CHARLOTTE, N.C. – JJ Williams’s moment of brilliance 87 seconds into the second half provided the margin the No. 3 Kentucky men’s soccer team needed to clinch the 2018 Conference USA double as the Wildcats defeated No.14 Charlotte 1-0 on the 49ers’ home field on Sunday.
Kentucky won the C-USA Tournament for the first time in its history, to go along with the Regular-Season Crown the Wildcats clinched last week.
Kentucky earned the C-USA automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament. The selection show will be in the early afternoon on Monday.
The Wildcats have won all three of their matches since the selection committee projected The Wildcats as the No. 5-overall seed on Oct. 28. UK will go into NCAA Tournament boasting a won-lost-drawn record of 17-1-1.
UK has won seven matches in a row and on Sunday set a new program record for single-season victories.
Williams finished a ruthless Kentucky transition attack early on in the second half, streaking onto the left edge of the box and striking the ball with the outside of his right foot to knock it into the near upper-90.
Leon Jones started the attack from the back line finding Kalil ElMedkhar in midfield where the sophomore dynamo unlocked the Charlotte defense with a killer ball to Williams.
The Wildcats broke the school record for single-season clean sheets with their 13th shutout of the year – most in the nation to date.
Goalkeeper Enrique Facusse was called upon early to preserve that clean sheet, making two fantastic saves in the opening five minutes.
After his first stop, Charlotte hit the crossbar twice in succession with rebound efforts. A few minutes later he needed to fully stretch to knock a headed effort out for a corner.
In all, he made three saves on the afternoon, maintaining his season-long save percentage at .85, which ranked No. 8 in the country entering the weekend.
Kentucky lowered its team goals-against average, which was fourth best in Division I going into the weekend, to .46.
Williams scored his 16th goal of the season, tying Greg Kotzbauer’s UK single-season record.
Williams increased his new school record of most points in a season (two for goal, one for assist) to 38.
ElMedkhar assisted for the ninth time this year, moving one away from tying the UK single-season record.
Kentucky improved to 4-0 against teams ranked in the United Soccer Coaches Top-25 at the time of the match this season.
Kentucky has scored 43 and conceded nine goals to date.
JJ Williams was named to the Tournament Offensive MVP to go along with being League Player of the Year and Regular Season Offensive MVP.
Facusse was named Defensive MVP, while ElMedkhar and senior co-captain Tanner Hummel were also on the All-Tournament team.
Charlotte dropped to 14-4-1, with two of those losses at UK’s hands – both by 1-0 score lines.
Charlotte entered the week with the nation’s top goals-against average defense (.40).
Kentucky tied its all-time series record against Charlotte at 4-4-1.
UK is unbeaten – 4-0-1 — against Charlotte in the last four years, and has won two in a row – both this year.
UK won three Mid-American Conference Tournaments from 1999-2001, but had never won the C-USA Tournament since joining the league in 2005.
“This is a really tough place to play,” Assistant Coach Josh Oldroyd said. “We talk all the time about putting in professional-style, disciplined performances and I thought that was that today. I don’t think we’d played a full 90 minutes on the road that was a total game, and I thought today was.
“The guys battled until the end. Again, I can’t emphasize enough this is a really tough place to play. With set pieces and long throws, everything that they throw at you I thought we dealt really well with.”
The Wildcats went into the C-USA Tournament the No. 1 seed, while Charlotte is seeded No. 3 out of the seven teams that qualified for the C-USA Tournament.
Kentucky received a bye through Wednesday’s first round of tournament play after clinching the regular season title last Friday with their win over Old Dominion – who Charlotte beat 4-2 in the second semifinal on Friday.