Kentucky men’s soccer prepares for their second round NCAA Tournament matchup this week after securing a first round bye as the No. 9 seed in the bracket. The Wildcats will face the winner of Santa Clara and Akron’s round one matchup at home this weekend.
UK Head Coach Johan Cedergren seemed unconcerned with the match, implying the outcome between the Zips and Broncos in the first round didn’t matter.
“I think [we’d] play anyone at this point,” Cedergren said. “Having played for as long as we have with only one loss, I mean we’ve beaten Louisville, we beat Notre Dame, and we won our conference tournament. We feel like you can put us against anyone and we can win.”
Kentucky’s confidence is earned after the week the Cats had, dominating the Conference-USA tournament, with wins over Coastal Carolina (3-1) and FIU (3-0), two teams they’d previously reached 0-0 draws with.
“We really liked the draw because we tied with [those teams],” Cedergren said. “We felt like we could have beaten those teams, so the guys were really excited to get another try and of course we did beat them both.”
The second crack at opponents wasn’t the only thing that motivated Kentucky to perform on the level they did. Cedergren believed the location of the tournament also played a factor in the title win.
“Our only loss this year was at Charlotte,” Cedergren said. “We had just been there and it was nice to be able to come down there and kinda cleanse what happened.”
The Wildcats beat FAU 2-1 in the C-USA championship game, but the Owls also gave Kentucky an experience they hadn’t had this year prior: losing at halftime.
“Sunday was good [for us] because we were down,” Cedergren said. “We were playing against an energetic FAU team that was ready for us. It’s nice to know that when it gets into a knockout situation that we’re able to perform. I think they taught us some valuable lessons and I think they made us much better prepared for Sunday.”
Cedergren mentioned that he himself has not looked into either of the Cats possible second round opponents yet, but he is still confident the team will be prepared for the matchup.
“My two assistants have split up and they are looking at each of the teams, so we’re ready once we know who it’ll be tonight,” Cedergren said. “I didn’t want to get too into the weeds about them. Until we know for sure I just focused on last week and what we learned from those games. Once we know who we play the staff will get together and make sure we have a plan, and we’ll just have to perform to our level.”
Though it’s a long way away, Coach Cedergren seemed confident that this team has what it takes to win their first national championship.
“It’s hard to lose when you don’t get scored on,” Cedergren joked. “We talk about our core values and I think the guys that are here came here for a purpose. We’ve talked about winning every week and we hold them accountable to those things. If I look one through twenty-five, all those guys are bought in and all those guys are willing to do whatever is needed. We’re hoping to play every round to the best of our ability and if we do that, why [can’t we win it all?] That all starts Sunday.”
Santa Clara battles Akron tonight at 7 p.m. E.T. to decide who goes on to face the Wildcats in round two. Kentucky will host the second round game this Sunday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. on ESPN+.