Top-ranked teams to test youth movement

By Alex Risen

In any sport, experience matters.

But with 21 freshmen and sophomores suiting up this year for the women’s soccer team, experience is lacking. That doesn’t mean head coach Warren Lipka isn’t excited.

“Youth breeds excitement here,” Lipka said. “And we have a lot of youth, so I guess there is some pretty big excitement.”

The Cats will play a myriad of big-time opponents early this season. The Cats non-conference schedule kicks off with No. 8 Texas on Thursday at the UK Soccer Complex. After the early test against the Longhorns, the Cats immediately travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. to play No. 3 North Carolina and No. 10 Duke in the Nike/Carolina Classic.

Lipka believes the tough non-conference schedule should prepare his young team for the rough SEC battles later in the season.

“The schedule will play itself out,” Lipka said. “That’s how you get better. You have to play the top teams in order to improve. The scrimmage against Ohio State last week was just that, a scrimmage. We learned from our mistakes after watching the film. I actually thought we did a pretty good job of controlling the ball after seeing the tape. It was good to see what we need to work on and get the early season kinks out.”

Just how many kinks are worked out will be tested in a matter of days when Lipka’s Cats are thrown into the fire against the Longhorns. It is likely that several freshmen will start against one of the top-ranked teams in the country, Lipka said. But he isn’t worried about his team.

“I felt good after the OSU scrimmage,” Lipka said. “We just need to work on our touch.”

In total, there are 11 freshmen and 10 sophomores that could see significant playing time early in their UK careers.

With all this youth, it can be easy to overlook the talent that returns. Senior midfielder Nicola Holdsworth is excited for her last year at UK. Holdsworth will be a vocal leader this year and is joined by senior defender/midfielder Kristin Kover. Lipka, who expects his two seniors to show leadership to his young squad, heralds the senior tandem.

“The last two years we’ve emphasized leadership and now these two girls can step up to fill those roles,” Lipka said.

The Cats hope to create exciting match-ups against their tough early season schedule, but when push comes to shove, Lipka wants the tough opponents to help his team grow.

“We’re not just here to build soccer players,” Lipka said. “We’re here to be a team on and off the field. That’s the key to success. You have to trust each other and be a family.”