Season off to challenging start

Courtesy UK Athletics

Week 2 went better for UK as it bounced back with a resounding win over home-state rival Eastern Kentucky, then beat Toledo on the road.

The start to this season has been by far one of the most challenging in my three years at the University of Kentucky. Some athletes might take that challenge as pressure, but speaking for my teammates and myself, I would say it is purely motivation.

But, before all the soccer begins, you can’t just bring freshmen in and not do some team bonding. The preseason is time to get people out of their shells and let their true identities be revealed. UK women’s soccer loves to get crafty. This year, we took a trip to our hometown Mad Potter. We all picked out our own pottery and put our magic touch of craft on each item, which is only one of our many undercover talents.

We have glitter enthusiasts (Kelli Hubly), self-proclaimed baton twirlers (Alex Carter), historical keepers of Harry Potter Facts (Emma Brown and Stuart Pope), professional pregame dancers (Maddie Lockridge), animal noise specialists (me), the next Top Chef (Danielle Krohn) and a whole team in competition to be the next American Idol (whoop whoop).

We started the season at No. 10 Wake Forest, and I would have it no other way. The week leading up to the match, you could see the excitement at practice, in the locker room and on the bus ride there. Not a single person’s mind was on anything else.

We went up 1-0 in the first half, with a freshman scoring her first collegiate goal. Then the second half began, and we played 10 minutes before the game was postponed for an hour as a storm passed.

This was a test for us, especially being so young. Unfortunately, when the game finally continued, Wake scored three straight goals and won 3-1. This was a huge loss for us and not one we took lightly. On Sunday, we played Utah at home and came out with a draw.

We captains called a meeting to talk about the games. We all agreed they were by no means acceptable, and we had to change these results. We have two rules we go by in this program: We do not accept losing on the road and we do not accept losing on our home field! That draw on our home field felt like nothing more than a loss.

As captains, we concluded that the issue that weekend was on us. We had not stressed to our younger players the heart, passion, desire and grit you must play with when wearing the Kentucky-crested jersey. We will make sure we don’t make that same mistake; a lack of passion will never be a setback for us again in 2013.

With a roster of only eight upperclassmen and 22 underclassmen, some people might think we are at a disadvantage. But I beg to differ. The talent we have brought in through our younger classes, coupled with the wisdom and passion for the game of our upperclassmen, could be lethal this year.

Last weekend, we played Eastern Kentucky on Friday and were at Toledo on Sunday. We expected nothing less than greatness after the previous weekend. We beat EKU 7-0, making a statement that we are Kentucky and this is our state!

Everyone is stepping up, especially freshman Zoe Swift. We all knew she had the ability to be great, I just don’t think she fully believed in herself. But she sure does now.

Travel trips are always the best part for upperclassmen. If you have ever been an upperclassman athlete, you know exactly why that is -- priority seating on the bus! And with our team having only eight upperclassmen, that means each one of us got a bed on the sleeper bus.

Before our Sunday match at Toledo, we had two more obstacles to overcome.

But before I tell you those, you must first know a little tradition we have. Every time we win a game, Jon (coach Lipsitz) buys us dessert and we get a cheat day.

The night before the game we were out at this really nice restaurant in Toledo. It was seriously the best Italian I have ever had.

As the night was wrapping up, the challenge we faced as captains was whether or not to get dessert, since we had won on Friday. We made an executive decision that even though we did win, we were setting higher standards and demanding a sweep for the weekend to receive any dessert this time.

Our team was completely on board with the decision and we went to bed with our minds right and focused for the game ahead.

Our last challenge was being able to tackle not having a locker room and the facilities we are used to having for pregame. We understand we are privileged and blessed to have the facilities we do. But, could we adjust our pregame routine so we could come out with just as much intensity?

That was not a problem as we scored a 2-1 win over Toledo on the road.

I am very proud of my team for the turnaround it made this weekend, with the expectations of only going up from there.

Now you know what the ride back means, since I let you in on our little secret … dessert!

To our surprise, we were spoiled more than expected. We stopped for ice cream, coffee and Cincinnati chili on the ride back. It was as if we were living a dream.

This team is amazing and I would not want to share the experience with anyone other than these 30 girls. #UKWS #FIGHT #BBN