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Bluegrass Soccer Weekly Recap: August 14-20

Hello, and welcome to the Bluegrass Soccer Cast NCAA Division 1 Men’s and Women’s soccer recap for the week of August 14th – August 20th. This is a weekly recap that will recap all Division 1 soccer programs, in the beautiful Commonwealth of Kentucky, matches from the previous week with some small bits of analysis in there. 

For coverage on the college programs that are NCAA D2/D3, NAIA, or NCCAA, please check out our weekly score report.

Now, let’s check in on how Kentucky’s big dogs did this past week –

Please note that we would love to give in-depth analysis of all matches but we are just 3 freelancers doing our best to give coverage to all things soccer in our beloved Commonwealth.

Bellarmine

Men

No score was reported in their home exhibition match hosting Oakland City University or their road exhibition match vs Xavier University. Bellarmine will kick off their regular season on the road at the University of Evansville on Thursday, August 24 at 8 PM EST / 7 PM CST.

Emma Nicholson

Women Knights, Norse Combine for Six in Thrilling Season Opener 

In a wildly entertaining season opener, the Bellarmine women’s soccer team dueled Northern Kentucky to a 3-3 draw Sunday night at home. The Knights came blazing out of the gates, matching a program Division I record with three goals scored. Newcomer Emma Nicholson netted her first career goal in the 40th minute to erase an early NKU lead. 

Bellarmine kept up the pressure in the second half, taking a 3-1 advantage behind goals from Brielle Heuglin and freshman Rachel Skyberg. Dakota Bramer assisted on Skyberg’s tally for an exciting moment in the 67th minute. But the Norse refused to go away. Northern Kentucky scored twice in a four-minute span late to stun the home crowd and equalize.

“While the ending was disappointing, I’m proud of the way we performed offensively tonight,” said Bellarmine coach Paul Babba. “We need to tighten things up defensively, but this was a major step forward for our attack.” Despite the surrendered lead, Bellarmine showed promising signs while tying the school Division I record for goals scored. Nicholson and Skyberg made immediate impacts, while Heuglin netted her first goal since 2020.

The Knights will look to clean things up on the back end before hosting IUPUI on Thursday. But they served notice that this year’s offense has serious firepower. If Sunday’s shootout was any indication, Bellarmine is ready to make things exciting in 2023. Strap in for the ride.

Eastern Kentucky

The Colonels dropped their first 2 matches of the season this past week, falling on the road in Lexington 1-0 in a hard fought match followed up by a 2-1 brawl at home against Western Michigan that saw freshman winger Ruby Dunlevy from Cold Springs score the Colonels first goal of the season, and Dunlevy’s first of hopefully many in her collegiate career.

While the start is not ideal for the Colonels, Coach Matt Cosinuke told us in an interview post match that “we scheduled this difficult (non-conference schedule) on purpose to prepare ourselves for the conference because I think the quality of the ASUN is just so high, especially at the top end; which is where we expect to be,” Cosinuke continued “With as young of group as we have, I think it’s important for them to be beaten, it is important to them to fail, and I think it is really important for us to then go learn those lessons as quickly as we can.” 

We will see if the Colonels learned those lessons quickly as they take on Belmont at home on Thursday, August 24th at home.

Kentucky

Grace Hoytink. Kentucky defeats EKU 1-0. Photo by Caleb Bowlin | UK Athletics

Men

The Wildcats have yet to start their season, but wrapped up their preseason this past Saturday against NKU (no score available) and are entering into the 2023 as the preseason favorite to win the Sun Belt Conference.

Multiple Wildcats have also been preseason picks to receive all-conference honors with Casper Grening being named Offensive Preseason Player of the Year and Casper Mols for Defensive Preseason Player of the Year. Joining them on the preseason All-Sun Belt team are Andrew Erickson and Max Miller.

The Cats will open against FGCU on Thursday, August 24th at 7:30 pm EST/6:30 pm CST.

Women

As noted above, the Wildcats kicked off their season with a victory over in-state rival EKU. The match saw the Kentucky debut of transfer Marz Josephson, who also started for Lexington SC W-League team, earning her first shutout. 

Graduate forward Jordyn Rhodes scored the Cats lone goal, her 37th all-time at Kentucky, tying her with Annie Gage for 2nd all time in goals for the Wildcats. Rhodes sits just 7 goals behind all time leader Kim Labelle.

The Wildcats will head down to face another in state foe in the form of Murray State on Thursday, August 24th at 5 pm Est/4 pm CST.

Louisville

Photo by Taris Smith | Louisville Athletics

Men

In a reserves match, the University of Louisville fell to Lipscomb 5-2. No score was reported in their exhibition match at Indiana. UofL will kick off their regular season at home vs Tulsa on Thursday, August 24 at 7:30 PM. For those who can’t make it to the game, the match will be streamed on ACCNX (also known as ESPN+)

Women

Louisville Women’s Soccer Struggles in Opening Weekend

The University of Louisville Women’s soccer team kicked off their season with a disappointing 0-1-1 record after a draw and loss in their first two matches. On Thursday, the Cardinals were held scoreless in a 0-0 tie against Indiana State at home. Louisville controlled possession and outshot the Sycamores 23-0. However, they could not find the back of the net despite several good chances. Fiona Gaißer had the best opportunity in the 77th minute but her header was saved off the line.

