#Men College

Wildcats come into 2023 eyeing a National Championship

The University of Kentucky Men’s Soccer team entered in 2023, coming off their best season in program history in 2022 – an unbeaten regular season, finishing as the number 6 team in the country with a run to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament. The Sun Belt debutants also completed the conference double, winning the regular season and tournament title, going 15-1-5 in conference play. Do they have what it takes to repeat last year’s success in 2023? The United Soccer Coaches certainly think so, having ranked the Wildcats at #3 in the NCAA D1 pre-season rankings.

However, head coach Johan Cedergren will have a challenge ahead of him due to only 11 out of 25 players returning from the 2022 squad, 13 newcomers coming in, and 3 staff changes coming into the 2023 season.

Cedergren does have some staples from the 2022 team returning with sophomore keeper Casper Mols (7 clean sheets in 16 matches), sophomore defender Max Miller (4th in minutes and started 18 out of 21 games), junior midfielder Casper Grening (started in all 21 games), and junior midfielder Martin Soereide (started in 10 out 20 games he appeared in). The other 4 returners who have seen playing time (by order of minutes) are senior midfielder Andrew Erickson, senior forward Ben Damge, fifth-year senior midfielder Brennan Creek, and sophomore goalkeeper Ryan Jack. The 3 other returners – redshirt fifth-year Mason Visconti (redshirted last year), sophomore Mathias Yohannes and my apologies, but I cannot confirm who the 11th returner is from cross-referencing the 2022 and 2023 rosters provided by UK athletics.

The good news for the Wildcats is that top scorer Grening (11 goals in 2022) returns, with a supporting cast of Damge (6 goals), Soereide (2 goals), and Miller (2 goals), who in total accounted for 40% of the 53 goals scored by the Wildcats in 2022. Add on star keeper Mols 0.76 GAA with 7 shutouts in 2022, and the Wildcats look prime for another deep run in the NCAA tournament. 

However, they must figure out who their primary playmaker will be this year. The leading assist man Nick Gutmann, who tallied 19 assists in 2022 (1/3 of the team’s total assists), is gone, so hopefully, some of the incoming freshmen can answer the call, or we may see some playmaking magic out of Creek, who did pick up 4 assists (good for 3rd on the team) through 21 matches, starting only 1 of those.

On the coaching side, Cedergren lost associate head coach Josh Oldroyd, who left for the University of Pittsburgh, and volunteer goalkeeper coach Sam Brooks, who I could not confirm if he left for another position elsewhere. Oldroyd and Brooks were replaced internally by Ryan Zinkhan (associate head coach), who served as the Wildcat’s assistant coach last year, and Ryan Hulings (goalkeeper coach), who served as the Director of Operations last year.

Overall, college sports, at its core, is about adapting and changing every single year. I believe Cedergren has the potential to be one of the best coaches in the country, and he can prove that this season by meeting the high expectations that are set for this team, but he can also confirm it by how he responds if this team struggles or does not meet expectations.

The Wildcats have a tough test ahead of them, facing two preseason top-25 teams in Indiana (#2) and Marshall (#11), in addition to many other teams on their schedule receiving preseason top-25 votes from the United Soccer Coaches.

The 2023 Wildcats have the chance to repeat their double and make an even deeper run in the NCAA tournament, but they will have to rely on a mix of returning stars and unproven talent. Can Cedergren guide them to 

back-to-back conference doubles? Or will this be a learning year for a young team? 

Notable Additions

  • Ignasi Marques (MF) – Graduate transfer from Wisconsin
  • Finn Ballard McBride (MF) – Graduate transfer from UC Santa Barbara
  • Alex Kron (GK) – Freshman from Saint Xavier High School in Louisville
  • Silas Borgman (MF) – Freshman from Barren Academy in Lagrange

Notable Matches – Matches against preseason top 25 ranked opponents (or those who received votes) and against in-state schools.

  • Home Opener against Florida Gulf Coast – Thursday, August 24th at 7:30 pm EST/6:30 pm CST 
  • At Louisville – Tuesday, September 5th at 8 pm EST/7 pm CST
  • Home vs. Lipscomb – Friday, September 8th at 7:30 pm EST/6:30 pm CST
  • Home vs. S. Carolina – Friday, September 15th at 7:30 pm EST/6:30 pm CST
  • At Ohio State- Tuesday, September 19th at 7 pm EST/6 pm CST
  • Top 5 match-up at home vs. #2 Indiana – Tuesday, October 3rd at 7 pm EST/6 pm CST
  • At #11 Marshall (SBC) – Sunday, October 22nd at 4:30 pm EST/3:30 pm CST
  • Home vs. W. Virginia (SBC) – Friday, October 27th at 7 pm EST/6 pm CST
  • Final match at Georgia Southern (SBC) – Tuesday, October 31st at 7 pm EST/6 pm CST

Make sure to stick to Bluegrass Soccer Cast (@BGSoccerCast on all social media platforms) for full coverage of the UK Wildcats Men’s soccer team and everything soccer in our beautiful Commonwealth. 

Author

  • Jon Hunt

    Jon Hunt is an avid and enthusiastic soccer podcast host. Originally from the Detroit area, he now resides in central Kentucky. Jon brings passion and his love of soccer history to the Bluegrass Soccer Cast community. His ultimate goal is to continue the growth of soccer in America with a focus of the thriving soccer scene in Kentucky. #ProRelForUSA

Wildcats come into 2023 eyeing a National Championship

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