Almost a year ago to the day, women's soccer contributed a riveting bit of drama to the never-boring Kentucky-Louisville rivalry.
Kayla King was a seldom-used reserve for UK when fate intervened during a game at U of L last fall. After playing only 48 minutes in her first two seasons, she became the Wildcats' goalkeeper because an injury sidelined the starter.
This year's Kentucky-Louisville game, which will be played Friday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex, features King as her team's captain and standout goalie.
UK Coach Jon Lipsitz sees this rags-to-riches story as a happy wedding of preparation and opportunity.
"She did the work," he said of King's improved work ethic leading into last season's UK-U of L game. "She was ready. We tell players if you do the work, we can't promise you you'll ever get your chance. But what we can promise you is that if you get your chance and you haven't done the work, you won't forgive yourself. She's a prime example."
King's chance came when a collision dropped starter Kayla Price to the ground. The force of the blow led to a 10-minute search for a tooth. Fortunately, Price's mother is a dentist.
Suddenly, King, who grew up in Louisville and futilely tried to recruit herself onto the U of L team, found herself going into the game.
"I was shaking," she said Wednesday. "I just took a knee and prayed a little prayer. The Big Man came through."
Shortly after entering the game, King made a save on a penalty kick, which helped Kentucky win 2-0.
Although she had hardly played, King was she was confident.
"I think confidence comes from within you," she said. "... That has to be your mentality. Whether you're the last player on the bench or the best player on the team. 'I can do this. I'm the best out there.' Anything other than that, you shouldn't be out there playing. Your confidence comes from your mentality."
King could have been excused for having wavering confidence. As a player for duPont Manual High School, she got the equivalent of a rejection letter from U of L's soccer coaches.
"I tried to recruit myself at Louisville," she said. "And they said I'd be fourth string, which I really appreciated their honesty."
King emailed the U of L coaches, asking them to come watch her play and expressing her desire to play for the Cardinals.
"We appreciate the interest," she said of the response. "But we don't think this is a fit for you."
So a victory over U of L for UK makes for an especially satisfying turning point in King's soccer career.
"Yeah, you can say that," she said. "More than that, it was maybe the pinnacle of everything I've ever trained for."
Women's soccer: Louisville at Kentucky
When: 7:30 p.m.
Records: Louisville 1-1-1, Kentucky 2-1-1
Last meeting: Kentucky won 2-0 at Louisville on Sept. 7, 2012.
Jerry Tipton: (859) 231-3227. Twitter: @JerryTipton. Blog: ukbasketball.bloginky.com.