Kentucky Claims MAC Soccer Championship, Advances To NCAAs

Updated 11/12/1999

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    LEXINGTON, Ken. (November 12) -- The University of Kentucky men's soccer team bested Northern Illinois 2-1 on Friday at the UK Soccer Complex to claim the Mid-American Conference title and advance to the NCAA Tournament.

    Despite tying a school-record with 17 shots in the first half, the Wildcats could not find the nets and the first period ended in a scoreless tie.

    UK striker Jason Bell opened the scoring in the 68th minute when he blasted a shot past the NIU keeper off a J.D. Stephenson cross.

    The Huskies would strike back less than six minutes later, however, as Alex D'Orsi headed in a Jason Ryder throw in at 72:57 to even the score at 1-1.

    Bell and the Cats would not be denied, though, as the senior's five-yard shot gave UK a 2-1 lead at 83:10 on pass from Brent Rainey.

    UK dominated statistically, holding a gaudy 25-5 shot advantage over the Huskies en route to its first-ever MAC crown and NCAA berth.

    "It's great to see all our hard work and effort pay off," Bell said. "This is the greatest feeling in the world."

    "Our players worked so hard all season," UK Coach Ian Collins said. "They are the happiest bunch of guys I've ever seen and they really deserve it."

    UK's Bell, Giovanni Fernandes, Chris McAlpine and Brian O'Leary topped the MAC All-Tournament team and Collins praised their play.

    "Jason always seems to find a way to get it done offensively," Collins said. "Chris McAlpine really controlled the midfield and O'Leary came up big all tournament. Giovanni's play was simply brilliant."

    With the win, the Cats improve to 13-6-1, while NIU finishes its season at 12-9.

    UK will now wait until Monday night, when the NCAA announces pairings, to see where it plays next weekend.

    Mid-American Conference Championship
                            1       2       F
    Northern Illinois       0       1       1
    Kentucky                0       2       2

    Goals: UK - Jason Bell (J.D. Stephenson) 67:07, Bell (Brent Rainey) 83:10; NIU - Alex D'Orsi (Jason Ryder) 72:57

    MAC All-Tournament Team
    Giovanni Fernandes      Kentucky
    Brian O'Leary           Kentucky
    Jason Bell              Kentucky
    Chris McAlpine          Kentucky
    Peter Agrimson          Northern Illinois
    Kristoffer Nystedt      Northern Illinois
    Alex D'Orsi             Northern Illinois
    Eric Pogue              Western Michigan
    Richard Keith           Western Michigan
    Wayne Bennett           Marshall
    Vivian Baku             Marshall