Kentucky mens soccer seeks 2nd straight conference title


Isabel McSwain

The Wildcats celebrate after scoring a goal during the No. 1 Kentucky vs. No. 8 South Carolina soccer match in the first round of the Sun Belt Tournament on Sunday, Nov. 6, 2022, at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 2-1. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff

Kentucky Kernel Sports

Kentucky mens soccer defeated West Virginia 3-0 on Wednesday, advancing to the Sun Belt Conference championship match in the process.

With the win, Kentucky is set to host James Madison on Sunday, with a chance to secure a second consecutive conference title, having won the Conference USA Championship last season, and enter the NCAA Tournament undefeated.

The Wildcats have enjoyed a record-breaking season, working their way up to No. 2 in the United Soccer Coach’s poll and having been No. 1 in RPI at multiple points during the season.

The Cats are also projected as the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament, meaning UK would host all of its postseason matches up until the Mens College Cup, which is set to be played in Cary, North Carolina, among the final four remaining teams.

The impressive season shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to long-time fans of the program though, with many of Kentucky’s star players, including team captains Robert Screen and Luis Grassow, Danny Evans, Eythor Bjorgolfsson and Nick Gutmann, being either seniors or older.

Last season’s team had similar success, not suffering its first loss until the first-before-last match of the regular season.

The team then went on to win the Conference USA championship, defeating its opponents by a combined score of 8-2.

The Wildcats then blanked Santa Clara in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, earning a first round bye, before falling 2-1 in the final minutes on the road against eventual national champions Clemson.

Now just under a year later, the team has surpassed its regular season goals, completing the first ever undefeated regular season in Kentucky history, and has a chance to claim a second straight conference title.

With a sturdy backline of defense and top level goal scorers it’s not impossible that the Wildcats will bring home another trophy to Lexington, though the team is not just setting its sights on the Sun Belt.

Both players and coach Johan Cedergren alike have said that, while the team wants to take the season one game at a time, they all know what the ultimate end goal is: win the national championship.

Whether or not the team succeeds or not is to be seen, but a trophy will be on the line this Sunday, and Kentucky has a good chance to win it.