Kentucky women's soccer team opens Friday with high expectations

August 21, 2014 

Kentucky's Arin Gilliland (16) tried for a shot on goal around the defense of Ohio State's Morgan Wolcott (33) during the first round of the NCAA Tournament at the UK Soccer Complex Friday. Gilliland scored the Cats' second goal and assisted on another.

MATT GOINS — Herald-Leader Buy Photo

The University of Kentucky women's soccer team is starting the 2014 season not far from where its past two seasons have ended.

If the Wildcats are set on facing down their demons, the West Coast is a great place to start.

Coach Jon Lipsitz's squad, knocked out in the second round of the NCAA Tournament the past two seasons at UCLA, begins this season by visiting another Pacific-12 Conference foe, the University of Washington.

Friday's match begins at 10 p.m. EDT at Husky Soccer Stadium in Seattle.

Live video will be available through Washington's athletics website.

Nine starters return for the Wildcats, who finished 14-7-1 in 2013.

Senior Arin Gilliland, a two-time All-American and three-time All-Southeastern Conference performer from Nicholasville, leads Kentucky.

Gilliland finished 2013 ranked in the top five all-time at UK in goals, assists and points, and all those records could fall this season, in addition to shots, games played and minutes played.

For the first time in program history, Kentucky is starting a season in the Pacific Time Zone. The Cats arrived in Portland on Aug. 14 and spent five days training at Nike World Headquarters, while also collecting a 3-1 exhibition win over the 11th-ranked Portland Pilots on Saturday night.

Kentucky returns all of its back four from a season ago as sophomore center back Kaitlin Miller joins juniors Kelli Hubly (right back), Olivia Jester (center back) and Cara Ledman (left back) from a line that allowed just 29 goals in 21 matches.

Junior Courtney Raetzman is joined by senior All-SEC performer Stuart Pope and Alex Carter in the midfield.

Up top, UK boasts one of the best offensive trios in the SEC, as Gilliland joins All-Freshman SEC player Zoe Swift and sophomore transfer Michaela Dooley. The threesome scored more than 25 goals last season and accounted for more than 75 points.

Washington, 7-9-4 last season, has six starters back, including leading returning scorer Katie Bennett.

Kentucky follows Friday's match by taking on Seattle University on Sunday at 3 p.m. EDT

The Wildcats play their home opener in the new $7 million Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex on Aug. 29 vs. Francis Marion.

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