Xavier eliminates UK men's soccer 1-0

mmaloney@herald-leader.comNovember 15, 2012 

No matter how Thursday night's NCAA Tournament first-round match at the UK Soccer Complex turned out, there would be no denying that Kentucky has enjoyed a turnaround season.

That didn't ease the disappointment, though, when Xavier came in and ended the Wildcats' season 1-0.

Luke Spencer's goal with 4:40 left was the difference.

"It's a tough loss for us, of course," UK Coach Johan Cedergren said. "You don't want to go out this early in the tournament.

"But, at the same time, I think you have to look at where we're coming from. I think it's 2003 since we've been dancing last time. I'm not happy with how we played today. I think the occasion maybe got the better of us at times — we looked a little nervous, a little tentative. But at the same time, it's been a heck of a season. I couldn't be any prouder of the guys."

Xavier (14-2-5) advances to the round of 32 and will visit 16th-seeded Indiana, Sunday at 1 p.m. The Hoosiers had a first-round bye.

The Musketeers, with a school-record victory total, are in the NCAA tourney for the third year in a row.

UK (10-9-2) rebounded from a 1-4 start under their first-year coach to make the tourney for the fifth time, and for the first time since 2003.

Senior co-captains Matt Lodge and Cameron Wilder said the new coaching staff triggered the turnaround.

"We trained hard every day, day in and day out," Lodge said. "And I think that helped a lot."

"In the end, we just excelled and got better every day," Wilder added. "It's just unfortunate (to lose) ... but it's been a great season."

Xavier dominated a scoreless first half, outshooting the Cats 6-1 and getting two corner kicks to none.

UK countered in the second half by outshooting the visitors 8-4, although Xavier had a 5-1 bulge in corners.

"I have a lot of respect for Kentucky, but I really felt like tonight we were solid from start to finish," Musketeers Coach Andy Fleming said. "We played a complete game. Except for maybe an eight-minute lull in the middle of the second half, I felt like we had command of the game and really played well."

UK's Jack Van Arsdale made three saves, but had no chance on the one that got past.

On a counter-attack, Matt Walker dribbled deep down the right wing, then crossed the ball for Spencer.

"It was a difficult ball for the defender to handle, and it got by him," said Spencer, who was open just inside the back post. "It was coming with pace, so I figured I'd take a touch, and had to toe-poke it. But it still ended up being a goal."

UK turned up the heat in the closing minutes, but goalkeeper Justin Mitchell didn't have to make an official save.

"Defensively, it's being locked in and working together as a team and as a group," Xavier back Sean Ryan said. "And not leaving anybody out to dry."Fleming noted that his team had gone about two weeks without blocking a shot. At one point in the second half, the Musketeers blocked two in a span of about 15 seconds.

"I felt like our midfield, in the middle-third of the field, won the scrums and won the fifty-fifties," Fleming said, "and really was the catalyst for us defensively, so they couldn't get to our back four."

Cedergren, on a night with mixed emotions, didn't disagree.

"We definitely probably didn't play as well as we could have ... but, at the same time, you've got to give Xavier a lot of credit," Cedergren said.

"In the end, Xavier showed why they're still playing. And then, maybe we still have some things to learn from them."

Xavier 1, Kentucky 0

Goal—X: Luke Spencer. Goalkeepers—X: Justin Marshall; UK: Jack Van Arsdale. Records—X: 14-2-5; UK: 10-9-2.

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHLBlog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

Lexington Herald-Leader is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service