Cats host South Florida in home opener


Tanya Samarzich. The University of Kentucky women’s soccer team hosted Pitt in a exhibition match following the UK soccer Fan Day on Saturday, August 13, 2016, at The Bell. Photo by Chet White | UK Athletics

Anthony Crawford

After a two-game stint out west this past weekend, the youthful UK women’s soccer team hopes to use the home crowd at the Bell to get in the win column for the first time this season.

The Cats kicked off their season with a 1-1 draw against Long Beach State in a double overtime affair. Both teams got on the board early in the first half after junior midfielder Katy Keen was able to beat the 49ers’ keeper in the 30th minute. Long Beach State caught up soon after but for the whole second half and both overtimes it was a defense dominated game.

This put on display UK’s veteran backline as it returns three of the four starters on defense with senior Alex Carter and junior Kelly Novak entering their third season playing together on the defense. The chemistry and overall consistency the backline hopes to provide is all the more important with freshman Evangeline Soucie in the net for the Cats.

Soucie comes to UK following a decorated high school career where she also spent time with the U18 US National Team. She has five saves so far on the season and had high expectations placed on her early after being the only UK player named to the 2016 All-SEC Freshman Preseason Team.

On the other side of the ball UK returns a lot of goal scoring and experience, but the offense has yet to gel really early in the season. The top of the lineup seems to be set with the returning tandem of senior Jade Klump and junior Tanya Samarzich at forward, but in the midfield is where things become more interesting.

Replacing Courtney Raetzman, who played at an All-SEC caliber for UK last season, will be difficult but the aforementioned Keen and senior Kaitlin Miller have enough experience in the SEC to keep the ship steady for UK.

Looking specifically into its Thursday night home opener, UK definitely looks to be challenged as it will play No. 23 South Florida. And then UK will experience no drop off in competition as they host another ranked opponent in No. 25 Northwestern Sunday.

The South Florida Bulls are coming off a strong season last year where they made it to the championship match of the AAC Tournament. USF has started the season out strong with a 2-0-0 record and will be riding a high after a 3-2 overtime victory over Florida International.

Fans can come out and support the Cats Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET at the Bell Soccer Complex.