Soccer Cats Take the Practice Field
With players arriving on campus Sunday, Aug. 13, the University of Kentucky men's soccer team took the practice field for the first time Tuesday, less than one week before its exhibition opener.
Of the 36 players reporting, 20 are freshmen or transfers, giving the Cats quite a new look this season.
However, UK does return a number of key players from last season's Mid-American Conference Tournament champion and NCAA Tournament entry. Leading the way will be All-MAC and All-Mideast selections senior Giovanni Fernandes and junior Ilkka Jantti. Fernandes and Jantti anchor what head coach Ian Collins calls one of the best midfields in the country.
Taking care of the goal will be Brian O'Leary. The senior out of Lexington's Paul Laurence Dunbar High School had a stellar 1999 campaign. Playing every minute of every game, he made 60 saves with eight shutouts. He also gave up only 21 goals for a goals-against average of 0.96, the second-best in school history.
"We are excited to get practice going ," Collins said. "Everyone is excited about the upcoming season. The internal battle for a number of positions will be very strong. We are just ready to get started."
UK also had much success in the classroom last year. The Cats placed 11 players on the Southeastern Conference Academic Honor Roll and seven on the MAC Academic Honor Roll. The team also was in the top 10 in team grade-point average among Division I schools. The Cats suit up for their first competition Sunday, Aug. 20, in an exhibition against Dayton. They will finish the month of August with two more exhibitions before beginning the season in earnest at Louisville on Sept. 1 at 7:30 p.m.