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September 2013 Archives

Working with God's Pantry, the men's basketball team participated in UK Athletics' Backpack program on Monday. First, the Wildcats packed meals, then they delivered them to three Lexington elementary schools: Picadome, Cassidy and Landsdowne.

Kentucky Wildcats TV was along for the ride as Andrew and Aaron Harrison, Marcus Lee, Jon Hood and Dakari Johnson went to Picadome, where they also played "mat ball" with a few students and posed for pictures. Take a look.


Notebook: UK looking for starter to emerge at QB

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Mark Stoops said on Monday he hopes a starter at quarterback becomes clear this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops said on Monday he hopes a starter at quarterback becomes clear this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For the last three weeks, Kentucky has gone with an unconventional two-quarterback system.

Due to the fact that neither Maxwell Smith nor Jalen Whitlow had grabbed hold of the position and their diverse skill sets, UK switched frequently between the two, sometimes even multiple times within a single series.

After Mark Stoops' weekly press conference on Monday, it seems the rotation may finally have run its course.

"I think we're going to try to give it to one person, give him the reps and see what he can do," Stoops said. "I think we need to do that."

Stoops' words came after a long Sunday of reviewing tape from UK's loss to Florida. In the game, neither the quarterbacks nor the offense as a whole was able to establish a rhythm against a stingy Gator defense. The Wildcats managed just seven points and a season-low 173 yards on just 47 plays in a 24-7 defeat.

"With the quarterback situation we need to continue to evaluate that," Stoops said. "Both guys struggled at times, Saturday. That had to do with a great Florida defense and us not executing but we will continue to look at that situation as we go forward."

Smith entered the Florida game confident after throwing well in practice all week, but completed just 12-of-20 passes for 90 yards and an interception. Whitlow - 5-of-6 passing for 35 yards - was more efficient, but the offense wasn't much more effective with him running the show.

Stoops gave no indication of whether he has an early leader in mind, but did say Smith and Whitlow will be judged on consistency above all else as he and offensive coordinator Neal Brown contemplate a decision.

We will tailor our offense to do whatever we (have) to do to help us move the ball to win games," Stoops said. "We just need the best player to come forward and be consistent and give us a chance to win."

Stoops, however, stopped short of guaranteeing UK will settle on one quarterback. There's a reason why a single starter has not yet been named this season.

"It has not been clear-cut at this point," Stoops said. "It would be reckless for us to name one guy at this point because nobody has taken the job and we're going to evaluate it this week and see where we're at."

Stoops reflects on Florida performance

It's Stoops' habit to move on quickly following games, regardless of the outcome. But on Monday, he was more interested than usual in looking back on Saturday's game.

"Just wrapping up the Florida game, after watching the film, I really did think we did some good things," Stoops said. "I thought our players played extremely hard on both sides of the ball."

The disappointment over missed opportunities and the loss itself still lingered, but the Florida game was not without positives. The primary objective remains to win games, but improvement matters too. On that front, Stoops continues to like the way his team is developing.

"We did some good things, we really did," Stoops said. "I mean, listen, I know I may set myself up for the shots or whatever, I mean, I can't worry about all that. All I'm worried about is getting better every day.  I thought our players did a good job, I really do. Our coaches did a good job after being very frustrated after the game and during the game."

On defense, UK allowed a little over 400 yards and 246 on the ground. But behind those statistics, Stoops sees a team that's getting better in one key area.

"I felt like we were a little more stout in the run game," Stoops said. "I was worried about that going into the game. Their primary play is the power and the counter and I thought our players played fairly well."

The defense will get another opportunity to prove itself against the power run as the Cats travel to No. 13/12 South Carolina on Saturday. Mike Davis ran 26 times for 167 yards in the Gamecocks' comeback win over UCF this weekend, not markedly different from the 28 carries for 176 yards Matt Jones had against UK.

On offense, the numbers were even uglier, but Stoops doesn't believe they tell the whole story.

"Going back to last week we only had seven possessions, three of them we had 'em off balance," Stoops said. "We couldn't finish the drives all the time. But we had some opportunities to score some points, and three of them we had 'em off balance."

