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Kentucky soccer advances to Sweet 16 for second time in school history

Fans liked what they saw in UK’s 4-0 win Sunday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, KY. – Kalil ElMedkhar and JJ Williams scored two goals apiece as No. 3 Kentucky men’s soccer team powered through the second round of the NCAA Tournament with a 4-0 win over Portland before 1,831 members of the Big Blue Nation on Sunday at The Bell.

Kentucky won an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 2001 and made the Sweet 16 for the first time since 2000 – which was before the field expanded to 48. Sunday’s victory was UK’s first in the NCAA Tournament during Head Coach Johan Cedergren’s seven-year tenure.

Kentucky will play Lipscomb in the Sweet 16 next Saturday at The Bell with kickoff slated for 7 p.m. ET. UK defeated Lipscomb 3-2 in overtime earlier this season in Nashville, Tennessee.

Tickets for next weekend’s match are available at UKathletics.com/ncaatickets.

Williams tied and then broke Riley O’Neill’s 12-year-old UK single-season goals record on Sunday. The junior forward has scored 18 goals to go along with eight assists. He expanded his UK single-season points record to 44.

ElMedkhar eclipsed the double-digit goals mark on the season scoring his 10th and 11th of his sophomore season to go along with 11 assists.

Kentucky, with a 2018 won-lost-drawn record of 18-1-1, has won nine matches in a row.

The goals
ElMedkhar broke the scoreless tie five minutes before halftime. Sam Stockton won the ball deep in the Portland half and quickly found Jason Reyes, who led ElMedkhar breaking in behind. The sophomore winger slotted the ball past the Portland goalkeeper to send the Wildcats into the dressing room with all the momentum.

 

Williams doubled Kentucky’s lead two minutes into the second half. The Conference USA Player of the Year won the ball, dribbled into the box shrugging off three defenders and finishing.

 

Then Williams and ElMedhkar combined for a brilliant third on the hour mark.

 

Williams equaled his striking partner’s brace eight minutes later running onto a fantastic through ball from Nicolai Fremstad after Stockton once again won a ball in the midfield.

 

 

The notes
Kentucky improved to 5-0 against teams ranked in the United Soccer Coaches Top-25 at the time of the match this season as Portland was ranked No. 21 in this week’s poll.

UK is 11-0 at The Bell this season, having scored 30 and conceded one over that span.

 

UK, which went into the NCAA Tournament with the nation’s No. 3 GAA, dropped that average by .02 to .44. UK has kept a nation-leading 14 clean sheets, which is the program record.

UK ranked sixth nationally in total goals.

 

Kentucky has scored 47 and conceded nine goals to date.

 

His 18 goals were ranked third in the nation to start The Tournament.

  

He saved 56 of 65 shots this season, 86 percent, which ranks in the NCAA top-10.

 

The quote
“Very proud of the guys, very proud of the whole squad and the staff,” Cedergren said. “I think that it’s been a really fun year to this point. Very very proud of my captains, Tanner (Hummel) and JJ (Williams) of course but also Key (Namjoupanah) who to come in on short notice today.

 

“This week we were talking about making sure that we got to train on Monday because again that means that you get to advance in the tournament. Just really proud of the guys, I think we’ve had a really good year. Fourteen clean sheets shows the mentality that we have on the squad in regards to everyone doing the defending and even the forwards, like JJ, there aren’t too many set pieces that JJ doesn’t win the header on. Again, just really excited to train again on Monday.”

  

The history
UK tied the all-time series between the sides at 1-1, with the other match having come at a neutral site in 2003.

 

UK made its ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in its history, and is now 2-8-2 all-time in The Big Dance.

UK is 1-4-1 at home all-time in the NCAA Tournament.

 

Kentucky last advanced in the NCAA Tournament in 2003 against Cincinnati on penalty kicks. UK’s last outright victory occurred in 2001 against Mercer.

 

UK’s best NCAA result was reaching the Sweet 16 in 2000.

 

UK earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the fifth time in Head Coach Johan Cedergren’s seven-year tenure improving to 1-4-0 in that period.

The setup
Kentucky – winner of Conference-USA’s automatic bid — received a bye through Thursday’s first round of the 48-team tournament after earning a top-16 seed when the field was announced on Monday.

 

UK is the No. 3 overall national seed, meaning The Wildcats would be in line to host each of the three rounds before the College Cup should they win those matches.

 

Portland defeated UCLA 1-0 in the first round on Thursday in the Rose City.

 

UK is the No. 3 seed – a program record, while Portland is unseeded entering the tournament.

 

UK was ranked a program-record No. 1 in the College Soccer News poll and No. 3 in the Coaches’ poll. UK was No. 5 in this week’s RPI.

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