Updated Mon, Sep 1, 2014 11:15 am
Ohio coach Aaron Rodgers’ return to Lexington, Ky., was a sour one, as he watched his old University of Kentucky team run out to a 3-0 win over his Bobcats on Sunday, Aug. 31.
Rodgers was an assistant coach at UK from 2009 to 2012, where he helped lead the team to a 42-30-5 record over four seasons. And the second-year Ohio coach seemed to be enthralled with beating his old team, shouting orders and urging his team to act with quickness and discipline. But after the game he was full of praise for his former associates and the Wildcat program as a whole.
“I really enjoyed my team here (at Kentucky),” Rodgers said. “Being part of building what they have now. It was a lot of hard work, but John, the head coach, and Michelle have done a really fantastic job.
“And to be able to come to this beautiful stadium, you know a stadium that is deserving of a quality team it has, it was a lot of fun.”
The Wildcats proved that they deserved a quality stadium as they dominated the attacking play and didn’t allow anything to reach their goalkeeper until the beginning of the second half. Ohio’s goalkeeper, Nicole Amari, on the other hand had plenty to deal with all game, registering 13 saves and keeping Ohio competitive for much of the game.
“It feels good to make saves but in the long run, it’s not the outcome we needed,” Amari said.
The pitch was soaking wet from a non-relenting drizzle and the slickness of the ball looked to play a major factor in the two second-half goals, as Amari struggled to hold on to the ball.
The second goal seemed a sure culprit of this, as Amari seemed to have control of the ball before it popped out of her hands and right to a willing Kentucky forward to drill it home.
But the first goal was due to the pure potency of the Wildcats' attack, as they pushed forward and buried a deflected shot into the net in the 14th minute.
The rest of the first half was rough for the Bobcats, but Amari and the Ohio defense held UK to a 1-0 lead as they went into halftime. But the Wildcats and the crowd could sense more goals were coming in the second half.
But it was Ohio who started the second half as the more dominant team, controlling longer spells of possession and really working to contain the Wildcats' surging runs forward.
And it appeared that the Bobcats would get their reward for their diligent work as redshirt sophomore Carly Manso drove forward in the 48th minute and sent a chipped shot over the Wildcats ‘keeper. But the ball hit the far post and rolled on, but not over, the UK goal line before finally being cleared by a defender.
That was Ohio’s first shot of the game, and it proved to be one of few as the Bobcats only mustered one more shot before the final whistle.
“For us, this is the level that we are going to have to get to,” Rodgers said. “And we have to see that. And I’m not somebody that’s gonna go ‘oh well they are in the SEC and we’re in the MAC.’ Yes, the SEC may be conceived as better, but I don’t care about that.
“We are going to compete with some of the best teams in the country and we have got to learn from this and be able to say ‘what can we do to get to that level?’”
For their next game, the Bobcats will return to Athens to play their home-opener against Xavier University on Friday, Sept. 5 at 4 p.m.
That game will be the first of three held at Chessa Field before Ohio goes to Dayton for the last game before the opening of Mid-American Conference play.