A second-half surge by the University of Kentucky men’s soccer team couldn’t save their season.
No. 23 Creighton (13-6-3) handed the No. 18 Wildcats their first home loss of the season on Sunday, a 3-2 defeat in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Cats (11-5-3) entered the match with an 8-0-2 record at the Bell Soccer Complex.
“It’s never fun to sit here,” Kentucky Coach Johan Cedergren said. “Someone’s got to win, someone’s got to lose. And I thought that we did more than enough to get a win today, but in the end it didn’t go our way. So, very, very disappointed.”
Kentucky trailed 2-0 at the half and 3-1 in the second half. Freshman JJ Williams scored on a header — assisted by senior Charlie Reymann — in the final two minutes to pull UK within one. The Cats continued to attack the Bluejays’ goal in the final seconds but couldn’t score the equalizer.
Cedergren said the Cats made uncharacteristic mistakes, particularly on defense. They entered Sunday’s game ranked 16th nationally in defense, averaging 0.68 goals per game.
The three goals were the most Kentucky has allowed all season.
“We have a system that focuses on keeping clean sheets, and if you give up three goals, it’s going to be really, really hard to win the game,” Cedergren said.
The final 15 minutes turned chippy when UK freshman Connor Probert was ejected after receiving a red card. Kentucky goalkeeper Stuart Ford also was issued a red card in the final seconds.
“We faced the circumstances that we had in front of us and we battled until the end,” Cedergren said. “And that’s all you can ask for from the guys.”
Creighton scored first on an own goal, followed by a score from senior Ricardo Perez.
In the second half, the Wildcats answered with a goal from Kevin Barajas, assisted by Probert. The Bluejays stretched their lead to 3-1 on freshman Karim Sawaf’s first career goal.
“It was great for us to get the early two goals,” Creighton Coach Elmar Bolowich said. “I thought a key moment was Alex (Kapp) actually made a save when it was 2-0 on that PK. That would have brought Kentucky a lot earlier back into the game.”
Creighton will advance to the round of 16 to face Providence, which upset No. 1 Maryland 5-4 on Sunday.
“I thought we did a lot to leave with a win and I think everyone battled,” Reymann said. “Hopefully they can bring that into next season because a lot of quality is coming back.”