Cats look to lock up first round bye in C-USA tournament

By Tyler Spanyer

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Coming off their first conference loss since Oct. 6, UK faces a must-win situation in order to secure a bye in the first round of the Conference USA tournament. The Cats were defeated by UCF Wednesday night 1-0.

Head coach Johan Cedergren commented after the game, “We came out slow and flat. I don’t know if the hype got to our heads but that first half was not good.”

The Cats will face off with conference foe South Carolina in the final regular season match. South Carolina is currently sitting in eighth place with just one conference win this year. The Cats on the other hand are tied for second with Tulsa. However, UK holds the head-to-head tie breaker. South Carolina is just playing for pride at this point, while the Cats need a win to secure a first round bye in the C-USA tournament.

The Gamecocks have been terrible on offense this year. In 17 games USC has scored just 19 goals. Junior Bradlee Baladez leads the way for USC with three goals and three assists. Another factor in their down season is the defense. USC junior keeper Alex Long has a 1.84 goals against average this year, which is a big factor in their 4-11-2 record.

Cedergren said he would love for the second half team from Wednesday night’s game to show up.

“I hope we show up ready to play, because this game is the difference between a first round bye and a low seed.”

The Cats offensive prowess needs to show against what is a considerably weak USC defense. Senior Matt Lodge and junior Dylan Asher have been good up top in recent games and could be in for a big game. Junior Tyler Riggs, recently back from injury, needs to find his place as he comes off the bench. Defensively the Cats have been good all year, however careless mistakes like the foul from junior Steven Perinovic that led to the goal against UCF, must be cut out if the Cats want to have success in the postseason. Junior keeper Jack Van Arsdale boasts a goals against average of 1.15 and has four shutouts this year.

A big game from Lodge and Wilder could spark the Cats into the postseason and a first round bye in the conference tournament. The Cats will face the Gamecocks Sunday at 1:00 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex.