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The Scratchies (Winter 2011)

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scratchies semiannual (2).jpg While occupying his post in charge of Cat Scratches, Eric Lindsey debuted the Scratchies, a set of awards given for the best performances in UK Athletics for the preceding semester. I wasn't sure at first whether I would continue the tradition, but once I found just how quiet it gets around here during the holidays, I decided it was time to give out some hardware (or maybe I should say "software", since there are no physical awards to be given).

I'll spare you any more preambles, here are the winners for fall 2011:

MVW (Most Valuable Wildcat)
Danny Trevathan (Football) - No, the UK football team did not have the kind of season they envisioned, going 5-7, but Trevathan could not have done any more than he did to help his team succeed. For the second year in a row, the linebacker led the SEC in tackles. The senior linebacker concludes his career ranked 10th all-time in tackles in program history and has reeled in multiple postseason honors for his stellar final season. The 2011 campaign saw Trevathan log 143 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles, four interceptions and three sacks.

The Dream Team (team of the semester)

Volleyball - Craig Skinner has this program on the rise. The Wildcats finished the season with a 26-4 record and a second Sweet 16 berth in three seasons. The regional semifinal was hosted in Memorial Coliseum and over 4,000 rowdy fans showed up to support the Cats as they nearly pulled an upset of Texas, the nation's No. 1 overall seed, before falling 3-1. The atmosphere, though not the outcome, was a fitting sendoff for the most decorated group of seniors in school history. The trio of Ann Armes, Becky Pavan and Gretchen Giesler depart with a record of 100-31 and the best winning percentage (.731) in school history).

In spite of losing those three, UK figures to build on a great season in 2012. Two-time defending Southeastern Conference Libero of the Year and second-team All-American Stephanie Klefot returns for her senior season and will be joined by setter Christine Hartmann and outside hitter Whitney Billings, both of whom were first-team All-SEC performers. Senior-to-be Ashley Frazier (All-SEC second team) and rising sophomore Lauren O'Conner (All-SEC freshman team) will also be very much in the mix.

Honorable mention: Women's soccer, men's basketball, women's basketball

The Adolph Rupp Award (coach of the semester)

Jon Lipsitz (Women's soccer) - Since taking over at Kentucky prior to the 2009 season, Lipsitz has built the women's soccer program in small strides. UK was just 5-10-4 in his first year, but it was clear that the culture was changing. His second season brought a trip to the SEC Tournament, but expectations were still not particularly high entering 2011, at least not outside of Lexington. Instead, the Cats got off to a great start, piling up early-season wins and moving into the top 20 of the RPI.

Under Lipsitz's guidance, Senior Kelsey Hunyadi was at the center of everything, as she had one of the best offensive seasons in UK history in helping lead the team to a 13-7-1 record, a winning mark in SEC play and a berth in UK's first NCAA Tournament since 2006. Kentucky also earned the right to host a tournament game for the first time since 1998 and the fan base responded to the excitement Lipsitz has injected into the program, as 1,065 fans attended the game, third-most of the 32 first round sites nationally.

Honorable mention: Craig Skinner (volleyball), Matthew Mitchell (women's basketball), John Calipari (men's basketball)

The Josh Harrellson Award (most improved player)
Samantha Drake (women's basketball) - The Bardstown, Ky., native had her moments as a freshman, but was not expected to be more than a role player for UK Hoops in 2011-12. Through the first five games of the season, that's exactly what she was, as she averaged 5.4 points. Over Drake's next seven games as UK rose to a No. 6 national ranking, the 6-foot-3 center established herself as one of Matthew Mitchell's most reliable contributors.

She has scored in double figures six times during the stretch, including a career-high 21 points in a trip to face No. 3 Notre Dame and 18 last week against Samford.

"It was not one moment, but it started happening one day then started snowballing," Mitchell said of her improvement. "There was a play here, then the next day she would make two or three. It was pretty dramatic.

"She had a terrific summer and I just tried to put it to her, 'There's nothing that you can't get through.' Finally she proved to herself she can really perform at a high level."

As UK enters SEC play, Mitchell will look to Drake to sustain that improvement.

The Butler-VCU Award (surprise team)

Women's soccer - For all the reasons Lipsitz is the coach of the semester, women's soccer is the surprise team. The Cats clearly had talent with Hunyadi, star incoming freshman Arin Gilliland and others, but this year's team was supposed to be one that battled to make the bottom half of the SEC Tournament bracket. Instead, UK raced out to a 7-0-0 start to the year and never looked back in earning a No. 6 seed in Orange Beach, Ala., and a home match in the NCAA Tournament, where the Wildcats lost in heartbreaking fashion on penalty kicks against Washington State.

One Shining Moment (best moment)


Fans carried Matt Roark off the field after he rushed for 124 yards in a 10-7 win over Tennessee. (Brett Marshall, UK Athletics) Fans carried Matt Roark off the field after he rushed for 124 yards in a 10-7 win over Tennessee. (Brett Marshall, UK Athletics)

Football ends the streak - This one's a no-brainer. It had been over a quarter-century since Kentucky had defeated Tennessee in football and when wide receiver Matt Roark stepped onto the field as quarterback with Maxwell Smith and Morgan Newton sidelined due to injury, it certainly looked as if the streak would continue. Instead, Roark led a gritty offense that did just enough to win thanks to a staunch defensive effort by a group of seniors who desperately wanted to defeat the Volunteers. The 10-7 win set off a raucous celebration, capped off when Roark served as the honorary 'Y' at Rupp Arena that same night.

The "Band is Out On the Field" Award (best game/match)
Men's basketball beats North Carolina - The hype for UK-UNC started way back in May when Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Harrison Barnes, John Henson and Tyler Zeller decided to return to their respective schools. It was clear the Cats and Tar Heels would be ranked atop the polls when the season started, setting up a potential No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown in Rupp Arena in early December. UNC lost to undo that possibility, but that was the only part of the game that didn't live up to the hype.

UK trailed by as many as nine points early, but battled back to take a late lead in front of a delirious sellout crowd. The Cats seemed poised to seal the win, but the Heels forced a turnover by Doron Lamb and got a 3-pointer from Reggie Bullock to cut UT's lead to 73-72. Marquis Teague was then fouled and headed to the foul line for a one-and-one. He missed the front end with 21 seconds left, setting up a chance for UNC to take the last shot for the win. UK would hold on, but only because of our play of the semester...

The Doug Flutie Hail Mary Award (best play)




Davis' block seals win over UNC
- Point guard Kendall Marshall ran the clock down and used a screen to position himself for a pass to Zeller inside. As they had been doing all game, the Cats sent a double team at him and Zeller lost the ball, but conveniently right into the waiting hands of Henson. He pulled up for a short jumper, but Anthony Davis skied to get a piece of the shot and grabbed the rebound off his own block. UK would then run out the final five seconds.
Video

All-Wildcat Team (the Scratchies equivalent of the All-America Team)
Kelsey Hunyadi (women's soccer) - Her 38 points were the second most in school history.
Luis Orta (cross country) - With a fifth-place finish at the SEC Championships, Orta became UK's first first-team All-SEC performer since 2003.
Stephanie Klefot (volleyball) - The junior was a second-team All-American and won SEC Libero of the Year for the second year in a row.
Matt Lodge (men's soccer) - Lodge tallied seven goals and 10 assists during his junior season.
Doron Lamb (men's basketball) - He is the leading scorer (16.1 points per game) for the nation's third-ranked team.
Winston Guy (football) - Moving to a new linebacker position, Guy had 120 tackles and a team-leading 14 tackles for loss.
A'dia Mathies (women's basketball) - Now healthy, the junior guard has already eclipsed the 1,000-point mark for her UK career.

All-Calipari Team (all-freshman team)
Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (men's basketball) - Averaging 13.1 points, 6.9 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.3 steals and 1.1 blocks through 12 games.
Anthony Davis (men's basketball) - Leads UK with 10.0 rebounds per game and ranks among nation's leaders with 52 blocks.
Arin Gilliland (women's soccer) - Blue-chip prospect split time between defense and attack, scoring four goals.
Bria Goss (women's basketball) - Has started 11 games, averaging 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds.
Lauren O'Conner (volleyball) - Played in 124 of 126 sets on the season, totaling 284 kills and was named to SEC All-Freshman team.

All-Up-and-Comers (non-freshmen on the rise)
Ashley Frazier (volleyball) - Played her first season at UK after transferring, leading the team with 406 kills.
Christina Hartmann (volleyball) - Took over setting duties early in the season and was a first-team All-SEC performer.
Cody Martin (men's golf) - Led UK with an average round of 72.6 as a sophomore and finished second in the UK Bluegrass Fall Invitational.
Alejando Gomez (men's tennis) - Off to a running start to sophomore season with a 15-2 singles mark during the fall season.
Greg Ferrucci (swimming and diving) - Sophomore twice won SEC Diver of the Week during the fall, breaking a school record in the one-meter dive in the process.
Tyler Riggs (men's soccer) - Followed up good freshman season with an even better sophomore year, totaling 11 goals and five assists.

Best Streak Award

Men's basketball's home win streak - With eight wins in Rupp Arena to open 2011-12, UK has extended its home winning streak to 42 games, eclipsing Duke (41) for the longest in the nation. Kentucky has yet to lose a home game with John Calipari roaming the sidelines, winning all 41 games in Rupp during his three-year tenure.

He said what? (quote of the semester)

Craig Skinner, after volleyball played No. 1 Texas to a near draw in the Sweet 16 in front of over 4,000 fans in Memorial Coliseum - "I think that's about as high a level of volleyball as you can play. If you aren't excited to play in front of a crowd like that and with a group that puts their heart and soul into the game then I'd be stunned. We're on the right path and we have to continue to take steps forward and this team is so motivated that I'm not worried that won't happen."

The Dougie Award (best dance/celebration)
Matthew Mitchell at Big Blue Madness
- Mitchell's dance in the video below pretty much speaks for itself. The only remaining question is how he's going to top himself in 2012.


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