Soccer to begin C-USA play

The UK men’s soccer team’s roller coaster ride of a season hasn’t ended yet.

UK (7-7-4, 4-2-2 C-USA) continues to stay on track heading into the Conference USA soccer tournament in Memphis, Tenn.

Out of the nine teams in the conference, only the top six advanced to the tournament. The top two seeds, Southern Methodist University and the University of Central Florida, will receive a bye into the semi-finals.

Thanks to a last-minute win against South Carolina on senior day, UK finished third in the conference and garnered a No. 3 seed. This allows the team to play the last-seeded team in the opening round of the tournament.

UK will play Tulsa, a team that was ranked No. 2 in the country earlier this season, Wednesday. The Cats overcame a two-goal deficit to win in that contest.

But with the number of injuries and ineligible players UK has dealt with this season, finishing third in the conference is an accomplishment according to UK head coach Ian Collins.

“To finish third in this league that has five legitimate top-25 teams and finish in front of Tulsa who at one time was No. 2 in the country, it says a lot about our resolve,” Collins said.

And heading into the conference tournament, UK believes it may be one of the hottest teams in the field.

“We’re not going to get too excited but it was a good way to finish the season. We finished unbelievably strong,” Collins said.

UK has shown it can play tough against most teams in the conference. In its last seven matches UK has only been defeated once.

Weeks ago, UK was heading into the most difficult part of its schedule and making the conference tournament was considered a stretch by many of its followers. But now the team has more than that on its mind.

Some presumed a week ago UK’s only shot of receiving a bid to the NCAA tournament would be by winning the conference tournament. While that might be the surest way for the Cats to prolong its season, it might not be the only way.

48 teams make the NCAA men’s soccer tournament and all six teams in the C-USA tournament find themselves ranked in the top 46 in the RPI (UK is No.42).

Being No. 42 in the RPI likely isn’t enough to get the Cats in the tournament but it has a chance to improve its RPI, by beating teams in the RPI top 30. (Tulsa, and if they advance past Tulsa, the University of Central Florida).

However, Collins said they aren’t looking that far ahead. The Cats believe to keep their season from coming to a halt, they’ll need to keep working.

“We just need to build, we have Tulsa Wednesday and that’s a difficult, difficult, game,” Collins said. “We just need to get our feet on the ground and move from there.”