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Kentucky men’s soccer into Sweet 16 after blanking No. 11 New Hampshire

The Cats score a big upset and now face a top-five Wake Forest club.

UK Athletics

The No. 24 Kentucky Wildcats men’s soccer team is back in the Sweet 16 for just the third time in program history following a 2-0 win vs. No. 11 New Hampshire on Sunday at Bryan Park Soccer Complex.

Kentucky (12-4-2) now faces the 4th-ranked and 5th-seeded Wake Forest Demon Deacons (12-2-2) on Thursday at 9 pm ET.

Sunday’s match featured the third game winner of the season for senior team captain Bailey Rouse, while freshman Jalen Bigby added his first collegiate goal in the contest’s final minutes.

The shutout was also a throwback performance for three-time All-Conference USA goalkeeper Enrique Facusse, who missed much of his senior campaign training with the Honduras national under-23 football team as it qualified for the upcoming 2020 Summer Olympics.

The tone for Sunday’s competition was set just 14 minutes after the opening whistle, when New Hampshire’s Oneil Smith-Elias was ejected for a physical tackle in a match that would eventually see 28 combined fouls over a 128-minute span of real time. New Hampshire had outshot Kentucky 4-1 to that point, though Facusse had already made three saves to preserve the clean sheet.

Playing with an 11-on-10 advantage, Kentucky turned the tide for good with a perfectly executed goal in the 35th minute. Former Cincinnati transfer Trey Asensio swung a left-footed cross from well outside the penalty box to directly in front of the net above the goal area, where Rouse met the ball in stride with his head and hammered home his first goal of the spring.

Kentucky outshot New Hampshire 3-2 over the final 31 minutes of the first half and took a 1-0 lead into intermission.

The second half was much of the same for the winning Wildcats, as Kentucky went on to outshoot New Hampshire 3-2 in the period. Bigby padded the lead in the 85th minute off a run from the back line that started with a long throw into the box by Asensio. The ball bounced off the heads of Rouse and Clay Holstad before an errant clear by the defense was cut off by Bigby’s one-touch to the back of the net.

In addition to one shot apiece from Rouse and Bigby, Daniel Evans added another try for the Wildcats, while Marcel Meinzer and Brock Lindow each launched two.

Facusse’s three saves clinched his first shutout of the season. Rouse, Asensio, Leon Jones, Robert Screen and Luis Grassow played all 90 minutes in the defensive effort.

After Kentucky’s victory, Wake Forest defeated No. 25 Coastal Carolina 3-2 at its home stadium. Thursday’s match will take place at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina, where the tournament’s remaining 15 matches will be completed.

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