With six saves - including this one on a penalty kick - Kayla King helped lead UK to a road win over No. 12 Louisville on Friday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
LOUISVILLE -- Kayla King knew she would be playing on Friday night, but didn't have the faintest idea of the circumstances under which she'd be taking the field. The junior goalkeeper was returning to her native Louisville to face the archrival Cardinals, and that on its own would have been enough to put her emotions on edge.
Jon Lipsitz, her head coach, planned to start Kayla Price in goal and bring in King for the second half against U of L. Less than four minutes into the game, King was on the sideline cheering on Price and the Wildcats when everything was thrown into chaos.
Price charged a ball played high into the box, jumping and colliding head-to-head with U of L's Irene Young. Immediately, it was clear Price was hurt and bleeding. Trainers raced to Price, who remained on the ground for a few minutes before coming to the sideline.
Price was clearly out for the game and King had to step up in a moment no teammate ever wants to face.
"When I saw KP go down, my heart broke for her," King said. "That's not a situation I want to come into."
After staying on the sideline briefly, Price was taken to the hospital, where she was treated for a cut that would need stitches and a tooth that was knocked out. King's thoughts were with Price - who is alert and in good spirits - but for the next two hours, there was a game to be played, and a big one at that. It's difficult to imagine King playing much better than she did.
King led the Cats (5-0-0) to a 2-0 upset of the 12th-ranked Cardinals, keeping the clean sheet that Price started. She was UK's anchor at the back, making six saves and stymieing a U of L attack that scored seven goals in two matches last weekend.
"It was just so much fun," King said. "After the initial shakes and jitters and rush that comes with that sort of situation, it was just fun. My team kept me in it and they kept me focused."
In her first two seasons as a Wildcat, King was a backup. In 2011, she saw only limited action behind Price, who started as a freshman. But heading into this season, King played her way into a time share at keeper. Through four games, she didn't allow a goal. That streak continued on Friday night.
"We talk about how you never know who is going to be the one," Lipsitz said. "You look at someone like Kayla King who got herself fit and had to make a decision who she wanted to be. She made a decision to be a great soccer player."
Her fitness and her improvement were tested in almost every conceivable way against the Cardinals. Into the 60th minute, King kept her team in a scoreless tie as the Cats' troubles with converting chances into goals continued. Finally, Natalie Horner headed in a Danielle Krohn corner to give UK a tenuous 1-0 lead. Just under 20 minutes later, it appeared that advantage was certain to disappear.
The referee whistled Kentucky for a foul inside its own box and Louisville was awarded a potentially game-tying penalty kick. Before Charlyn Corral stepped up to take the shot, King dropped to a knee to say a prayer and focus on the guidance of her coach.
"Jon says, 'Just react,' " King said. "That's the attitude I had going into it. I was fortunate enough that she didn't hit it upper 90 or to the other side. Luck, a big help from the Big Man and the coaches allowed me to make that save."
In an instant, King dove to her left, stretched and, not only made the save, but held onto the ball. Two teammates rushed to celebrate with her, but King brushed them aside; she had an attack to start. Within moments of the save, Arin Gilliland found Kelli Hubly from 35 yards out. The freshman found the back of the net for the first goal of her UK career.
"After a PK, as much as you want to be like, 'Yeah, this is awesome, woo hoo!' you can't lose your focus, especially against Louisville," King said. "They're a fantastic team. If we could use that emotion and go score a goal like we did, then fantastic. Then I'll give everyone hugs."
There was plenty of time for hugs when the final whistle sounded.
Entering the annual matchup with Louisville - the young Wildcats' first road game - Lipsitz said, win or lose, he was looking forward to learning about his team. He got more information than even he was bargaining for.
"I learned that we have an incredible amount of passion," UK head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "Not just for the game of soccer, who we want to be on the field, but for one another. We had a player seriously injured five minutes into the game and there are a lot of teams, that when that happens, they shut down out of fear or out of worry. They didn't do that."
Even if they had wanted to, the hundreds of Kentucky fans that had invaded Cardinal Park may not have let them. The goal that King stepped into when she came in for Price was surrounded by a boisterous group of Wildcat faithful who had boarded a pair of buses commissioned by the athletic department to make the drive from Lexington.
"When I came in, it was a rush of emotions to say the least," King said. "What actually calmed me down was the Big Blue Nation right behind me cheering for me and drowning out the Cardinal fans."
Without all the UK fans, it's unlikely that U of L would have set a school record with an attendance of 3,520 on Friday.
"I hope that everybody in Big Blue Nation understands what they did for us tonight," Lipsitz said. "I want to say thank you to the department for getting t-shirts and buses. We felt that the whole time. We always say, 'Blue got in.' I think that's a phrase. Let me tell you, Blue got in."
