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By Boyd Hayes
In stark contrast to last Sunday’s letdown at Samford, the UK women’s soccer team dominated their Sunday match against Mississippi State 3-0 after beating No. 13 Florida 2-1 on Friday.
The UK-MSU match stood as the Kick-Cancer Game for pediatric cancer.
The Bulldogs came into the match undefeated with a +16 goal differential for the season. The Cats were carrying the momentum from the Florida victory, but had yet to prove that they could put together a strong Friday-Sunday turnaround.
UK is now 7-1-0 (2-0-0 SEC), one of three teams currently undefeated in SEC play, and MSU is 7-1-1 (0-1-1 SEC).
Goals came from freshman forward Kelli Hubly (4′), junior forward Caitlin Landis (11′), and sophomore defender Arin Gilliland (49′).
The first half saw a strong UK attack headed by the Landis-Hubly forward duo that has seen consistent production over the past few games.
The first score came four minutes in when a swift offensive push saw Landis place the ball at the feet of Hubly on the right side of the goalie box, where she would put a magisterial strike in the back of the goal. Not ten minutes later, the players switched roles, with Hubly dumping the ball to Landis, who would net her first goal of the season.
“It felt great. It’s been a long time coming, but it just felt good to finally get it in. Coach actually mentioned that to me before the game, that I was getting all these assists. It’s just about trying to help the team, trying to win, and we’re playing great. We just need to keep it going,” Landis said.
Mississippi State allowed only three goals in their first nine games of the season. Hubly’s goal ended a 578-minute shutout streak for the Bulldogs, 549 minutes of which were attributed to goalkeeper Skylar Rosson, a school record.
Towards the end of the half, UK senior defender Brooke Keyes saw her first minutes of playing time this season after missing the first several weeks with an injury. She would come back in the second half, totaling 20 minutes of field time in all.
The second half made way with four minutes of UK offense which ended in the Cats’ third goal of the game.
After a junior midfielder Danielle Krohn corner kick was pounded off the crossbar by senior forward Natalie Horner, freshman midfielder Courtney Raetzman headed the ball to Gilliland, who headed it back down and into the goal. The goal was Gilliland’s third of the season, and the assist went to Raetzman, her second.
After the Gilliland goal, it was just a matter of clock and personnel management for Lipsitz to end the game, as a plethora of substitutions and some showings of defense littered the final 30 minutes.
The Cats ended the game with 21 shots (8 on goal) to MSU’s six (3 on goal). UK junior ‘keeper Kayla King had three saves, with Rosson picking up five, despite the three UK goals.
This was UK’s first Friday-Sunday SEC sweep since 2006, Lipsitz’s first at the helm. The five goals for the weekend were also the most UK has scored in an SEC opening weekend since 2003.
“Two weeks ago, we were okay on Sunday. Last week, we were very poor. We know that we’re tired; we have all the stats. We have eight players who ran over six and a half miles in the game on Friday. That’s an unbelievable effort we put out,” Lipsitz said. “On the days when we might be tired physically, we have to be mentally sharper. Today was the day when we grew up some, when we did it all together. I thought it was a good step in what is going to be a grind. We still have 11 more games in the conference.”
After the game, ceremonies commenced to honor victims of pediatric cancer. A banner was hung in the home-side goal sporting the Kentucky Children’s Hospital and messages from supporters, and an emotional gathering of fans, players, coaches, and staff laid flowers at the base of the goal in what has become a tradition for the UK women’s team.
The Cats sported gold jerseys for the second annual Kick-Cancer Game. The special jerseys would be auctioned off the day following the match with the proceeds going to the Pediatric Cancer Oncology Center at UK.
The tradition started when Kentucky Children’s Hospital patient and adamant UK women’s soccer fan, Allison Berger, lost her battle with cancer. Her parents joined the teams at midfield for the National Anthem before the game.
The Cats continue SEC play next Friday at Arkansas at 8:00 p.m. EST, then again on Sunday at LSU at 2:00 p.m. EST.