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.
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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.