Among those blue-clad fans were King's mother, stepfather, both of her sisters and numerous friends from Manual High School, including her best friend - a U of L student - who wore blue body paint with King's name and her No. 33 on the back.
The way Price entered the game may have been something she'd rather forget, but the way she left the field is something she'll never want to.
"It's really special to come home and have my team play so well under the lights on a Friday night against our archrival," King said.
Defender Brooke Keyes is one of two senior captains who will lead the women's soccer team into a game at Louisville on Friday. (UK Athletics)
There is any number of ways Jon Lipsitz could approach his team's looming trip to Louisville.
He could go with John Calipari approach and call it just another game in a long season. Then again, he could opt for the Joker Phillips route and acknowledge the magnitude of the game while keeping his players' focus on playing their game.
As UK fans have learned since he arrived before the 2009 season, Lipsitz has a style all his own. His way of preparing a team featuring more than a dozen true freshmen for its first road game against a team that's not only ranked in the top 25, but also happens to be Kentucky's archrival, reflects that.
He's taking it all head on.
"It is a huge rivalry," Lipsitz said. "It is a passionate and important game to us and our fan base. We understand that. It is every bit the game (it is) for every other sport."
No, the women's soccer installment of UK-U of L won't be attended by tens of thousands of people like the football game last weekend. When the Wildcats and Cardinals - both unbeaten through four games - kick off at 7:30 p.m. on Friday, the entire Commonwealth won't stop to tune in, but everyone involved knows what this match means.
"This is what it's all about," Lipsitz said. "You come to the University of Kentucky because you want to play in these kinds of games both outside the SEC against Louisville and inside the SEC obviously. If you don't want to play this game, don't come to the University of Kentucky."
The 15 freshmen suiting up for UK may have picked the school because of exactly these kinds of games, but that doesn't mean they understand what they're getting into. Particularly since the Cats will likely rely so heavily on freshmen, getting the minds of the newcomers in the right place was potentially this week's most important task. Naturally, Lipsitz decided he wouldn't have anything to do with it.
"I've really been letting the upperclassmen take care of that," Lipsitz said. "Our leadership is unbelievable. Our senior class is just full of kids that just care so much, that are so passionate about the culture that they've developed here. And I've really let them take care of that."
UK's five-member senior class of Alyssa Telang, Natalie Horner, Kirsten Robinson, Cassie Ransdell and Brooke Keyes haven't batted an eye. They understand the responsibility and appreciate the trust Lipsitz so regularly shows in them.
"I think it shows that he respects us and that we've earned that respect as seniors being around for four years," said Keyes, one of two team captains along with Telang. "We've proven a little more than what we used to when I came in freshman year. It's nice to know that he sees that in us and that he respects us enough to put that in our hands."
What Keyes and her fellow veterans have tried to do is help the players traveling to Cardinal Park for the first time understand what it will be like, at least in theory.
"Playing Louisville is completely different than playing any other team, especially before the SEC season, especially on their field - they bring in everybody and all the red any everything - and it's our rival team," Keyes said, recounting what she has told her new teammates. "It's something that these freshmen haven't experienced before."
The Cats are off to a 4-0-0 start, but each win has come in the comforts of the UK Soccer Complex. Venturing away from home for the first time for a rivalry game against the No. 12/25 Cardinals might seem difficult, but a baptism by fire is exactly what Lipsitz wants.
"You have to be ready for new things," Lipsitz said. "We have 15 freshmen. We have been consistently starting at least four. We're playing nine or 10 freshman consistently in the game and I'm a big one that believes you just throw 'em in. Throw 'em in and find out what you get."
UK's ultimate goals lie beyond the regular season and in postseason play, and there are certainly no trial runs there.
"When we go into the NCAAs, there isn't any warm-up for that," Lipsitz said. "You just go and you play an NCAA game and we need to find out, when the intensity gets turned up, who has it and who doesn't."
The intensity is certainly going to be there on Friday night.
The Cards and Cats got firsthand looks at one another this weekend, as both played in the Tropical Smoothie Invitational hosted by UK. U of L scored seven goals in two matches and has outscored its four opponents 13-3. Meanwhile, Kentucky has relied on experienced back line that has allowed just one goal, one corner kick and four shots on goal in four games.
"The two teams play very different styles, different formations," Lipsitz said. "They're looking to do different things at different times and I think a lot of it will be a battle of wills, of which style wins."
In Lipsitz's first three years, the home team has won the UK-U of L match by a 2-0 tally. To turn that trend on its hand, Keyes thinks the Cats must look to their motto for the season: "Believe."
"We're prepared, we've put in the work, we've put in the time and we're ready," Keyes said. "We just need to believe in ourselves so we can do it."
No matter the outcome, Lipsitz will know plenty more about his team by about 10 p.m. on Friday.
