Women's Soccer Spring Recap

April 25, 2011

LEXINGTON, Ky. - When UK head women's soccer coach Jon Lipsitz started the spring season, the goals he set forth for his team were to work on possession and continued improvement of the culture of the program both on and off the field.

To say he got what he bargained for would be a big understatement as the Wildcats posted an undefeated spring record, 6-0-1. The team took his challenge a step further, not allowing a single goal in seven matches.

"Did I expect, or think about having, an undefeated spring, and no goals scored against us?" Lipsitz said. "No, that wasn't a goal of ours, our goal was about our development and about how much better we were getting individually and how our team would move forward and continue to grow. But of course I wasn't unhappy with the results. Once they roll the ball out, we want to play to win, but the reason I'm so pleased that we were undefeated and didn't give up any goals this spring is because it came from our increased possession on the ball and our increased athleticism from our work in the weight room."

The Wildcats posted shutout victories over Illinois (2-0), Vanderbilt (3-0), Belmont (2-0), Charleston (1-0), Eastern Kentucky (4-0) and Purdue (3-0) and played UAB to a scoreless draw.

Sophomore-to-be Kayla King got all the work in the goal for the Wildcats, not allowing a goal, a pleasant surprise for Lipsitz, considering King got only 66 minutes of experience in her freshman season.

"I was very happy with every player; I saw huge development," Lipsitz said. "I really praise all our players for their hard work. I'm so happy with the work that was done by the entire team. Kayla King's development in the goal was nothing short of phenomenal. If you would have told me at the beginning of last fall that Kayla was on track to be our starter next year, I would have laughed at you. She has two very talented freshmen that are coming in to challenge her, but they'd better be ready. Kayla was spectacular. She was solid, when she needed to be solid; she made the special saves when she needed to be special. Most of all, she dramatically improved her weaknesses so much, that you don't see them anymore. I'm really proud of the work she did."

A few other standout performances were senior-to-be Natalie Horner, sophomore-to-be Ashley VanLandingham and freshman Arin Gilliland.

While Horner might tell anybody she wasn't happy with her spring performance, Lipsitz feels quite the opposite, but is happy to hear that one of his returning leaders wasn't satisfied with the fact that she scored and had an assist in nearly every game in the spring.

He was also happy to see VanLandingham growing into a leader on the backline where she's more composed and her leadership qualities are coming out more.

The addition of prep All-American and local talent, Arin Gilliland (Wilmore, Ky.) was also a nice shot in the arm, both on the field and in the stands.

"We had a huge impact adding Arin Gilliland, who doubled our attendance at all our games. Being the hometown hero was exciting for her and all of us," Lipsitz said. "Arin did a really good job, considering she was gone so much of the spring with the U20 national team. Rather than having that be an excuse to be shy and quiet because she wasn't around a lot for training, I really thought she brought that higher level from national camp back to us, which she should, and had a huge impact.

"We started our first spring game against Illinois and early in the game she had a brilliant individual effort to score the first goal of the spring and that set a tone," Lipsitz said. "I'm proud of the fact that she didn't hide like the youngest player here, and instead realized that she's always going to have responsibility on her shoulders because of her talent."

Now with the spring season behind them, exam week quickly approaching and summer break right around the corner, Lipsitz is more comfortable with the development of his team both on and off the field.

"Our goals for the spring were to improve our possession and to continue to push our culture forward both on and off the field and to feel that when we finish the spring we were as ready as we could be for the fall, knowing that really from this point to Aug. 3 it's on the players. The coaches can't do it anymore," Lipsitz said. "We definitely met all those goals and now is the most difficult time for a coach where you wish them well. You tell them, `Let's crush the academics and make sure we finish the semester as well, or better, than our record-setting GPA last semester, and we'll see you in August.' That's difficult for coaches but I know our culture is at a place now where the players will be ready."