Men’s soccer falls to Drake in first round of NCAA Tournament



By Arpan Dixit

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The UK men’s soccer team season ended Thursday night at the Bell in the hands of Drake University.

The Cats ended the season 12-5-2, their best season under the leadership of Coach Johan Cedergren.

Coming off a loss in a tight match against FIU in the semifinals of the C-USA tournament, the Cats were looking to advance in the NCAA tournament, but were unable to prevail against a very aggressive Bulldog team.

Coach Cedergren and his club were disappointed after a stellar season.

“You have to give a lot of credit to Drake and their coaching staff,” said Cedergren. “I thought the guys battled, they hung in there, but in the end they punished us.”

The Cats were playing shorthanded Thursday night, which resulted in the offense struggling to set up the play-makers in order to score.

“You can’t forget the kind of season these guys had,” Cedergren said. “We won the conference outright, only giving up one goal, and I think for us now Charlie (Reymann) is coming back and the challenge is how can we do this again this year and go deep into the NCAA tournament.”

Not having their best offensive play-maker, junior midfielder Napo Matsoso, the Cats were struggling to get guys open and make game-changing plays. UK didn’t make the plays it usually did Friday, and Drake was simply the better team.

Junior defender Jordan Wilson was also sidelined due to injury and freshman defender Tanner Hummel was also unavailable to play due to a red card from the previous match.

Drake came in winning three matches the last five games, including three shutouts, so beating this Bulldog team would’ve given UK a lot of momentum heading into their second round matchup on Sunday.

Both teams played with high energy Friday, mainly in the second half, resulting in very aggressive tackles and overall play.

Drake came out more aggressive than UK, tallying three shots whereas UK had none through the first 15 minutes of the game.

The first goal of the game was in the 16th minute by defender Alec Bartlett for Drake off a corner kick, unassisted.

The Cats came back two minutes later, with a goal by sophomore midfielder Kevin Barajas in the 19th minute, tying the game.

The first 25 minutes of the game was action-packed, both teams aggressively vying for possession, which eventually led to a goal for both teams.

The Cats and Bulldogs were tied at the half, 1-1.

Both teams came out stiff in the second half, struggling to find opportunities to score.

Defender James Grunert scored the go-ahead goal for Drake, in the 74th minute, sealing the win and advancing the Bulldogs to the second round.

The Cats had many opportunities to score, but were unable to score due to stifling defense by Drake all nightlong.

Drake was simply the aggressor tonight over the Cats, tallying 15 shots to UK’s 10. With eight shots on goal for the Bulldogs, they had more opportunities than Kentucky to put the game away.

Defender James Grunert scored the final go-ahead goal in the 74th minute, assisted by defender Alex Prusa, to send the Wildcats home for the season.

Although the season didn’t end the way Cedergren’s bunch wanted it to, many milestones were achieved this season.

Cedergren took home C-USA Coach of the Year honors while senior goalie Callum Irving became the first player to repeat as C-USA Player of the Year. Irving was also named the C-USA Defensive MVP, repeating in that award as well. To cap off a stellar senior season, Irving was also awarded First-Team All-C-USA honors for the third consecutive year.

Irving didn’t think being short-handed hurt the Cats.

“I don’t think we felt the affects of the injured players,” Irving said. “We are a very deep squad and so we put a lot of faith on the first guy to the last guy on the squad. Obviously it is disappointing not having those guys out there, and I’m sure they would like to be out there, but I don’t think we were at a disadvantage.”

Irving, capping off a stellar career at UK, reflected on his time in Lexington.

“I love this place,” Irving said. “I came in as a freshman and it didn’t go exactly as planned. With the coaching staff having a lot of faith in me and I kind of found my home here. I feel really lucky to have been her for the past four years. I will forever be following UK men’s soccer.”

Irving plans to regroup and meet with Cedergren and his family to discuss his future plans.

Junior defender Charlie Reymann, who will be a returning senior next season, was disappointed for the injured players and his teammates after the loss tonight.

“I felt like we were really streaking towards the end of the year,” Reymann said. “We lost Napo (Matsoso), Jordan (Wilson) and Tanner (Hummel) in the same week so it’s hard. I think we were confident in the system that we have, and we felt pretty good about this game, it just didn’t go our way.”

Cedergren and his Cats will have nine returning seniors next season, including Reymann, so the 2016 season should be a special one for UK.