Leadership keeps UK Soccer moving forward


Napo Matsoso tries to steal the ball from the Louisville defense during the Kentucky men’s soccer match against Louisville at the Wendell and Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Ky., on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. Photo by Jonathan Krueger

Arpan Dixit

If any team is capable of taking that next step in the conference and the country, it’s Johan Cedergren’s 2016 squad. Teams under Cedergren at UK have progressed every season under his tenure and this season seems to be no different.

With seven returning seniors for the fall, leadership is not in question for the upcoming season on the pitch for the defending C-USA regular-season champions. Coming off a season where the Cats went 12-5-2, the motivation is definitely there after a heartbreaking loss in the NCAA tournament against Drake last season at home.

UK has a core of experienced strikers and midfielders returning for another C-USA tournament and NCAA tournament run. Although it will be a difficult task to replace one of the nation’s best players, Callum Irving in goal, the motto for every team is usually, “next man up.”

Paul Sime, a returning starter and one of the seven seniors, looks forward to this season and hopes to be a leader for the younger guys coming in.

“Losing leaders like Cally (Irving) and Kris (Tollefsen) are players you can’t replace,” Sime said. “Thankfully, we were able to get this year’s senior class ready to step up and help the team go in the right direction.”

Sime said it was more like the passing of the torch that represents what UK men’s soccer stands for.

“It implies getting the younger guys ready for the fitness test and the upcoming challenges because it will not always be fun or easy, but that’s why we enjoy this game so much,” Sime said.

Every player has his own personal expectations, but each year the team takes a step forward and that’s the main goal for the season. Three Cats have been named to the C-USA Preseason All-conference USA team and they are our players to watch for the upcoming season.

Players to watch:

Napo Matsoso: Matsoso is coming off an injury that plagued him towards the end of the season in 2015. Nonetheless, Napo had four goals and six assists, which were good for second and first on the team. Matsoso also led the Cats in points with 14 and hopes to finish off his UK career with a deep run in both conference and NCAA tournaments. Matsoso earned All-Conference USA first-team honors two years running and hopes to continue that streak at the end of his senior season. Matsosa was also named 2016 C-USA Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.

Stefan Stojkovic: Coming off a serious leg injury which sidelined Stojkovic for the final five games last year, hopes to make a statement during his junior season. Stojkovic is the only underclassmen tabbed for the preseason all-conference team, earning his high praise. Stefan led the cats last season with five goals despite only playing in 14 out of 19 games in 2015. Stojkovic is poised to have a great third year in Lexington. His coaches and teammates expect the best out of him.

Jordan Wilson: Wilson is the third wildcat to be named to the preseason all-conference team along with Matsoso and Stojkovic. Although Wilson didn’t have the goals like Matsoso and Stojkovic had, his caps are what are impressive. Wilson started and played 18 games last season and was one of the most consistent players on the team. Wilson hopes to anchor a defense that is poised to lead a squad after losing one of the best players and goalkeepers in the nation.

2016 season preview: C-USA has tabbed UK as the preseason favorite returning some of their best midfielders and defenders for a 2016 run. Having three players in the preseason all-conference teams sets the bar high for any team leading up to a season. Expect no different from this UK squad as they look to prove that they belong atop the conference.