UK women’s soccer faces high expectations

By Jordan Ondrof

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UK finished third in the SEC in 2014 and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The historic season marked a turning point for UK women’s soccer. It finished with a winning record (16-6-1) in regular season play and finished strong by winning its last five games. The Cats monumental season came to an end though with a 7-0 loss to Virginia in the Sweet 16.

This Season

The Cats lost their best player, senior defender Arin Gilliand, who was selected No.8 overall in the National Women’s Soccer League Draft by the Chicago Red Stars. Despite the loss of Gilliand, UK is poised to repeat the success of last season. For the first time in UK history, the Cats will enter the 2015 season ranked in the preseason Top 25, coming in at No. 16.

UK is also ranked No. 3 in the SEC preseason coaches poll, have four players on the SEC watch list and nine of its 11 starters from last season return.

New Talent

UK, however, has brought in new talent this summer, gaining two transfers with national and collegiate experience. Tanya Samarzich played a vital role for the Mexican National Team in World Cup qualifying last year, but unfortunitly missed the World Cup due to a foot injury. Samarzich has not played in any pre-season games for the Cats due to injury, and her staying healthy will be vital for the Cats’ success.

Senior Courtney Raetzman returned from an MCL injury in the 2013 NCAA Championships to help beat UCLA. Raetzman has started 42 games for the Cats and is a two-time All-SEC performer.

Another new face for the Cats, Penn State transfer Katy Keen, brings much needed talent and experience to the Cats’ midfield. The midfielder had two assists and 10 shots during her freshman season at Penn State. She also trained with the U.S Woman’s National team in 2013 and should be an impact player for the Cats both offensively and defensively.

Captains Alex Carter, Cara Ledman, Courtney Raetzman and Olivia Jester are looking to sustain the success of 2014. After four-straight NCAA tournament births, qualifying for the tournament is now an expectation, an expectation that should be fulfilled by this years team.

Players to Watch

Tanya Samarzich: A member of the Mexican woman’s national team, Samarzich won the Golden Boot for most goals in the 2014 CONCACAF U-20 World Championships. She should add some much needed goalscoring to the Cats offense.

Cara Ledman: Ledman came to Kentucky as a forward but was converted to a defender her sophomore season. Ledman’s unique offensive abilities combined with her natural defensive talent combine to create a dangerous player.

Alex Carter: The youngest captain on the team, the junior defender has been named to this seasons SEC players to watch list after starting every game for the Cats last season. Carter should continue to be the vocal leader and focal point of the Cats defense this season.

Courtney Raetzman: Having started 42 games for the Cats and being two-time All-SEC performer, Raetzman embodies the perseverance and determination that you want out of a captain.

Katy Keen: Sophomore transfer from a Penn State team that made it to the elite 8 last season, Keen logged 787 minutes in 22 games in her freshman year and is an exciting off season gain.