious personalities of the coaching staff, the future for the UK soccer program is uniquely bright.
Sophomore Isak Krogstad scored two goals in four minutes in UK's 4-0 win over IPFW on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
After scoring just one goal through the first two games of the season, the University of Kentucky men's soccer team unleashed a flurry of goals in the span of 11 minutes Sunday afternoon in a 4-0 win over IPFW.
The Wildcats even failed to score in the first half against the Mastodons, but after IPFW's Alex Kemp committed a handball -- resulting in a red card and an ejection -- in the penalty box in the 50th minute, Kentucky took full advantage. Steven Perinovic stepped up looking to put the Cats on the board, but was stifled by goalkeeper Raphael Kotzock.
As young as they are, the Wildcats could have put their heads down after a missed opportunity, but the Wildcats showed a sign of maturity. Just over a minute later, Isak Krogstad received a pass from Alex Bumpus and Kaelon Fox and found the back of the net for the first of his two goals on the afternoon.
Krogstad scored again just four minutes later. His two goals were the first of his career.
"It felt amazing," said Krogstad about his first goal. "I really wanted a goal today and (assistant coach Erik) Imler told me before the game that he was expecting a goal. Killer spirit wanted it in."
Napo Matsoso then made it 3-0 in favor of the Wildcats in the 56th minute and Charlie Reymann gave UK its final edge of 4-0 on his first career goal in the 63rd minute.
A four-goal afternoon is just what the doctor ordered for a team that's struggled offensively through the first two games.
"I thought everyone did a great job of that today in terms of staying switched on," said Kentucky head coach Johan Cedergren. "They (IPFW) aren't an easy team to break down. We just needed that one unselfish run to unlock them and I'm really happy with how we played."
When 19 of your 25 players are underclassmen, there are bound to be some headaches early on.
"I've been telling the guys ever since the first day that age is just a number," Cedergren said. "For me and the staff, it's a bad number, but for them it's a great number because some of these guys are going to play for four years. It's just great to see that we have so much talent in the freshman class."
On the day, Kentucky fired a school-record 35 shots, besting the previous record of 31 set back in 1994. Of those 35, 15 came on goal.
"I really love that we keep on pushing through the entire game," said Krogstad, a native of Tromsoe, Norway. "In the first half we were pushing, but we just lacked that last ball, especially offensively. In the second half we just kept on going and (IPFW) got that red card, which was a relief for us. The goals then just started rolling in."
Krogstad and the Wildcats hope this is a sign of what's to come for the rest of the season because once conference play begins, goals will be a premium.
"It means a lot for us, especially to score four goals and not just one," Krogstad said. "We're starting to get it and you can see it in practice. I have great faith in this team and we've got something good going this year."
Up next for Kentucky is a rematch with Xavier, which knocked the Wildcats out of the NCAA Tournament a season ago, a destination UK hopes to reach again this season.
Overall Record: 1-0-0 Record Last Week: 1-0-0 Recent Results Friday, Aug. 30 - vs. Wright State - POSTPONED to Nov. 5 Sunday, Sept. 1 - defeated Georgia State, 1-0
Upcoming Schedule (times eastern) Thursday, Sept. 5 - at East Tennessee State - 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 8 - vs. IPFW - 12 p.m.
TEAM NOTES The Kentucky men's soccer team opened its 2013 season on Sunday with a 1-0 win over Georgia State at the UK Soccer Complex. The Wildcats will return to action at East Tennessee State on Thursday at 7 p.m. ET in Johnson City, Tenn.
Kentucky (1-0-0) posted a 1-0 win over Georgia State on Sunday to open its 2013 season, getting the first career goal from senior Brad Doliner in the 86th minute. Doliner, a senior who was making his first career start at forward, found a diving header into the top of the netting for the game winner. Doliner was assisted by sophomore Isak Krogstad and Bryan Celis, with the assist marking the first of Krogstad's career and the fifth for Celis.
