Freshmen carry scoring load

UK’s women’s soccer team needed an offensive boost after sophomore forward Giuleana Lopez, who scored 10 goals last season, went down with a season-ending knee injury before the season began.

Fortunately for the Cats, freshman forwards Laura Novikoff and Alicia Browning have stepped up to fill Lopez’s high-scoring shoes.

Novikoff and Browning are playing unlike newcomers, as they are off to a blistering start. Novikoff, from Madisonville, Tenn., leads the team with four goals in UK’s first five games. Browning, from Ft. Thomas, Ky., has three goals.

Other than being forwards and scoring goals at a scorching pace, the two have nearly nothing in common on the field. Novikoff, who starts, stands approximately a foot taller than Browning and likes to play with power. Browning, the energetic sub, is more finesse.

The new duo gives credit to the veteran players who push them every day in practice.

“The one major difference I noticed between club level and Division I is every practice is all-out,” Browning said. “You just want to work to get on the first 11 (the starters) during practice.”

Senior midfielder Kelsey Fenix said it was an easy adjustment for the team to make with the two freshmen. Fenix, who primarily plays center midfielder, said she never felt any hesitation to have Novikoff and Browning in the offensive mix from the start of the season.

“I completely trust them scoring goals,” Fenix said. “Their ability to score goals challenges everyone else to step up, and it’s a great combination for the team.”

Novikoff, who is accustomed to scoring after finding the back of the net 45 times during her senior year of high school, said she doesn’t feel pressure to score when she steps onto the pitch but is always looking for opportunities. Novikoff said her confidence is why she has been so successful putting the ball between the pipes.

“I try to go out with the mentality that I’m going to score,” Novikoff said. “I’m just trying to go out with confidence but not have pressure at the same time.”

Browning, who provides a spark off the bench, recorded the team’s only multiple-goal game this season when she scored twice against Bowling Green on Sept. 7.

“I just try to come in and outwork the first string,” Browning said. “The main thing is just working hard and tackling hard whenever I can.”

Baker injured

Freshman goalie Laura Baker has been sidelined with a sprained knee suffered during the last match, a 4-2 victory over Ohio University. Baker could miss anywhere from three weeks to the rest of the season with the injury.