LEXINGTON, Kentucky- Kentucky capitalized on an early goal in the early stages of the game and then ended the contest with a shorthanded goal in the 84th minute to record a 2-0 win over James Madison on Sunday and the Sun Belt men’s soccer tournament championship Win Conference 2022.
Kentucky (14-0-5) secures the Sun Belt automatic berth at the 2022 NCAA men’s soccer tournament and is expected to be a top overall pick at the event. James Madison (8-8-4) entered the conference tournament as the seventh seed and had a magical run through the event to the championship game. The 2022 NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Championship Selection Show is live on Monday at 1:00 p.m. ET on NCAA.com.
The Wildcats started scoring early, scoring a goal from Luis Grassow in the fifth minute. UK controlled the ball in the early stages and got several glimpses of the net. It was Enzo Mauriz who put the first shot into the scoring opportunity before being blocked by a Dukes defender who rebounded straight at Grassow, who used his left foot to finish it past James Madison goalkeeper Sebastian Conlon.
The Wildcats finished the first half with seven shots, six shots on target, four fouls and a corner while the Dukes had six shots, two shots on target, a foul and five corners.
Both teams had a multitude of chances to score in the second half and it went back and forth with neither team finding the goal. The momentum seemed to change in the 72nd minute when Britain’s Eythor Bjorgolfsson showed great ball control to get past JMU defender Tyler Clegg before Clegg grabbed Bjorgolfsson with both hands and forced him to the ground for a foul. The official showed Clegg a yellow card but checked the play and showed Bjorgolfsson a red card for violent behavior.
That red card saw the Wildcats down a man, but UK didn’t stop attacking in the offensive zone. After several scoring chances for JMU, the Wildcats found space and Danny Evans placed a perfect centering pass into the box for Mauriz to seal the British win in the 84th minute.
The JMU eventually defeated UK 14-13 while the Wildcats held a 9-5 lead on shots on target. JMU had eight fouls on UK’s seven and 10 corners on UK’s four. Kentucky’s Casper Mols had an incredible tournament in goal for the Wildcats with just one goal allowed and two goals conceded.
This was Kentucky’s first Sun Belt Conference Tournament title in the first year of the conference. The Wildcats also won the regular season title.
2022 Sun Belt Men’s Soccer All-Tournament Team
Clay Holstad (MF), Kentucky – Most Outstanding Player
Casper Mols (GK), Kentucky
Eythor Bjorgolfsson (F), Kentucky
Luis Grassow (D), Kentucky
Ton Obara (MF), James Madison
Melker Anshelm (D), James Madison
Tyler Clegg (D), James Madison
Jack Hilton-Jones (D), State of Georgia
Simon Carlson (MF), Georgia State
Marcus Caldeira (F), West Virginia
Ryan Baer (MF), West Virginia