The Wildcats got a shutout in goal from sophomore Callum Irving, making his first start since a September, 2012 matchup with No. 4 Charlotte. Overall, including UK's exhibition games, the Wildcats have allowed only one goal in 180 minutes, with the lone tally coming after UK was left a man down in the final minutes of an exhibition tilt at 2010 NCAA Division II Champion Northern Kentucky.
Kentucky will hit the road on Thursday for the first of a stretch of four of five games away from the UK Soccer Complex. UK will travel to ETSU on Thursday for a 7 p.m. ET matchup in Johnson City, Tenn. UK returns preseason All-America center back Steven Perinovic and 2012 All-Conference USA performers Jack Van Arsdale and Tyler Riggs. A native of Louisville, Ky., and a candidate for the Senior CLASS Award, Riggs has led UK in three consecutive years.
Senior Brad Doliner celebrates after notching his first-career goal. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
Through 85 minutes of tough, physical play, the Kentucky men's soccer team and Georgia State struggled to find the back of the net. The two teams combined for just five total shots on goal through that time.
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."
Men's soccer head coach Johan Cedergren, Jack Van Arsdale and Tyler Riggs spoke to the media during fall sports media day. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Entering his second year at the helm of the University of Kentucky men's soccer program, head coach Johan Cedergren will look to lead his squad to its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, a feat that hasn't been accomplished in men's soccer since UK went to three-straight tournaments from 1999-2001.
If you ask Cedergren, back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances should be expected at Kentucky, not just once every so often.
"It's not good enough to just make the tournament every now and then," explained Cedregren. "We're expecting great things from all programs and for us it's either time to put up or shut up, so we want to do it again this year."
Kentucky reached the tournament for just the fifth time in school history last season and first time since 2003.
With plans to get back to the NCAAs, this year's team will call upon just four seniors to lead the group. Defenders Brad Doliner and Steven Perinovic, goalkeeper Jack Van Arsdale and forward Tyler Riggs will carry a lot of responsibility for a team that features 21 underclassmen (13 true freshmen). To put that in perspective, there are 26 total players on the roster.
Cedergren has called upon his group of four seniors to lead a young, talented team, a task that doesn't always come naturally to student-athletes.
"What you find a lot is that you have maybe one or two that are just born leaders on your squad and they only come along every four to six years," Cedergren said. "Then you have that junior class that has to transform into a senior class and sometimes that can take a little work, but you have to be proactive as a staff and find ways to get them more involved. Tyler (Riggs) isn't much of a talker, so we have to get him to be a little more vocal. Jack (Van Arsdale), that comes a little more natural to him. He doesn't mind talking. You give them different roles so that the whole group becomes one big leader."
Doliner, Perinovic, Riggs and Van Arsdale return for their final season in Lexington looking to leave a lasting impression on the program. Riggs, a three-time All-Conference USA honoree, enters the season fourth in school history with 23 goals scored and sixth in points with 55. In each of his first three seasons, Riggs has led the team in scoring. He is the first UK player to do so since 2002-04.
A 2013 Preseason All-Conference USA selection, Perinovic comes into the season following a breakout 2012 campaign in which he earned numerous accolades (All-Conference USA First Team, NSCAA All-Midwest Region Second Team and All-Conference USA Tournament Team). The athletic center back emerged in Cedergren's style of play and he started all 21 games.
Van Arsdale, a transfer from Virginia Commonwealth University, was named second team All-Conference USA last season. The Richmond, Va., native collected 58 saves, while allowing just 21 goals in 18 starts.
Having only played in Cedergren's system for a year, the seniors have already noticed a dramatic change for the better.
"I think it's been a huge shift in terms of the culture," Van Arsdale said. "There is an excitement whereas in the past it was kind of a grind. It's not so much of a job anymore, it's a privilege now and there is an excitement about mimicking the success we had last year and going forward, but at the same time it's a completely different transition in terms of the culture and the attitude around the locker room and the field."
Riggs echoed his teammate's statement.
