No. 23 UK Soccer Faces UCF in C-USA Semifinals on Friday

Nov. 13, 2008

 

DALLAS -- After dispatching Marshall in the first round of the Conference USA Championship, the No. 23 Kentucky men's soccer team looks to extend its school-record eight game unbeaten streak, facing UCF in the semifinals, on Friday at 6 p.m. ET at SMU's Westcott Field.

Kentucky (11-4-4, 6-1-1 C-USA) pounded Marshall 4-2, on Wednesday in the tournament opener, getting two goals from senior forward Michael Strong, a marvelous goal from sophomore Tyler Burns and a goal from C.J. Tappel. The Wildcats have not lost in eight consecutive games, a school-record, eclipsing the previous record of seven games, set in 1997, 1998 and 2004.

The Wildcats own the lone regular-season meeting with UCF, a 2-1 comeback win at the UK Soccer Complex on Oct. 22. During its eight-game streak, UK has posted wins over No. 18 South Carolina, at UAB, UCF, FIU, at No. 22 SMU and Marshall, as well as ties against No. 14 Indiana and Memphis. On its ever-growing NCAA Tournament resume, the red-hot Wildcats boast a dominating win over No. 6 Michigan.

The high-octane Wildcat offense has totaled 39 goals in 2008, good for a tie for fourth-best all-time in UK history. Strong, a native of San Antonio, has led the way for UK, tallying nine goals and one assist, despite playing in just 16 games with eight starts due to injury. C-USA Newcomer of the Year Marco dos Santos checks in second on the club with 13 points, tallying four goals and five assists, narrowly missing adding on to his season total for goal, hitting the cross bar against Marshall. Sam Vernalls and Chad Hagerty join dos Santos for the assist lead, each totaling five assists in 2008.

In goal, UK has relied upon one of the top keepers in collegiate soccer, junior Dan Williams - a 6-foot-2 native of Fairfax Station, Va. Williams, an All-Conference USA selection in 2008, has posted the third-best goals-against average (0.84) in the conference.

The anchor of the Wildcat defense has been arguably the top defender in the nation, junior Barry Rice. Rice, who became the first player in C-USA history to win the conference Defensive Player of the Year honor in two consecutive seasons, has won a staggering 88-percent of contested header attempts, claiming 168-for-191 contested header attempts on the year. Rice, a preseason All-American and member of the Missouri Athletic Club Hermann Trophy Watch List, has totaled one goal and one assist from his back-line position.

UCF (7-10-1, 3-4-1 C-USA) got its first program win in the conference tournament on Wednesday, posting a 1-0 result against Memphis. In an exciting game with the Tigers, UCF fouled a Memphis player in the penalty box late in the game, but the Memphis captain who took the penalty kick with a chance to tie the game up, soared his shot 30 yards over the net and out of the soccer complex, giving UCF the win and Memphis the heart-breaking defeat.

UK owns a 4-1-1 all-time mark against UCF, claiming three consecutive meetings in the last three seasons. In C-USA Championship games, the Wildcats own a 3-2-1 mark in four appearances.

The winner of the UCF/UK match will face the winner of the Tulsa/South Carolina match in Sunday's 2 p.m. ET championship game. Fifth-seeded South Carolina sprang a dominating upset of fourth-seeded SMU on Wednesday night, a 3-0 result, eliminating the host Mustangs from contention.