By Matt Bradshaw–
In the first U of L/UK rivalry match of 2018-19, women’s soccer defeated the Wildcats 1-0 in dramatic overtime fashion. Both sides remained scoreless for 91 minutes until junior Brooklyn Rivers curved a shot over the Kentucky keeper, giving Louisville the victory.
“We actually worked on this play, worked on getting into the yellow zone and building the ball up,” Rivers said. “I guess I just used my magic, did my turn and hit the ball in.”
The Cards (5-0-0) won the match under Friday night lights at Lynn Stadium, following a nearly three hour weather delay. They dominated possession on the pitch and outshot their adversary 14-5.
“Kentucky was outstanding,” head coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes said. “This was a difficult team to beat. They were really tough to break down defensively. It took a special effort like Brooklyn’s goal at the end to really do it.”
The Cats (3-2-0) defended relentlessly during both halves but ultimately fell from Rivers’ game-winner. Forward Rivers now leads the team with four goals this season.
After a long delay, the match shot off to a quick start with both teams eager to get the rivalry going. Fouls and shots were exchanged back-and-forth in the first five minutes.
“These rivalry games are usually emotionally charged, so it wasn’t attractive soccer,” Ferguson-Dayes said.
At the 19 minute mark, freshman Maisie Whitsett had Louisville’s closest opportunity with a shot that deflected over the cross bar. UK answered seven minutes later with their only shot on goal during the match, saved by keeper Gabby Kouzelos.
The first half ended a defensive battle. Louisville had the advantage in shots on goal and corners while Kentucky kept themselves in the match with tough defense.
Fifteen minutes into the half, the Cardinals took clear ownership of the pitch with a strong backline and punishing attack. Sophomores Emina Ekic, Nadege L’Esperance and Mollie Rouse controlled the midfield and facilitated efforts on goal.
The Wildcats kept themselves in the game by preventing their opponent from scoring. At the 83 minute mark, Kentucky almost won the match with a shot that sailed over Kouzelos but bounced off the crossbar.
Neither team found goal before the final whistle, forcing the contest into overtime.
U of L fans did not have to wait long for a golden goal victory. Less than two minutes into play, Rivers dribbled to a spot 18 yards from goal and finessed the ball into the top right corner of the net.
“I like Brooklyn as a center forward,” Ferguson-Dayes said. “It was a big-time hesitation: She dropped her shoulders, turned inside and finished with her right foot.”
With the win, Louisville triumphs for the second consecutive season over Kentucky. The Wildcats previously held a six-match win streak from 2011-16.
Defense wins championships
The Cardinal defense has not allowed more than one goal during each game this season, providing an undefeated start to 2018. In matches such as that against Kentucky, a strong backline is key when the offense has trouble finding goal.
“We pride ourselves on our defending, and this is why,” Ferguson-Dayes said. “You go into overtime, your defense stands strong and you wait for one of your players to be special.”
Expect senior Gabrielle Vincent to lead the defensive backs to multiple sweeps. At 5-0, the program has its best start since 2012.
Louisville prevails with youth and depth
Ferguson-Dayes used five subs during the contest compared to two from the opposing coach. This difference illustrates the depth of Louisville’s bench.
In addition, the Cardinals have underclassmen that provide pivotal boosts of energy and offense. Whitsett, along with fellow freshmen Sarah Hernandez and Delaney Snyder, combine with the upperclassmen to form a formidable squad.
After a month long hiatus at the FIFA U-20 Women’s World Cup, Rouse returns to collegiate play. The sophomore helped England to their best-ever finish at the event as they defeated host nation France for third place.
Rouse saw action in 15 matches as a freshman and notched two goals with one assist. The midfielder provided a much needed boost in her return versus Kentucky and will certainly prove valuable throughout the season.
“[Rouse] adds such a different dimension to our midfield,” Ferguson-Dayes said. “She’s crafty on the ball and she’s in form, so she was able to step in and give us solid minutes. I was definitely happy to have her back.”
Up next, Louisville travels to face Purdue on Thursday, Sept. 6.
You can follow the Louisville Cardinal on Twitter @thecardsports.
Photo by Matt Bradshaw / The Louisville Cardinal