No. 14 UK Opens 2015 v Valpo Friday at The Bell

LEXINGTON, Ky.  -- The No. 14 Kentucky men’s soccer team will begin the 2015 season against Valparaiso on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. ET at the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex.

The match will be the second leg of a double-header with the UK women’s soccer team playing at 5 p.m. v UNC-Greensboro.

The Quote
“It’s exciting to have a home-opener in such a nice stadium,” UK fourth-year head coach Johan Cedergren said. “Valpo is a really good team. They’ve got some experienced internationals. They’ve had some good results in the past, they play in a tough league and they beat Indiana in preseason so getting ready and prepared for them is going to be a tough test for us to start the season. 

“But that’s what we want. We want to go places. We want to win big games. We want to play late in the conference tournament and the NCAA Tournament and if you’re going to do that you’ve got to be able to beat tough teams. Just excited to get going. It’s been a long preseason and the guys are ready.”

The Setup
Kentucky enters 2015 returning 9 of 11 starters from a team that finished second in Conference USA and cracked the top-25 for much of the season a year ago.

The Wildcats will look to build on last year’s breakout performances this season.

Valpo enters the match having shown strong form in the preseason as they defeated Indiana 1-0 last week before drawing Lewis 1-1 on Monday.

In 2014 Valpo earned a spot in national top-25 polls for the first time in program history and reached its highest NCAA RPI ratings ever.

Match logistics
Gates will open an hour prior to the women’s soccer match, which starts at 5 p.m. The men’s match will start 45 minutes following the conclusion of the women’s match, should it end later than originally planned.

Tickets are $5 for the general public and $2 for youth and seniors. Fans can call (800) 928-2287 for tickets, or purchase at the ticket window at The Bell. 

Kentucky will be especially happy to welcome the record 467-plus season-ticket holders this season. Those members of Big Blue Nation can bring their Kentucky soccer scarves as proof of ticket, instead of paper tickets. 

Friday’s match will be Kentucky Youth Soccer Night where youth soccer players and families will receive free admission with the proper flyer distributed by the UK marketing department. 

The match will be the first of 11 UK soccer home matches this season scheduled to be broadcast on SEC Network+.

Kentucky’s preseason expectations
Coming off a 2014 season when UK earned some program-changing results, multiple Wildcats are being looked at as some of the nation’s best entering the new year. 

Leading that list are senior goalie Callum Irving and junior midfielder Napo Matsoso.

Both are on the MAC Hermann Award Watch List, tying UK as the team with the most players on the watch list for college soccer’s highest individual award.

Irving is coming off an All-America season in 2014, totaling 10 shutouts and a 0.77 goals-against average. He earned C-USA Player of the Year, Defensive MVP and first-team All-C-USA honors, in addition to the Golden Glove award, given to the league-leader in shutouts in conference action (five). In his career, the senior has the third-best goals-against average (0.98) in UK history. He enters 2015 as the TopDrawerSoccer.com selection, by the nation’s coaches in the preseason, as the top goalkeeper in college soccer and as a preseason All-American as compiled by that publication.
 
Matsoso is also a TopDrawer Preseason All-American, a first-team All-C-USA selection in 2014, totaled five goals and four assists a year ago, helping lead UK to 10 wins.  

Kentucky paced the preseason All-Conference USA team with its three selections, with Irving selected to repeat as the circuit’s top defender. Matsoso, a junior midfielder, and Jordan Wilson, a junior center back, were also voted to the preseason All-Conference USA team. 

Wilson was also tabbed first-team All-C-USA as a sophomore in 2014.