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UK women's soccer: Cats fend off Lady Vols to advance to finals

Kentucky celebrated its victory over Tennessee in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament at Orange Beach, Ala. (UK Athletics photo)
Kentucky celebrated its victory over Tennessee in the semifinals of the SEC Tournament at Orange Beach, Ala. (UK Athletics photo)

The Kentucky women's soccer team defeated the 10th-seeded Tennessee Lady Vols Friday night, scoring the first three goals of the match in the 3-2 win, to advance into the Southeastern Conference Tournament Championship game on Sunday afternoon.

"It was a very difficult challenge," Kentucky coach Jon Lipsitz said. "What a game. We knew what a battle it was going to be, and I told my team that it would be our toughest game of the year. It would test us in ways — physically and mentally — that we hadn't been tested. Late in the game, that's what happened to us. I'm very proud of our group."

Kentucky (16-5) jumped out to its 3-0 lead with goals from three players, as Kelli Hubly, Arin Gilliland and Kaitlin Miller all got on the scoresheet.

The Lady Vols (10-10-2) answered with two goals through New Zealand international player Hannah Wilkinson in the 75th and 86th minutes to decrease the UK lead to 3-2.

The Cats got on the board in the 27th minute when Hubly notched her second goal of the tournament with an assist by Cara Ledman. A few minutes later, Kentucky scored again on a header by senior Gilliland from a serve into the box by Miller.

Emma Brown nearly made it 3-0 in the 37th minute as she followed up a Courtney Raetzman blast from long range. Brown crashed the goal for a rebound and finished it to the far post, but was whistled for being offside.

In the second half, Kentucky extended got its third goal on a penalty kick by Miller after Zoe Swift stole a ball at the edge of the box and was taken down as she raced in.

It was Kentucky's eighth straight victory since it lost 2-1 Oct. 5 at Texas A&M in a game that saw Lipsitz draw a red card toward the end of the match.

"We came in here extremely confident, and we really are excited to play Texas A&M again," Lipsitz said. "They have been the standard-bearer of our conference this year, won the regular season, and I can't think of anybody we'd rather play or that we respect more."

Texas A&M 1, South Carolina 0: The only goal of Friday's first SEC semifinal game didn't come until the 87th minute, but it was enough to send top-seeded Texas A&M (17-2-2) to their second straight SEC championship game.

With 3:18 left on the clock, Texas A&M senior Bianca Brinson scored on a header off of a corner kick from Kelley Monogue.

South Carolina's physical play disrupted A&M's offense, but the Aggies were able to regain their rhythm late in the game, almost scoring in the 86th minute on a shot by Shea Groom, which was deflected by South Carolina goalkeeper Sabrina D'Angelo. The deflection gave the Aggies a corner kick, which led to Brinson's game-winning header.

South Carolina (13-5-3) outshot the Aggies 10-8 in the match.