Kentucky suffers heartbreak late in 2-1 loss to South Florida


Kentucky Wildcats midfielder Marissa Bosco (9) takes a shot on goal during UK’s game against Marshall on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021, at Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-0. Photo by Jack Weaver

Hunter Shelton

The Kentucky women’s soccer team hit the road for their second away match of the season, traveling down to Tampa for a Sunday afternoon tilt with No. 15 South Florida.  

The Wildcats entered the match on a two-game winning streak after their season-opening draw against Purdue, defeating Marshall 3-0 in the home opener, followed by a 5-0 drubbing of Louisiana Lafayette.  

South Florida came into the match with a 2-1 record, having lost their last match 1-2 against LSU in Tampa. The Bulls, who were tabbed as the preseason favorites to win the American Athletic Conference, defeated Florida in their season opener, then followed up with a double overtime win against North Florida.  

USF striker Sydney Nasello has done most of the damage for the Bulls thus far. The junior from Land O’ Lakes, Florida was named a United Soccer Coaches First Team All-American in 2020 and has scored both of USF’s goals in their last two matches. 

The Cats counter with the powerful junior combination of Jordyn Rhodes and Hannah Richardson. The pair have scored seven of UK’s nine goals coming into Sunday, Richardson scored a brace against UL Lafayette on Thursday, while Rhodes tacked on one more in her first game after her stellar second half hat-trick against Marshall on Aug. 22. 

USF would put the pressure on UK early, dominating the match, keeping the ball in Kentucky’s half of the pitch. The Bulls would pepper the Kentucky box with shots but provide nothing of substance until the 28th minute, as UK defender Caroline Trout committed a foul in the box, resulting in a penalty for the Bulls. 

Nasello would step up to the penalty spot and fire a shot that would be pushed away by Kentucky goalie Laura Nielsen for a monumental save to keep the match scoreless. Nasello was previously two for two in penalties, but the freshman keeper denied her the USF lead. 

The penalty would be the first of many chances Nasello would have against Nielsen. Just six minutes later, the Bulls striker curled a shot from the edge of the box, forcing a save, Nielsen’s second of the match.  

The end of the first half would see multiple collisions that would play a major part in the match. The 35th minute saw Rhodes collide with USF goalie Sydney Martinez, resulting in Martinez being subbed off for the remainder of the first half.  

Six minutes later, another long ball would be lofted into the USF box, with Cats’ forward Maria Olsen attempting to get on the end of it. New Bulls goalie Katrina Haarmann would try to make a play on the ball and knock it away, but instead bulldozed over Olsen arms first, resulting in a yellow card for the keeper and a penalty for Kentucky.  

Rhodes would step up to the spot for Kentucky but find a similar fate as Nasello. Haarmann saved the penalty, but luck would strike for the Wildcats as the rebound would find the boot of UK’s Sara Makoben-Blessing, putting the ball in the USF net and giving Kentucky a 1-0 lead against the run of play. The goal was the first of the season for the Wildcats defender. 

The halftime whistle would blow, putting the Cats 45 minutes away from their first win over a ranked opponent since Oct. 23, 2016, when they stunned No. 9 Arkansas. 

Disaster would strike for the Bulls early in the second half, as USF defender Chyanne Dennis made a poor, shoulder-first challenge on Rhodes, resulting in a red card for the defender, putting USF down to 10 players for the remainder of the match. 

Minutes after the red card was given, inclement weather would cause the match to go into a delay. Almost an hour later, the match would resume, with the Bulls back on the front foot.  

Even being down a player, USF managed to keep hold of the ball for a majority of the second half. Nielsen would make two saves in the first 15 minutes that play resumed.  

Nielsen would then deny Nasello twice more as the Wildcats hung on for dear life, looking for a statement win early in the 2021 season. 

A couple crosses later, the ball eventually spilled in the Kentucky box, resulting in Nasello finally getting her goal that she had worked for all-match long, Nielsen was finally beaten but the Bulls were not satisfied with a draw. 

Nielsen would make her seventh save of the match after tipping a free kick over the crossbar. The corner kick that ensued spelled danger for Kentucky, as Nasello got it to the feet of forward Madison Schwartzenberger, who slotted it past Nielsen, giving the Bulls the lead in the dying embers of the match.  

The Wildcats would not be able to respond, and the match would end with USF coming out on top, 2-1. 

USF outshot Kentucky 20-3, needing every last shot to get the victory. Nielsen’s seven saves are a career-high, while UK only managed one shot on goal in the second half. 

The Wildcats will return on action on Thursday, where they will host the Dayton Flyers. The match is set to kick off at 7:00 p.m. E.T.