On Sunday, Louisville fell 2-0 on the road at Xavier. The Musketeers converted a first half penalty kick and added another goal in the 60th minute. Ravin Alexander and Addie Chester each had a couple of shots for the Cardinals. “We created opportunities in both matches but have to be sharper with our finishing,” said Louisville head coach Karen Ferguson-Dayes. “The effort was there but we lacked the cutting edge against Xavier.”

While it was a disappointing start, Louisville showed promise in their possession and defense. If they can capitalize on more scoring chances, the Cardinals should get in the win column soon. The veteran leadership of Sarah Hernandez and Maisie Whitsett will be crucial as the young Louisville squad tries to find their footing. The Cardinals will look to rebound this week with a pair of road matches. They face a tough test at Dayton on Thursday followed by a rivalry battle at Kentucky on Sunday. 

Morehead State

KateLarbes23-1

The Eagles had a week of highs and lows, starting the season being shutout at home by Marshall 3-0, allowing the Herd to score on all 3 shots they took. However, the Eagles bounced back on the road against the Titans of Detroit-Mercy, erupting for 5 goals in a 5-2 victory Sunday afternoon.

The 5 goals marked the most by the Eagles since 2015 with freshman Hedda Ornberg getting her first collegiate goal followed by Larbes (3rd of career), the hometown girl Fiantaco (grew up in Sterling Heights, MI) for her 7th of her career, all getting on the score sheet within the first half after falling behind 1-0 thanks to an own goal. Coming out the half with a narrow 3-2 lead, sixth year midfielder Swift notched her 11th career goal followed by Larbes getting a brace in the 76th minute. Goalkeeper Erin Gibbs managed to save 8 shots despite allowing 2 past her.

The Eagles will have a tough road match ahead as they take on Indiana on Thursday, August 24th at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST.

Murray State

Racers Stumble Out of Gates to Start 2023

Morgan Bodker

The Murray State women’s soccer team was hoping to burst out of the gates to kick off the 2023 season, but instead has stumbled in their first two matches. The Racers dropped their home opener 2-0 against Grambling last Friday in a disappointing start to the regular season. 

Things did not improve for Murray State in their first road test on Sunday against Georgia State. The Panthers controlled the tempo and scored a goal in each half en route to a 3-0 victory. The Racers were again limited in their attacking third, with only two shots on goal in the match.

While it is still early in the season, these results are not what Murray State envisioned. With only one returning scorer from last season, the Racers are searching for players to step up and fill the offensive void. The defense has also been uncharacteristically porous, allowing five goals in just two games. 

Murray State will need to regroup quickly with a tough home match looming against Kentucky on Thursday. The Racers cannot afford to dig themselves into too deep of a hole this early in the conference slate. Coach Matt Lodge will look to rally the troops this week in practice to get Murray State into the win column before long.

Northern Kentucky

Men

Like the rest of the men’s teams in the state, the Norse have yet to officially kick off their 2023 campaign as they ended their preseason against Kentucky on Saturday with no score reported.

The Norse will face UAB at home on Thursday, August 24th at home with kickoff at 5 pm EST/4 pm CST

Women

The Norse were also victims of the Broncos of West Michigan, falling 1-0 at home against the MAC school in the 84th minute off a rebound from a save by Kowalski, who made 5 saves on the night.

This match was followed up by a thriller against in-state rivals Bellarmine, coming back from 3-1 down late in the 2nd half deficient thanks to a heroic brace by freshman Kylie Anderson, bagging both goals within mere minutes of each other in the 73rd and 77th minute. Sophomore Emilie Doersching grabbed the Norse first goal of 2023 when she opened the match floodgates in the 24th minute. The Norse would apply pressure against the Knights in the final 10 minutes but were unable to earn their first victory.

The Norse will look to do that against Miami (OH) on Thursday, August 24th following the Men’s game in an exciting double header.

Western Kentucky

Lady Toppers Settle for Draw in Opener, Rout Union for First Win

Union Recap Photo

The WKU women’s soccer team opened the 2023 regular season with a 1-1 draw against Tennessee Tech on Thursday night, followed by a 5-0 shutout victory over Union (Tenn.) on Saturday. The Lady Toppers now sit at 1-0-1 through two matches.

Against Tennessee Tech, WKU struck first when Katie Erwin scored off a free kick in the 15th minute. Her blast from over 20 yards out found the upper corner to give the Lady Toppers an early lead. WKU looked poised to make that lead hold up, but Tennessee Tech equalized late in the 85th minute to come away with a tough road draw.

On Saturday against Union, WKU’s offense came alive in the second half to turn a close 1-0 halftime lead into a 5-0 rout. Erwin again struck first for the Lady Toppers in the 11th minute, cleaning up a saved Kayla Meyer shot for her second goal of the young season.

Emily Speidel, Amanda Simpson, Anna Isger, and Alaina Nugier all scored their first career goals to turn it into a blowout. The scoring explosion was sparked by excellent ball movement and winning the possession battle. 

Through two very different matches, the Lady Toppers have shown they can win grind-it-out affairs or use their firepower. The balanced start has them well-positioned as they continue a six-match homestand next week.

That wraps up this week of the Bluegrass D1 Recap, tune in all season long for updates on your favorite college teams throughout the beautiful commonwealth, and make sure to stick to Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of everything soccer in our beautiful Commonwealth. 

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