Panthers head to Kentucky for first time in five years

Maher Kawash, Staff Reporter

Junior David Wegmann scored four goals in 16-played games for the Panthers during the 2014 season.
Jason Howell
Junior David Wegmann scored four goals in 16-played games for the Panthers during the 2014 season.

The Eastern men’s soccer team will head to Kentucky for the first time since 2010 to take on the University of Kentucky.

Sophomore goalkeeper Mike Novotny expects the Wildcats to be a tough team. The Wildcats have received votes to be ranked in the top 25

“We cannot take plays off because Kentucky will be a tough team that will run at us for a full 90 minutes,” sophomore goalkeeper Mike Novotny said. “As long as we stay tuned in then we will be good to go.”

The Panthers have faced some tough competition to start the season, but Kentucky will certainly offer the toughest matchup yet as the Wildcats opened the season as the 11th ranked team in that nation and are now out of the top 25.

With that being said, the Panthers are not focused on any sort of rankings according to Eastern coach Kiki Lara.

“We are just focused on getting better at the things that we do really well, and it doesn’t matter who were playing against,” Lara said. “We just have to play to our strengths, and I think we’ll be okay.”

There is no question that defeating an experienced Kentucky team would be a confidence booster for the team, and Lara has stressed how important the preparation is for his team.

While the preparation for a big game against the Wildcats is vital for success, the team will prepare as they would for any other team according to Lara.

This matchup against Kentucky is similar to one from earlier in the season where the Panthers took on a nationally ranked Xavier on Aug. 28.

The outcome of the game was not pretty as the Panthers came up short in an 8-0 loss, so Kentucky will offer another big test for Eastern.

Kentucky is known to be an organized, athletic team that has plenty of experience, but are not impossible to defeat as they were just upset 3-1 by Eastern Tennessee State University on Sep. 16.

Improved team chemistry has proven to be a big part of the Panthers success as they only need one more win to reach their win total from all of last season.

“We added a lot of new talent to the team this year with the freshman and transfers, and I think were jelling together very nicely,” sophomore Justin Oliver said. “We’re aiming to compete for that conference championship, and we have the team to do it.”

With 23 underclassmen on the team, the Panthers look to their senior leaders for leadership as they head into every game, especially against a tough matchup in Kentucky.

“As senior leaders, we focus on motivating and challenging the team on and off the field in order to reach our full potential,” senior Nick Smith said. “This game against Kentucky is the next stepping stone along our journey.”


Maher Kawash can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]