Early goals by Marcel Meinzer, Lucca Rodrigues Push UK soccer to Sweet 16

Kentucky heads to Sweet 16 for third time in four years 

By Ryan Cullinane/UK Athletics

LEXINGTON, Ky. – No. 9-seeded Kentucky scored early in its second-round NCAA Tournament match against Santa Clara and won its fourth straight postseason game, taking down the Broncos 2-0 on Sunday at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex.

Kentucky advances to the third round of the NCAA Tournament for the third time in the last four years and the fourth time in program history. The Wildcats will travel to Clemson, South Carolina, on Sunday at 7 p.m. ET for a matchup with the eighth-seeded Tigers in the Sweet Sixteen.

The two Kentucky goals were scored by midfielder Marcel Meinzer and defenseman Lucca Rodrigues, both coming off headers from corner kicks. Kentucky (15-1-4) held its opponent scoreless for the 12th time this season and the second in the postseason. Santa Clara (12-2-4) was unable to score for the fourth time this season.

The Wildcats opened the first half hoping to establish pressure on the Broncos early and did just that. Kentucky started the match with its first on-target shot and found the back of the net in just the fourth minute, marking its third-quickest goal this season. Rodrigues rose above the Santa Clara defense off a perfectly placed corner kick from defender Mason Visconti, who was credited with his first assist of the night.

The team’s second goal came in the 10th minute after a shot from defender Robert Screen led to a third corner kick. Visconti yet again placed the ball right where Meinzer could head it into the corner of the goal and give Kentucky an early 2-0 lead.

There were plenty of opportunities for the Wildcats to extend their lead in the first half, too. Two additional shots on goal were impressively saved by Broncos goalie Ruben Stuiver in the 35th minute. Kentucky midfielder Clay Holstad launched a right-footed attempt that was stopped and bounced out to forward Brock Lindow, whose attempt was also saved.

The first half was all Kentucky on both sides of the ball. The Cats led in total shots (7-2), shots on target (4-0) and corners (5-1), while committing fewer fouls (7-2).

UK possessed the ball on the opponent’s half of the field for over 15 minutes, including 28% of that time in the goal box. The Wildcats prevented Santa Clara from even recording a shot for the first 29 minutes of the match.

Santa Clara opened the second half aggressively and looked to chip into the Kentucky lead but were unable to generate consistent offense. Both teams’ defenses kept the other at bay, with just two combined shots in the opening 25 minutes of the second half. Kentucky held Santa Clara to just four total shots on the night, none of which were on target.

Goalkeeper Jan Hoffelner’s 12th clean sheet is just two shy of the UK single-season record set by Enrique Facusse in 2018. Rodrigues, Visconti, Screen and Luis Grassow played all 90 minutes on the UK backline.

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