CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Fourth-seeded No. 15 Kentucky (12-1-4) opened the 2021 Conference USA Championship with a 3-1 win over fifth-seeded Coastal Carolina (6-5-4) on Wednesday at Transamerica Field.
The Wildcats advance to a semifinal matchup with top-seeded No. 14 FIU (12-2-2) on Friday at 4:30 p.m. ET.
Lucca Rodrigues, Luis Grassow and Eythor Bjorgolfsson each found the back of the net in Wednesday’s victory.
Rodrigues began the scoring with Kentucky’s fastest goal of the season, heading home a cross from Mason Visconti just 1:26 after the opening whistle. Grassow provided the eventual game winner with a header of his own off a corner kick by Robert Screen in the 25th minute, giving the Wildcats a 2-0 lead at the break.
After Kentucky outshot Coastal Carolina 6-1 in the first half, the Chanticleers’ offense intensified in the second frame with a 9-8 advantage in shot attempts. Coastal Carolina broke through in the 67th minute when Alvaro Garcia-Pasqual sneaked a goal past UK goalkeeper Jan Hoffelner at the tail end of a corner kick that bounced off several bodies in the goal area.
With the Wildcats’ lead cut to 2-1, Bjorgolfsson put the Chanticleers away for good with a breakaway one-on-one showdown against Coastal Carolina keeper Leon Schmidt that ended with a routine right footer to the near post with just over three minutes remaining.
Kentucky outgunned Coastal 14-10 overall, including 7-2 on goal. Coastal Carolina committed 11 first-half fouls for a total of 16 on the evening, while the Cats were called for 12. A combined five yellow cards were handed out between the teams, with three coming in the final six minutes.
Hoffelner, who was recently crowned C-USA Goalkeeper of the Year, allowed just his fifth goal of the season in his ninth win between the pipes. Rodrigues, Grassow, Visconti and Screen played all 90 minutes on the UK backline, while team captains Marcel Meinzer and Bailey Rouse played every minute in the middle.
Kentucky looks to avenge another scoreless draw from the regular season in Friday’s rematch with FIU, just as it did against Coastal Carolina on Wednesday.