Tigers Can't Hold Off Kentucky
Nov. 1, 2006
TULSA, Okla. - Sophomore midfielder Tripp Harkins scored in the 19th minute to give the seventh seeded University of Memphis men's soccer team an early lead. However, the No. 13 (second seeded) Kentucky Wildcats evened the score late in the first half and pulled away with a pair of goals in the second half to claim a 3-1 win and eliminate the Tigers in the first round of the Conference USA Tournament.
Things went well early on for the Tigers as the offense controlled the ball in the first half and had a number of good scoring chances, highlighted by Harkins' seventh goal of the season. After junior midfielder Kevin Walsh fired a free kick into the box, the ball was played out, but sent back in to Harkins who buried a shot just inside the left post to give Memphis the 1-0 lead in the 19th minute.
"We started the game very well, similar to how we did Saturday night against them," head coach Richie Grant. "I thought Tripp's goal was very well deserved. We had some good scoring chances early on and Tripp was able to put us up one-nil.
Freshman goalkeeper Michael Goodlett and the rest of the Tiger defense stood strong against a potent Kentucky offense, turning away 11 of 14 shots and breaking up numerous scoring chances.
However, the Wildcats were able to even the score in the 31st minute as Jase Griffiths fired a shot from 22 yards out that Goodlett stopped with a diving save. The rebound went to Kentucky's Michael D'Agostino who didn't miss an open net and evened the score at 1-1 going into halftime.
Neither team could break through early in the second half until Riley O'Neill headed in a goal off a free kick to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead. O'Neill struck again in the 71st minute as he headed in a cross for his 17th goal of the season, giving Kentucky a 3-1 advantage.
The Tigers offense pressured throughout the game. However, the Kentucky defense, led by goalkeeper Matt Troop and his three saves, shut Memphis down the rest of the way. Memphis lost their first match of the season in which they scored first. The Tigers were 8-0-0 in such games entering tonight's match.
"We got off to the start we wanted, but we just didn't get it done," Grant said. "We tried to get ourselves back in the game, particularly when we were down 2-1, but there's no complaints in our camp. The better team won tonight. Once Kentucky gets a lead, they are very tough to beat."
The Tigers conclude 2006 with a 10-8-0 record overall, including a 3-6-0 in conference play. The Tigers have now finished with ten or more wins in four of Richie Grant's eight seasons as head coach.
The Tigers who were ranked as high as No. 15 in the nation on Sept. 29, will now look to build for 2007 with a strong foundation already in place. The Tigers will lose just one senior, defender Jamie Gilbert. Meanwhile, a talented and already experienced crop of freshmen will return.
Freshmen Brian Farrell and Rick Alleman have started every match for the Tigers, and Goodlett has proven to be capable in net during his rookie campaign. Freshman forward/midfielder Wade Wonderlin has proven to be a dependable substitute off the bench, playing in 16 of 18 games and starting twice.
The 2007 Tigers should also be bolstered by the return on defender Michael Coburn, who sat out the entire season while recovering from a broken ankle suffered in the first preseason game.
"I feel for the players because they put so much effort in, especially Jamie. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors," Grant said. "We had some good stretches of football this year, and lot of really young players got some great experience. I was very pleased with the schedule we played, and I'm excited for the number of players we'll have back next year. It's exciting for the program. I look forward to Michael returning. We really missed his competitiveness during the month of October and he'll be a good player to have back."