"You know, I think we really have to pick it up tomorrow," said Emery, "if we're going to be the team in the postseason that we want to be. We've been the team that we wanted to be all year, but we didn't quite see that intensity today. That's a concern."
It could have been the fact that UK was the top team in the regional facing a less talented Radford team, or it could have been because Kentucky had not competed in nearly three weeks. But in order for the Wildcats to be that team they have been and get where they want to go, it's imperative that Emery's bunch tighten the screws heading into Saturday's match against Indiana.
The Hoosiers took care of the Louisville Cardinals in their first-round meeting, 4-2. They will take their chances against the host Wildcats, a familiar opponent that they faced early this season. Kentucky took the initial matchup 7-0, but in the indoor part of the complex in a match that was closer than the score indicates.
Emery said he plans to look back to their earlier meeting for scouting purposes, but that many things have changed since then.
"We played Indiana earlier. It's a completely different match," said Emery. "The thing about those early-season matchups are that you play them indoors, so you're playing on, now, different surfaces. And most of the time you have completely different matchups than in February. So, even though you win early on, there's certainly no guarantees later in the year."
Kentucky was carried by their SEC Player of the Year, Eric Quigley. Quigley and doubles teammate Panav Jha started things off with a win in doubles to help give UK the doubles point. The No. 3 player in the nation then breezed through his singles opponent Nick Sayer in straight sets (6-2, 6-1).
The Wildcats also picked up an 8-3 win from the doubles duo Tom Jomby and Alejandro Gomez. Anthony Rossi (6-2, 6-0) and Gomez (6-2, 6-1) also notched wins after Quigley completed his match to finish off the 4-0 sweep.
Despite the lack of team intensity, Quigley was proud of the way his team fought and took care of business in the first round despite a large break between matches.
"I wanted to get out to a good start knowing it's been a couple weeks since we played," said Quigley. "I thought both teams would a little rusty, not at the top of their game knowing there's been a big break. But I'm pretty pleased with the way I played, and overall I think we're pretty happy to get through and get on against Indiana."
Like Emery, Quigley also sensed a bit of a lack of team enthusiasm overall. After getting the first one under their belt, however, Quigley thinks they will get back to being that energetic bunch the Cats have been all year.
"I think we all do a good job when we're very vocal and loud and help each other out," said Quigley. "I think we could have done a better job of that today, but I think we'll do that pretty well tomorrow."
Regardless of how Kentucky played or carried themselves on the court Friday, Emery was pleased that they still managed to take care of business in a swift manner. That certainly bodes well for Kentucky, as the host team, who is forced by rule to play the second match of the day Friday. That extra rest accrued by making quick work of Radford could be the key to a victory over the Hoosiers Saturday at 2 p.m.
"It's certainly important," Emery said of putting Radford away early. "It's still kind of hot. It's not break-your-back hot or cramping hot, but it's hot. So you want to get out and get the notch under your belt and get off and get rested."