Creighton Edges Kentucky in Wild NCAA Second Round Showdown

LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sunday’s NCAA Tournament showdown at The Bell between perennial power Creighton and No. 16 national seed Kentucky was the neutral fan’s dream. In the end the 3-2 result in the visitors’ favor sent the home side out of the tournament feeling snake bitten, but with nothing to hang their heads about.

The Bluejays scored the first two goals of the game. The Wildcats pulled one back through Kevin Barajas just after the hour mark, but The Wildcats went down a man 10 minutes later and conceded a third goal in quick succession.

J.J. Williams headed in a Charlie Reymann corner kick two minutes before full time, and despite one more good chance The Wildcats came just short of clawing all the way back. 

Creighton advanced to play Providence in the Sweet 16. Indeed Kentucky’s portion of the Tournament Bracket was the action portion, as the Friars battled back from a 4-1 deficit to defeat No. 1 overall seed and to that-point undefeated Maryland, 5-4 in College Park, on Sunday.

The Wildcats concluded the season 11-5-3, having earned a national seed for the first time in program history.

The goals
Creighton scored on the first serious attacking chance for either team.

The Bluejays won a free kick 17 yards from the byline on the left wing. Riggs Lennon hit a good service into traffic in front of goal, and The Wildcats could not deal, with the finish being recorded as an own goal.

Down a goal, the Wildcats took the attacking impetus, and that paid off in the form of a penalty kick on 27 minutes. But Creighton goalkeeper Alex Kapp saved Jordan Wilson’s attempt diving low to his right.

Creighton doubled its advantage just moments later when Ricardo Perez smashed a laser from 24 yards beyond anyone’s reach and into the net.

Kentucky cut Creighton’s lead in half in the 68th minute after the official awarded Kentucky a free kick near where Creighton scored the opener from.

Connor Probert whipped a trademark bending ball into the box, and after some pin ball Barajas headed in from close range.

But shortly thereafter Probert was sent off, and 70 seconds later Karim Sawaf extended Creighton’s lead to 3-1. Perez hit a ball over the top of the short-handed UK defense and Sawaf poked it past UK keeper Stuart Ford.

Williams’ header sent a message of “game on,” again, but the Wildcats just didn’t have enough time to find an equalizer. Kapp made a strong stop on a Kaelon Fox tight-angle shot in the 90th minute to seal the result.

The setup
For the first time in program history the Kentucky men’s soccer team began the NCAA Tournament in the second round.

The Wildcats earned the eighth NCAA Tournament bid in program history. Kentucky was given a national seed and the first-round bye that goes along with it for the first time.

In contrast Creighton, a perennial national power, defeated Tulsa 3-0 in the NCAA first round, in Omaha, Nebraska, on Thursday to advance to play UK in Lexington.

The notes
Kentucky made its third consecutive NCAA appearance and fourth in the past five seasons.

The Wildcats dropped to 1-8-2 all-time in NCAA Tournament play.

Kentucky entered Sunday undefeated at home this season, and finished the year 8-1-2 at The Bell.

Charlie Reymann closed his senior season with a team and Conference USA-high 10 assists.

Barajas scored his first goal of the year, and the fourth of his career. He scored in the NCAA Tournament last season, as well.

Williams and Probert each finished their freshman seasons with three goals and three assists.

Creighton leads the all-time series against Kentucky 3-0-0. This was the first meeting between the sides in Lexington.

The quote
“Tough night, I want to congratulate Creighton,” UK head coach Johan Cedergren said. “They have a great team and we wish them luck the rest of the way. It’s never fun to sit here. Someone has to win and someone has to lose and I thought that we did more than enough to get a win today, but in the end it didn’t go that way.

“Very, very disappointing – and I know the captains are disappointed but you can’t take away from all that they have achieved since the time they have been here. I’m very, very proud of them. 

“I think a couple mistakes that we typically don’t make. We have a very good defensive system that focuses on keeping clean sheets, and so when you give up three goals, it’s going to be really, really hard to win the game and I think we are a little unfortunate in the way we set up on the first goal – an individual mistake on the second goal – and then the third goal is going to happen because of all kinds of other things. So, we could have been a little smarter earlier in the game to keep it tight, so that when we score two goals, we can win the game.”

NCAA Tournament notes
Kentucky’s best NCAA Tournament finish was a Sweet 16 in 2000.

Kentucky has now made the NCAA Tournament in all-but one of head coach Johan Cedergren’s five years at the helm of the program. Cedergren reached four NCAA Tournaments in quicker succession than any other coach in UK history.

The NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship has a field of 48 teams. Twenty-three conference champions qualify automatically; the balance of the field was selected at-large by the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Committee.

--
Post-Match Quotes
November 20, 2016
Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex – Lexington, Ky.
Creighton 2, #16 Kentucky 1

Head Coach Elmar Bolowich
“It was great for us to get the early two goals. I thought that Ricardo (Perez)’s goal was fantastic in its execution. It was a great shot and then I thought the key moment was that Alex (Kapp) actually made a save when it was 2-0 on the PK. That would have put Kentucky back into the match a lot earlier and then it just became really just desperation for Kentucky to try and even it out and to try and even it back out and get back into the game. Things got a little bit hectic, so I’m proud of our guys keeping their cool and then getting the third goal, which was eventually the game-winner.”

#10 Ricardo Perez, M
On the tactical plan of defending Kentucky … 
“Overall, we were trying to stay compact and stay united as a team and shifting over and getting players in if they change the point of attack and prevent the counterattack.” 

On holding off Kentucky in the dying minutes … 
“It was motivating. These are the types of games that you look forward too. Tonight had a great atmosphere and a great feel and it was a really good feel to the game.”

#1 Alex Kapp, GK
On the tactical plan of defending Kentucky … 
“I think our style of play is more important than the way that we address to them. Yes, we watched film and everything but we are confident that our style of play if we play our style of game, we are better than any team that we play. I think we concentrate on our style more than theirs”

On holding off Kentucky in the dying minutes … 
“Any team that is going down 2-0 at half is going to come out and match you – but we were expecting that. Still, the point is to keep playing our game, which we struggled a little bit with in the second half. But, that’s what we try and do.”

Kentucky Head Coach, Johan Cedergren
“Tough night. I want to congratulate Creighton. They have a great team and we wish them luck the rest of the way. These three captains – they have done a fantastic job when you take a look at the journey they have taken over the four years that they have been here and I just couldn’t be prouder. They have given us everything they had. So, again, it’s never fun to sit here. Someone has to win and someone has to lose and I thought that we did more than enough to get a win today, but in the end it didn’t go that way. Very, very disappointing – and I know the captains are disappointed but you can’t take away from all that they have achieved since the time they have been here. I’m very, very proud of them.”

“I think a couple of individual mistakes that we typically don’t make. We have a very good defensive system that focuses on keeping clean sheets, and so when you give up three goals, it’s going to be really, really hard to win the game and I think we are a little unfortunate in the way we set up on the first goal – an individual mistake on the second goal – and then the third goal is going to happen because of all kinds of other things. So, we could have been a little smarter earlier in the game to keep it tight, so that when we score two goals, we can win the game.”

#5 Jordan Wilson, D
On his reflections of his career at Kentucky … 
“I think it’s a real credit to all the guys in the locker room that we have. Like Johan said, it’s been a tough process, but a good one over the four years. Maybe we should have got a bit more out of it tonight, but you look at this program over the years and the first year we lost in the conference tournament and didn’t even make the (NCAA) Tournament. To come and get a second round bye is a real credit to the guys sitting up here and the guys in the locker room. Every day they come and they bring it in practice and their hard work pays off. All of those days where we come in and work – you’re just starting to see the results. The guys who are returning, they are going to take it to the next level, so we are leaving the program in good hands as well.”

#7 Napo Matsoso, M
On his reflections of his career at Kentucky … 
 “I want to thank Coach (Cedergren) for everything that he has done for us. I have to thank Mitch (Barnhart), Kevin (Saal), all of the Big Blue Nation – we are very thankful for everything that they do. It’s a tough way to get out and everyone fought, but at the end of the day there has to be one winner and one loser. Everyone is proud of this team and I am proud of this team as well. I am just very thankful for everything here.”

#3 Charlie Reymann, D
On his reflections of his career at Kentucky … 
 “Where we started – you would have never thought we would end up here getting a first-round bye. Having the quality of team that we have, a lot of it goes to Johan and implementing the system that we have. It’s a winning system and it wins games and in the past few years it’s got us in really good spots. This year is a little different, because I thought we did a lot to leave with a win. We battled with a couple of minutes left to score and that just shows the character of this team and how we have been battling all year and how we are a family and we don’t give up. Hopefully they can recover next season because a lot of quality is coming back and we have six seniors here leaving, but there are still a lot of guys who are here that can raise this program to even higher levels.”

--
The best coverage of UK men's soccer is available via UKMensSoccer handles on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.