"What we're looking for is to find out right away, 'Who are we?' " Lipsitz said. "And (there's) not a better place than this."
On Friday at 7:30 p.m., the Kentucky women's soccer team will put its 4-0-0 record on the line against the No. 12/25 Louisville Cardinals. It will be the first road game for the young Wildcats.
Head coach Jon Lipsitz talked about the matchup with the media on Thursday, and you can see his comments in the video below. Cat Scratches will have a written preview of the game later this afternoon and a live blog from Louisville on Friday night.
Football - The UK football team began the season with a 32-14 loss on the road to in-state foe Louisville on Sunday. - UK moved the ball well offensively, totaling 373 yards of total offense. Sophomore quarterback Maxwell Smith-led Kentucky's offensive attack by completing 35-of-50 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns. Senior La'Rod King led the team in receiving with a career-best eight catches for 77 yards and two touchdowns, while tight end Tyler Robinson caught the other touchdown pass. - Senior tailback CoShik Williams also had a solid outing, posting more all-purpose yards than any other player in the game with 168 yards. Williams also led UK in rushing with 10 rushes for 62 yards. - Kentucky was 7-of-13 on third downs for the game, which was its best performance since going 9-of-15 versus Georgia on Oct. 23, 2010. UK's 24 first downs were the most since 26 at Tennessee on Nov. 27, 2010. Volleyball - The 10th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team endured its toughest stretch of matches to date with hostile road environments at Louisville and Ohio, as well as taking on No. 17 Oregon. UK responded with a 2-2 week which included an impressive victory over Ohio. - Junior Whitney Billings shined in all phases of the game with team-leading stats in kills, hitting percentage and aces. She was also a contributor on the defensive side of things earning impressive performances at the net as well as the back line defensive effort. She had a career-high .545 hitting percentage on a flawless performance from the floor in a win against Western Carolina. - Things do not get any easier for the Blue and White as UK ventures to the Ameritas Players Challenge on the campus of No. 1 Nebraska this week.
Women's soccer - The Kentucky soccer team hosted the Tropical Smoothie Invitational, coming away with a 2-0-0 weekend tallying wins over UNC Greensboro and Southeast Missouri. - Senior Natalie Horner tallied a goal in both games, netting the fourth and fifth goals of her career. The Upper Arlington, Ohio native played the full 90 minutes in both games. Horner's goal on Sunday was a game-winner for the Wildcats in a 1-0 win. - The Wildcats back line kept a clean sheet for the second and third time in four matches, and continue to stand alone in the Southeastern Conference as the only team to not allow the opposition to score on them all season. - Natalie Horner, Arin Gilliland and Olivia Jester were named to the Tropical Smoothie Invitational All-Tournament team.
Men's soccer - The men's soccer team has continued a stout schedule to open the 2012 season, as the Wildcats traveled to the talent-laden Gamecock Classic over the weekend, suffering a pair of one-goal losses to No. 25 Northwestern and defending Big East Champion, No. 15 St. John's. - The Wildcats have scored a total of five goals in their first three games, including a pair of goals from Matt Lodge and Tyler Riggs. Charley Pettys has also notched a goal, while freshman Norwegian Kristoffer Tollefsen leads the club with two assists. - In goal, UK freshman Callum Irving made the start in the season lidlifter with junior Jack Van Arsdale starting the two games at the Gamecock Classic.
Cross country - The men's and women's cross country teams both finished second at the Belmont Opener, the men finishing with 74 points while the women finished one point off the lead with 34 points. - Senior Luis Orta led the men's team, finishing first overall for a second consecutive year at the event. Orta finished the 5K event in 15:16.70 and has now won the first event of the season three consecutive years. Matt Hillenbrand finished sixth for the men, crossing the finish line in 15:37.30. - Cally Macumber finished the women's 4K event in second, just two seconds off the lead while Chelsea Oswald finished just behind her in third. Allison Peare and Hiruni Wijayaratne also earned top-10 finishes for the women.
The conditions were less than ideal for soccer at the UK Soccer Complex on Sunday afternoon. Neither was Kentucky's offense.
Needing six goals to have a chance at winning the Tropical Smoothie Invitational, the women's soccer team got off to a strong start against Southeast Missouri. They had multiple opportunities and shots on goal in the first 45, but could not convert on any of those, coming up short, or wide, or high on each attempt.
What they failed to convert on in the first half are things that they have been working on in practice every day: getting the ball in the box and putting the ball in the net.
"The things we didn't finish in the first half are things we've been working on in training," said UK head coach John Lipsitz. "I don't think it's the conditions. I think when you get tired, especially mentally, you lose some of your discipline to do things the right way, and that's just something we have to continue to work on."
Kentucky did convert, though, in the second half. And it was in familiar form.
