Shteiwi, Senecal Pace Kentucky Past Western Michigan, 3-0
KALAMAZOO, Mich. – Jamal Shteiwi scored twice and Thomas Senecal added a goal and an assist all in the first half as Kentucky cruised to a 3-0 victory over Western Michigan in its Mid-America Conference opener on Sunday afternoon.
The win was the Wildcats third straight as they improved to 3-2 on the season after dropping their first two contests to top 20 opponents. The Broncos, which won the MAC Tournament last season, dropped to 1-3 on the year.
“This was a very important win at a tough place to play,” said Kentucky coach Ian Collins. “We had a real edge on them today after a performance that wasn’t our best on Friday. We started strong today and the game was over at halftime.”
It is the seventh straight conference win for Kentucky which seeks to win its fourth conference crown in five years. The Wildcats beat Western Michigan for the 12th straight time and improved to 7-1 in their last eight conference openers.
With the shutout, Kentucky extended its shutout streak in MAC play to 633 minutes and 10 seconds, a span of more than seven games.
Andy Gruenebaum’s notched his second shutout in three games and the 12th of his career. He made seven saves in the contest, most of which came on good scoring chances created by the Broncos in the second half.
“You’re not going to completely wipe out a team that is good on its home field,” Collins said. “Western Michigan played with a lot of pride and got some good chances, but Andy made some exceptional saves.”
Senecal got the scoring started in the 13th minute when he put back the rebound from Anthony Peters header from point blank range. Freshman Nathan Marks served a perfect ball to Peters from 40 yards out on the right flank to start the play.
The goal was the third of the year for Senecal, a first-team All-MAC selection a season ago. It is his second straight game with a score.
With the lead, Kentucky kept the pressure on with a barrage of crosses that eventually led to Shteiwi’s first tally in the 31st minute. Senecal played the ball down the right side to Michael D’Agostino, who crossed it to Shteiwi directly in front of the goal.
“Our mental focus and preparation (were key to our play today). The players were disappointed with Friday’s effort. They wanted to prove something to themselves today and I think they did. I think we could have had five or six goals in the first half,” Collins said.
In the 37th minute, Riley O’Neill created the third goal with a tremendous run through the middle of the field. He intercepted a Bronco corner kick at the edge of Kentucky’s defensive box and pushed forward to the midfield line where he fed Shteiwi. Taking the ball from 30 yards out, Shteiwi outran one defender and dribbled around a charging Western Michigan keeper to give himself an unimpeded look at the goal.
Shteiwi extended his point (goal or assist) streak to six games dating back to last year and has scored a goal in four straight contests. The point streak is tied for the second longest in school history.
The second half played evenly as Kentucky looked fatigued playing in its fifth game in 10 days. Four of the games were on the road. Western Michigan fired seven second half shots after just five in the opening frame. The Wildcats still owned the shot advantage 15-12 for the game.
“We got very tired, this being our fifth game in a row,” Collins said. “But I’m very proud of the effort, mental focus and toughness today. I would say it was our best performance by far.”
Kentucky returns to action on Friday when it hosts Georgia Southern in the UK Invitational at 7:30 p.m. Prior to that game, Louisville will take on Winthrop at the UK Soccer Complex at 5 p.m.