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Men’s soccer crashed out of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday with a 1-0 loss against Xavier at the UK Soccer Complex.
The top scorer, senior forward Luke Spencer, bagged the winning goal for the visitors four minutes from time, to set up a second round meeting with Indiana on Sunday.
“It’s a tough loss for us, of course,” said UK head coach Johan Cedergren.
Were it not for UK’s junior goalkeeper Jack Van Arsdale, the margin of victory could have been greater.
“I’m not happy with how we played today, I think the occasion maybe got the better of us at times,” Cedergren said.
Xavier dominated the game for large spells and was unfortunate not to take a lead into the halftime interval, with UK struggling to get a strong sight of goal.
A mixture of Van Arsdale heroics and poor finishing from the visitors kept things level going into the break.
Junior midfielders Tanner Petrick and Gino De Paoli, along with Spencer, all squandered scoring chances for the Musketeers, with all failing to hit the target.
Another Xavier junior midfielder, Matt Walker, was denied by Van Arsdale when clean through on goal.
Sophomore midfielder Will Walker and leading scorer Spencer ran the show as the visitors pressed for the go-ahead goal before halftime.
Aside from UK senior midfielder Matt Lodge’s two blocked shots early in the half, it was the same story after the break.
Van Arsdale was forced to tip over after freshman defender Jacob Speed deflected a cross, with Will Walker and Spencer again going close.
Lodge twice went close as he tried to give his side an unlikely lead.
UK began to press late on, with Lodge and fellow senior midfielder Cameron Wilder creating several half chances for their team.
“I think we lacked the final product,” said Lodge of his team’s offensive output.
Van Arsdale was again forced into another save with 10 minutes to play, as both teams opened up in search of a winner.
That winner came in the 86th minute when good buildup play by Matt and Will Walker allowed Spencer to turn the ball home from 6 yards, giving his team a spot in round two.
Despite the loss, Cedgren’s first year at the helm ended with an overall record of 10-9-2 and UK’s first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2003.
“It’s been one heck of a season,” he said. “I couldn’t be any prouder of the guys.”