On one of several corner kicks Kentucky had on the day, senior midfielder Alyssa Telang delivered a beautiful assist to fellow senior Natalie Horner in the game's 54th minute as Horner finished it off with header into the net. It was her second goal of the season.
"It seems to be an interesting irony that we move players in the forward line back and then they score more," said Lipsitz. "(Horner)'s fantastic in the air, but she's equally good with her feet and she led us in both ways this weekend. We saw a hole on the far side, we were serving corner kicks shorter, and she got into that hole and had a great finish."
Horner's goal would stand as that's all the offense Kentucky (4-0-0) would need to take the game 1-0 over Southeast Missouri. Horner, along with Arin Gilliland and Olivia Jester, were named to the Tropical Smoothie Invitational All-Tournament team.
The scorebook might say otherwise, but the Kentucky women's soccer team took a big step forward offensively on Friday night.
The Wildcats had scratched across two goals in each of their first two games, and they matched that total in their first game of the Tropical Smoothie Invitational. Don't let the identical final tally fool you; this was the best the Kentucky attack has looked in the young 2012 season.
"I definitely feel like we were very dangerous tonight," UK head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "What I really liked is that we were creating through lots of passing."
Creating through passing is something the Wildcats hadn't done as Lipsitz would like for large chunks of the season's first 180 minutes. UK relied on set pieces to score three of their four goals in wins over Eastern Kentucky and Coastal Carolina. On this night, everything came in the flow of the offense.
Freshman Cara Ledman got the Cats on the board with a goal in the 14th minute, putting the ball past Spartan goalkeeper Jamie Simmons with assists from Caitlin Landis and Arin Gilliland. From there, the Greensboro defense would stiffen, much like it did in a road shutout of then-fifth-ranked Wake Forest, but UK was persistent.
Starting with about 20 minutes left in regulation, the Cats found their feet with a flurry of chances. At the encouragement of Lipsitz, UK kept the pressure on in spite of the risk.
"One bad pass and one mistake and it's one to one," Lipsitz said. "I just kept saying we've got to have the courage to play our style. I'm proud of the way we played."
They were rewarded when Natalie Horner scored her first goal of the season on a cross from Danielle Krohn, giving UK a comfortable 2-0 advantage with less than eight minutes to play.
The two goals the Wildcats scored doubled the amount the Spartans had allowed in their first three games. The one goal Greensboro had yielded came on a penalty kick in an overtime loss to Georgia.
"We knew it was going to be a test. Knowing that, we certainly had their attention all week in training and we trained well," Lipsitz said. "It's no coincidence that when you train well, you play well."
To beat a defense as good as they faced on Friday night, the Cats started at the back.
"(After last weekend's win over EKU) I mentioned we had great individuals in the back line but I didn't think that we were playing together the way we could," Lipsitz said. "Today was phenomenal. It started with our back line and our ability to possess the ball."
Playing twice in a weekend for the first time this season, UK will immediately shift its focus to a game against Southeast Missouri at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday and, just as importantly, to rest and recovery. After playing 22 players in UK's first two games, Lipsitz opted for a shorter rotation when he recognized the 11 players on the field in the second half were playing with great rhythm. The key to surviving two games in less than 48 hours will be sustaining that rhythm.
"The key is to possess the ball," Lipsitz said. "If we come out Sunday and we're chasing the ball, we're going to feel this very quickly. If we're keeping the ball and kicking it around, we're going to be pretty happy with how we feel. When you're playing well and you're scoring goals, somehow nothing hurts." Highlights and postgame with Lipsitz
Over at UKNow, Sarah Geegan has a story about Cailin Harris and Daniel Buckles from the women's soccer and track and field teams, respectively, Harris - a freshman - and Buckles - a sophomore - are both students in the University of Kentucky's Honors Program, in addition to competing for UK Athletics.
The story talks about Harris and Buckles balance school and sports. Here's an excerpt:
Each year, more than 500 UK students get involved through UK Athletics, programs that carry rich tradition. However, freshman Cailin Harris and sophomore Daniel Buckles took their involvement one step further, engaging in a program that upholds another aspect of the UK tradition -- the UK Honors Program.
Buckles, a decathlete on the Men's Track and Field team estimated that he spends at least 20-25 extra hours per week between the two programs, unsurprisingly touting time management as the most important factor in balancing his commitments. However, he and Harris, a member of the Women's Soccer team, both said that this double involvement actually enhanced both programs -- allowing them to gain skills from one program and apply them to the other.
"It can be really easy to make excuses in terms of grades, but the soccer program is an environment that responds to any mistakes with hard work," Harris said. "I think that translates really well to school. If I don't understand a concept, do I mope about it or do I go get extra help? Do I try to find resources that are going to help me get the grade I want? That is something that I have built up, in the short time I've been with this soccer program."