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    Cartell’s Chatter: Loss Helps Focus Wildcats

    By: Sean Cartell
    Twitter: @SEC_Sean
    SEC Digital Network

    Raetzman's Toughness Personifies Kentucky Soccer
    SEC "Five Questions": Jon Lipsitz

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky women’s soccer team is off to a 7-1 start, having posted a pair of important Southeastern Conference wins against then-No. 13 Florida and Mississippi State this past weekend. The Wildcats have an impressive resume of victories so far this season, but it’s perhaps the team’s only loss that has been one of the driving forces behind the squad’s focus.

    After beginning the season 4-0, the Wildcats faced their toughest test of the year when they drew Louisville in the opening round of the Cardinal Classic. Kentucky knocked off the then-No. 12 Cardinals 2-0 in that match for a big road victory.

    The Wildcats were riding high into a match with Samford two days later, but Kentucky dug itself into a hole early and suffered its only defeat of the season, 3-1.

    “We learned that we can’t get too high after a win,” Kentucky coach Jon Lipsitz said by phone Monday. “We used so much energy feeling good about ourselves beating Louisville that there was not much left on Sunday. That’s just something I should have tempered more so but, at the same time, I wanted them to enjoy the big win. It’s about finding the middle ground where we’re pleased with our play, but we stay focused on the future.”

    By any measure, the Wildcats appear to have taken that lesson to heart. Kentucky notched its first win over Florida since 2006 on Friday night and then scored three goals in a shutout of Mississippi State on Sunday afternoon.

    Playing two quality opponents back-to-back in the Cardinal Classic proved to be great preparation for the two-match weekends that are prevalent in league play.

    “Playing Friday-Sunday takes a lot of mental toughness,” Lipsitz said. “Young teams can struggle at times. We had to learn that – when you’re sore and things are difficult, you have to rely on the details you’ve worked on in practice. We didn’t do a good job of that and deservedly lost the game.”

    Rookie Courtney Raetzman, this week’s SEC Freshman of the Week, turned in a stellar performance this past weekend, tallying four points, including the clinching goal against the Gators. Raetzman feels the loss was an important reality check for her team that came at the right time.

    “I definitely think it was a great experience for us and, happening right before SECs was good because we got to go back to practice and work a lot on everything,” Raetzman said. “It just showed us that if all of us don’t do our jobs on and off the field, things like that can happen. We all need to focus and do our job.”

    Lipsitz saw the benefits of the team’s learning experience pay off in this past weekend’s contests and knows the Wildcats must continue that determination moving forward.

    “That was an important lesson in how to handle things not going well,” Lipsitz said. “Everyone can play their best and be a great teammate and a great coach when everything is going well. The question is how all of us can play together and handle situations when things don’t go well. We got scored on first in that game and it was the first time all year we had been behind. We didn’t react well to it. It was different on Friday. We got scored on first by Florida and, of course, we’re not happy being behind, but we stayed the course and stuck to our game plan. If we do that, win or lose, I am proud of our players.”