"I believe it's more of a professional atmosphere," said Riggs a Louisville, Ky., native. "Everything that we do is for a purpose, whether it is eating with the team or practicing or just going through a simple walkthrough. Coaches set the new standard high and where we were last year we want to go further and further. I would say the overall atmosphere is just at a higher level."
In order to return to the NCAA Tournament, Kentucky will have to face a challenging schedule that features seven teams that made the tournament last season. With the addition of four new teams to the Conference USA, the competition is expected to be that much greater.
"With all the realignment, we've got New Mexico, Old Dominion, Charlotte and FAU coming in, which I would say puts us in the top two or three in the country, in terms of conferences," Cedergren said. "Seven teams out of the 10 in our conference made the NCAA Tournament last year, so it will be a brutal conference schedule, but that's what we want. We want to play against the best."
Aside from the grueling conference portion of the schedule, a rematch with Xavier looms large on Sept. 13 in Cincinnati. The Musketeers eliminated UK from the tournament last season, 1-0, to end the Wildcats' season.
"Xavier has been kind enough to offer a rematch," said Cedergren, who led UK to a 10-9-2 record in his first season. "They knocked us out of the tournament last year, so we're going to go up and play them there (Cincinnati), which I'm really excited about. I really respect Coach (Andy) Fleming and what they do up there. I think they've gone three years in a row to the NCAA Tournament, so we want to be just like them and we get a chance to play them again."
Cedergren's young team will face its first test in the season opener on Friday, Aug. 30, versus Wright State, but he likes the team he has and looks forward to what the season brings.
"We're very excited and we feel like we're in a good spot," Cedergren said. "We're very, very young, but we're also hungry, we're driven and we have a lot of talent, so it's going to be interesting to see what we can do with that."
At 1 p.m. ET on Tuesday, coaches and student-athletes from four UK fall sports teams - volleyball, cross country, women's soccer and men's soccer - will preview their upcoming seasons at fall sports media day. Here's the schedule:
1:00 p.m. - Volleyball head coach Craig Skinner and student-athletes Whitney Billings and Alexandra Morgan 1:15 p.m. - Cross country head coach Edrick Floreal and student-athletes Cally Macumber and Matt Hillenbrand 1:30 p.m. - Women's Soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz and student-athlete Kayla King 1:45 p.m. - Men's Soccer head coach Johan Cedergren and student-athletes Tyler Riggs and Jack Van Arsdale
The University of Kentucky celebrated its 146th May Commencement on Sunday. (photo by Mark Cornelison)
During the University of Kentucky's 146 May Commencement on Sunday, 49 UK student-athletes received degrees. Forty-seven earned undergraduate diplomas and two received graduate degrees.
(Note: Includes student-athletes who received degrees after their completing eligibility.)
Baseball Thomas McCarthy Zac Zellers (Will complete coursework this summer)
Football Aaron Boyd La'Rod King Quentin McCord Craig McIntosh Kevin Mitchell Matt Smith Taylor Wyndham (Note: 2012 seniors Mikie Benton, Gabe Correll, Gene McCaskill, Morgan Newton, Cartier Rice, Collins Ukwu, Steven Duff and Sam Simpson graduated previously.)
Gymnastics Caitlyn Ciokajlo Storey Morris Whitney Rose
Men's basketball Twany Beckham Marquis Estill Jon Hood Jarrod Polson (Graduated in three years) (Note: Jamal Mashburn also received an honorary doctorate of humanities.)
Men's golf Joseph Barr
Men's soccer Pedro Andreoni Gabriel Conelian Barry Rice
Men's swimming and diving Jon Bullock Jon Keltner Ben Russell
Rifle Heather Greathouse
Softball Chanda Bell Kara Dill (Graduate degree in exercise science) Alice O'Brien Erika Silence
Track and field Katy Achtien Keith Hayes Ben Mason (Will complete coursework this summer) Chelsea Oswald Shiara Robinson Josh Nadzam (Masters of social work) Danielle Sampley Rashaud Scott Samantha Stenzel Hiruni Wijayaratne Megan Wright
Volleyball No graduates this weekend, but seniors Ashley Frazier and Christine Hartmann had already graduated.