Battle of Top 25 men’s soccer teams ends in draw


Sophomore J.J. Williams sprints after the ball during the game against Xavier on Wednesday, September 20, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky tied Xavier 1-1. Photo by Carter Gossett | Staff

Mohammad Ahmad

1400 miles separated the Wildcats from Lexington over the weekend. After their victory against conference opponent New Mexico, the No.15 Wildcats came home looking to win their second straight match. The Cats finished with a tie against the Xavier Musketeers 1-1 . Kentucky came into the match 7-5 against Xavier all time.

The beginning of the game had no shortage of rigor and energy. Xavier set the tone of the game’s intensity with a foul just seconds into the match.

Both teams were rapidly encroaching each other’s territories, as Connor Probert’s shot in the 7th minute was barely saved by Musketeer goalkeeper Zachary Nelson. Nelson finished the first half with three saves.

Kentucky was finally able to gain momentum in the 10th minute. While Probert was sprinting to the box, he was fouled. Seconds later, the Musketeers looked resigned while the fans at the Bell cheered on.

Forward JJ Williams capitalized on a penalty kick minutes later, scoring his first goal of the year to put the Cats up 1-0. Williams has been active for the Cats as of late, as he had four shots on goal against Cincinnati last week along with an assist on Mikkel Pedersen’s game winner against UAB.

“The goal really got us off to a good foot. We aren’t usually the first team to score, but when we are, it sets a hot tempo and gets our team to be more pressing and lively,” Williams said.

Things seemed to only get better for Kentucky as Alex Bumpus cut through twice near the Xavier box to deflect passes. Enrique Facusse also played up to expectations with an integral save on an open kick in the 15th minute. The excitement for the ecstatic fans was very short lived, however.

In the 25th minute, the Musketeers scored an equalizing goal as midfielder Simen Hestnes assisted forward Samson Sergi with a kick from the right side, headed back across the face of the goal to even it up 1-1. Hestnes is tied with two others for the team lead in assists and Sergi is the team leader in goals.

The remainder of the half didn’t see much offensive action from the Wildcats. Pedersen missed two shots in a span of three minutes, but defensively the Cats kept Xavier in check, fending off a late corner by Hestnes.

During the beginning of the 2nd half, both teams were fired up, yet they didn’t make much happen. Facusse notched another important save by stopping a Matt Vasquenza attempt in the 51st minute. Despite the key save, Kentucky didn’t shoot at the Musketeer goal until the 63rd when Pedersen’s shot was saved.

Eventually, things finally started to get exciting when Xavier defender Cory Brown took a yellow card in the 73rd minute.The free kick led to Andrew McKelvey taking a header shot that was barely wide right. As time became a factor near the end, Kevin Barajas and Bumpus missed back to back headers in the 88th.

Going into the first overtime, there was little to no action other than a Pedersen corner kick in the 94th minute.

Once the second overtime was underway, the Cats wasted no time attacking. Noah Hutchins nearly scored in 103rd, but he missed high. Stefan Stojkovic had a shot wide right seconds later. Eventually, the game ended in a tie.

“Tying at home is definitely what we don’t want, but the atmosphere here is always great. We love the Blue Rebellion and the fans, and they motivate us a lot,” Barajas said when asked about the team’s mood towards the tie. “Hopefully next time we can give them the win.” 

The 5-1-2 Wildcats will take on the Florida Atlantic University Owls at The Bell on Sunday, Sept. 24 at noon.