Cats’ defense key to SEC fortunes


The UK Women’s soccer team plays Ole Miss at the Soccer and Softball complex on Thursday night, Oct. 21, 2009. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

The UK women’s soccer team completed its nonconference schedule having accumulated more wins than they had all of last season, but now comes a new test — Southeastern Conference play.

If the Cats (6-2-0) want to match their nonconference success in SEC play they must get better, UK head coach Jon Lipsitz said.

“We need to improve on everything every single day,” Lipsitz said. “We are always looking to get better.”

For the Cats to achieve, it starts on the defensive end. In nonconference play UK only gave up five goals. In all of UK’s six wins, they only allowed one goal.

In order to continue its defensive dominance UK will need its SEC Defensive Player of the Week, senior goalkeeper Sydney Hiance, to keep up the stellar play. The Cats’ defense and Hiance rank in the top third of the conference in saves, shutouts and goals allowed average.

“Our defense is going to need to step up more, teams are just going to come at us and we pride ourselves on not giving up goals and playing good defense,” Hiance said. “I think that is going to take us far into the SEC.”

Like most sports in the SEC, women’s soccer is very competitive. With three teams in the top 25, UK is preparing for the difference between the SEC and its nonconference schedule.

“It’s a completely different level, it’s really fast so we need to make sure we are on our game, playing quick and no rust,” junior midfielder Natalie Horner said. “I think we are getting there.”

UK will get no time to dip its feet in to test the SEC waters. The Cats take on the class of the SEC when No. 7 Florida visits Lexington Friday night. Last season in Gainesville, the Cats took the Gators into overtime but eventually fell 2-1. UK is hoping for a different outcome at home this season.

“Last year we didn’t play defense for (the duration of the game), this year we are not going to sit back and wait for them to make plays,” Hiance said. “We are going to go at (Florida).”

UK is hoping to finish higher in the conference than last season, but in the SEC East the Cats can only go up. UK finished at the bottom of the Eastern division last season and tied for 10th overall. But the Cats think more communication from the team will help UK this season.

With a combination of good defense, better communication and constant improvement the Cats are looking to show their claws in the SEC this season.

“It’s crazy, there is a lot more talk, sideline is going crazy all the time, lots of communication and we are all getting used to playing together,” Horner said.