Toledo put forth a gallant effort against SEC member Kentucky on Sunday in its home opener. Unfortunately for the Rockets, it proved to not be quite enough as they dropped a 2-1 decision in front of 308 fans at Scott Park. With the loss, UT falls to 1-3-0 on the season.
The Wildcats (2-1-1) maintained possession for a majority of today's action and finished with a 25-4 edge in shots, but the Midnight Blue & Gold properly utilized a bend but don't break style of defense to keep the match close.
UT's backline of senior Becky Rhodes, juniors Kirsten Catloth and Brooke Lawler and sophomore Kika Hernardez, along with sophomore netminder Sam Tiongson, stepped up big to today's challenge and did a great job protecting the net.
UK finished the opening stanza with an 11-0 advantage in shots but had only two quality opportunities to break the ice and came up short on both occasions. Their first chance came on a header by Zoe Swift at the 8:24 mark. Teammate Arin Gilliland started the play with a nice run down the left side of the pitch and she crossed the ball to Swift toward the back post. Swift tried to redirect the cross back to the opposite corner of the frame but her shot sailed high over the bar.
The visitors only other legitimate scoring chance before the intermission resulted on a shot from Gilliland at 18:01. The Kentucky forward blasted a shot from approximately 25-yards out from the right side that bounced off the far post and caromed out of danger to keep the match scoreless at the break.
Toledo's first shot on frame did not occur until senior Ashley Ross put forth an attempt off a free kick with a little over 40 lefts in regulation.
Kentucky continued to apply pressure to UT's defense as the second half wore and was finally able to crack the code when Stuart Pope found the back of the net at 54:32. Teammate Gilliland began the attack with a cross down the right side to Swift, who promptly advanced the ball forward to Pope right in front the Toledo's goal. The UK reserve midfielder quickly poked a shot past a scrambling Tiongson to tally her third goal of the season.
A little over two minutes later, UK doubled its margin when Swift was credited with her fourth goal of the year at 56:53. Teammate Courtney Raetzman played a pass to Caitlin Landis who flicked it onto Swift who deposited it into the back of the net to make the difference 2-0.
With time becoming an issue, Toledo started putting more players forward in the attack and it paid off when Catloth scored her first goal of the season at 86:15. Sophomore Geri Siudzinski put a free kick back into play quickly from the right side and it caught Kentucky a little off-guard. The ball went to Catloth who saw a seam in the UK defense and promptly launched a shot from approximately 25-yards out that landed just inside the far post to make it a one-score difference.
The Rockets continued to attack in the waning moments and came inches away from knotting the score and possibly sending the match into overtime. Catloth bent in a corner kick with her left foot to freshman Kiersten Johnson who was positioned in the middle of the Wildcats goal box. Johnson tried to head the ball toward the far post, but it slid too far past, and the Rockets were unable to come up with the equalizer.
UK's Gilliland paced the visitors with nine shots, while Swift and Raetzman had six and five each, respectively.
Ross, Catloth, Siudzinski and Johnson were credited with one shot each for the home team.
Tiongson was solid between the posts and was called upon to make three saves, including a pair of acrobatic diving stops.
Toledo will now travel to Atlantic Coast Conference member Pittsburgh on Friday, Sept. 6, before entertaining West Coast Conference participant Pepperdine on Sunday, Sept. 8. The Rockets' match against the Panthers will start at 6:00 p.m. at the Peterson Sports Complex, while the match versus the Waves will kick off at Noon at Scott Park.
Kentucky 2, TOLEDO 1
UK: S. Pope (A. Gilliland; Z. Swift), 54:32
UK: Z. Swift (C. Raetzman; C. Landis), 56:53
UT: K. Catloth (G. Siudzinski), 86:15
SHOTS: UT 4, UK 25
CORNER KICKS: UT 2, UK 11
SAVES: UT 3, UK 1