No. 23 Soccer Losses C-USA Title Game to No. 7 Tulsa on Penalties, 4-2

Nov. 16, 2008

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DALLAS -- The No. 23 Kentucky men’s soccer team battled the seventh-ranked Tulsa Golden Hurricane in 110 minutes, securing a 1-1 tie but falling in the Conference USA Championship game on penalty kicks 4-2, on Sunday afternoon at SMU’s Westcott Field.

Kentucky (12-4-5, 6-1-1 C-USA) battled the high-octane Golden Hurricane in a dramatic, nail-bitter of a match, with both teams refusing to quit. After two scoreless overtime periods, the two teams had to have the match decided on penalty kicks, with Tulsa advancing 4-2. UK’s last loss in penalty kicks came in 2005, a first round C-USA Tournament loss to South Carolina, who won the penalties 3-0. The last C-USA Championship game decided on penalty kicks was in 2003.

After the two teams both scored in the sixth minute, both defenses secured the game, not allowing a goal in the final 104 minutes. Tulsa controlled the statistical advantage, posting a 18-11 shot margin and a 4-2 corner-kick advantage. UK keeper Dan Williams kept the Wildcats in the game throughout, posting three saves in his 110 minutes. UK got a sixth-minute goal from Marco dos Santos, just 33 seconds after allowing a go-ahead goal to Tulsa.

The tie extends the Wildcats school-record unbeaten streak to 10 games, well eclipsing the previous school record of seven games, set in 1997, 1998 and 2004. The Wildcats marched to the C-USA title game for the second time in the last three years with dominating results over Marshall (4-2) and UCF (1-0). UK, who finished second place with a 6-1-1 record in league play, had not lost since an Oct. 8 setback at Tulsa, allowing an own goal and a penalty kick in that match. UK had posted wins over No. 18 South Carolina, UAB, UCF, FIU, No. 22 SMU and Marshall during the unbeaten streak, as well as ties with No. 14 Indiana, Memphis and now Tulsa. In addition, UK has a NCAA-resume building win over No. 8 Michigan, a dominating 2-1 result.

In the penalty kicks, Tulsa struck first with the first two goals, going up 2-0. Diego Henriquez netted Tulsa’s first penalty, beating Williams in the right corner. UK then turned to its co-captain Jason Griffiths – who entered the penalty 6-for-6 in his career and 4-of-4 in 2008 in penalty kick goals. Griffiths tried to go left but Tyrel Lacey, the first-team All-Conference USA keeper, made a diving save. C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Ashley McInnes gave Tulsa a 2-0 lead, beating Williams left. Dos Santos took UK’s second penalty for UK, going right, but Lacey again made a diving save. Tulsa’s Chris Taylor was next, and his shot missed left. The Wildcats turned to Jirijoonas Kanth, who had played in just four games in 2008 and not in the conference tournament, to keep its hopes alive. Kanth, a native of Finland, came up large, ripping a powerful shot that Lacey got a hand on, with it trickling into the net, 2-1 Tulsa. Eric DeFreitas came next for Tulsa and his shot was good to the left, making it 3-1 Tulsa. C.J. Tappel was next for the Wildcats, and Tappel fired a hard-hit shot into the right corner to make it 3-2 and keep UK’s hopes alive. With the Conference Tournament title resting on the next penalty, Justin Chavez fired the winner into the left corner, giving Tulsa the title.
Tulsa (15-3-3, 7-0-1 C-USA) struck first in the sixth minute, as Jeovahnni Sandez found Jose Parada on a beautiful goal to give the Golden Hurricane an early goal. Parada was open from about 35 yards out at an angle and lofted a bending shot that sailed around the UK defense and past a diving Williams, netting in the far post.

Just 33 seconds after allowing the early Tulsa goal, Marco dos Santos beat Tyrel Lacey to the ball, scooping up the loose ball inside the box. Dos Santos found himself with an open net on the far edge of the six-yard box, slipping a magnificent goal that found the far corner of the net, past the on rush of Tulsa defenders. The goal marked dos Santos’ fifth of the year, second-best on the team.

With 41 goals on the year, UK has totaled the third-most goals in UK season history, equaling the 1991 club’s season goal total. The Wildcats have three total conference tournament titles, all in the Mid American Conference, with its last coming in the 2001 MAC Tournament.

Tappel found himself open in the 22nd minute on a breakaway, after dos Santos won a tough ball in the midfield, forcing a yellow card. Tappel scoped it up and fired a hard-hit ball that forced a diving save from Lacey, setting up a corner. Dos Santos had UK’s best chance at the end of regulation, firing a shot from about five yards out, but missing high.

All-American defender Barry Rice, the only player in conference history to win defensive player of the year in two straight seasons, won 10-of-13 contested header attempts, to bring his total up to 189-for-218 on the season.

Kentucky now awaits NCAA Tournament selection, set for Monday evening on ESPN News, from 6-6:30 p.m. ET.