Wildcats start Fabiano era with 3-0 win in season opener vs. Ball State


Jack Weaver

Kentucky womens soccer first-year head coach Troy Fabiano speaks during a press conference at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex on Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022, in Lexington, Kentucky. Photo by Jack Weaver | Kentucky Kernel

Ali Cetinok, Reporter

Kentucky womens soccer started off the new season with a 3-0 win against Ball State, beginning a new era for the Cats in Troy Fabiano’s first game as head coach.

The game on Thursday night was also the first meeting between UK and Ball State in program history.

The Cardinals applied pressure early on in the first five minutes of the match, retaining almost all possession of the ball before Kentucky was able to grow into the game.

After the hectic start that saw Ball State create significant scoring chances, Kentucky was able to find the net in the 16th minute after a cross by Hailey Farrington-Bentil fell to the feet of senior forward Hannah Richardson. Richardson’s shot was blocked, but the deflection found its way to junior transfer Hadley Williams, who ultimately scored the first goal of the season for the Cats.

Kentucky had an opportunity to extend its lead before halftime in the 35th minute when Richardson went on a run after winning the ball in the midfield. Richardson carried the ball upfield, gliding past three Cardinal defenders, but failed to bag the second goal of the match when her shot fell wide, and UK entered the half up 1-0.

The first half of play was ultimately dominated by Kentucky despite the rough start, with the Cats having played strategic possession-based soccer and seeing sturdy defense from the back line.

Entering the second half, both teams found themselves with plenty of possession, but ultimately Ball State was not able to take advantage of its opportunities.

Kentucky doubled its advantage in the 66th minute after a build-up play from the back that started from center back Maggy Henschler, who played the ball out wide to right winger Rafferty Kugler. Kugler then beat a Ball State defender with pace, whipping in a goal-winning cross from freshman Madison Jones to make it 2-0.

Kentucky found itself still hungry for another goal and scored again just four minutes later in the 70th, when Ulfa Ulfarsdottir served in a clean cross from the left side of the attack that three-time SEC Preseason Watch List member Jordyn Rhodes converted to score her first goal of the new season.

Ultimately, it was Kentucky’s defense that was a key factor in the win, holding Ball State to just three corner kicks with no shots on target compared to the Wildcats’ 12 shots on goal.

Wildcat goalkeeper Tallulah Miller was well protected, as she was not forced to make any saves during the game due to sturdy compact defense from the Cats, specifically the center back partnership of Dana Dahm and Henschler.

Kentucky womens soccer is set to return to action this Sunday, Aug. 21, as the Cats travel south to visit UT-Martin. Kick-off against the Skyhawks is scheduled for 2 p.m. EST and will air live on ESPN+.