Now, the attention shifts to working toward finishing more of those drives and getting better on the ones that never started.

"I felt like our players worked hard and fought hard," Stoops said. "We're by no means perfect. We know there are a lot of things we need to clean up and get better at. That was a good indication and, again, that's what I told them after the game: I was looking forward to Monday, let's get back to work on Monday and get better."

Stoops looking forward to matching wits with Spurrier

The relationship between the Stoops family and South Carolina head coach Steve Spurrier began in 1996. Spurrier, after his team lost 62-24 to Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl with the national title on the line, hired Bob Stoops to run his defense. The Gators would win a championship the next season.

Today, the families still remain close. Mark Stoops even sees the Spurrier family on beach vacations from time to time.

"I always love seeing Coach Spurrier," Stoops said. "I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, only played against him once, and anytime you play an offensive mind like Coach Spurrier, you have to change things up. He's very good, great play caller, and they have great balance in their offense right now, so it will be a real challenge but it will be exciting."

Ever the competitor, these are the kinds of matchups Stoops lives for.

"I really like playing guys that I have a lot of respect for," Stoops said. "It's fun. You know, last week playing Florida and you see the personality in Will (Muschamp) and you see how the team plays, and I loved that challenge. And now going to South Carolina and playing Coach Spurrier, you know, it's sleepless nights but it gives you a little fix."

South Carolina UK's first road test

For the first time, Stoops will take his team on the road in Southeastern Conference play. The head coach, however, has coached and played in more than his share of hostile road environments.

The same cannot be said about some of the youngsters on whom UK is relying each week. Nonetheless, they have built experience through four games that they'll be able to rely on under the lights in Williams-Brice Stadium on Saturday.

"They've been in some games now, and I thought our young wide receivers fought hard against a good secondary, but look at the things we did well, the fighting, the blocking, the things that we evaluate closely," Stoops said. "I was pleased with the fight in our team, I really was."

Stoops said UK will simulate crowd noise in practice this week.

Kentucky Sports Report (week of Sept. 30)

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Cross country
- Cally Macumber won her second consecutive cross country meet, the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree.
- The UK women's team finished in second-place, behind only the host.
- With the win, Macumber has won half of the 10 cross country races she has entered since the start of the 2012 season, a run that includes wins at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championships and NCAA Southeast Regional.
- Allison Peare continued her strong 2013 season with a top-10 time of 18:12.24.
- The UK men's team placed fifth behind four ranked teams including the top two teams in the nation.
- Matt Hillenbrand led the way for UK with a 13th-place time of 25:04.52, and he was followed by Adam
Kahleifeh, who placed 15th with a time of 25:07.04.
- UK will race in back-to-back weeks for the first time this season Saturday at the Greater Louisville Classic.

Football

- The Kentucky football team fell in its Southeastern Conference opener over the weekend to top-20 ranked Florida, 24-7, at Commonwealth Stadium.
- Kentucky scored on its first possession of the game when placekicker Joe Mansour rushed 25 yards on a fake field goal attempt for a touchdown. Mansour is the only UK specialists to score a touchdown since specialists started playing only one position in the late 1960s.
- Defensively, senior linebacker Avery Williamson, junior defensive end Alvin "Bud" Dupree and junior cornerback Nate Willis paced Kentucky with seven tackles. Dupree added a sack, while Willis had two tackles for loss. Sophomore Josh Forrest made the first interception of his career.
- Kentucky scored on its first possession of the game when placekicker Joe Mansour rushed 25 yards on a fake field goal attempt for a touchdown. Mansour is the only UK kicking specialists to score a touchdown since specialists started playing only one position in the late 1960s.

Men's soccer
- The Kentucky men's soccer team opened its 2013 Conference USA season on Sunday with the league leader in scoring offense and goals-against average, No. 14 UAB, with the Blazers using two first-half goals for a 2-1 win. Kentucky will return to action with its first road league test of the year, traveling to Norfolk, Va., to face Old Dominion on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET.
- Kentucky (2-5, 0-1 C-USA) suffered a 2-1 loss to UAB on Sunday, with the Blazers getting a goal in the third and 30th minutes and fighting off a goal from UK senior Brad Doliner to secure the win. UAB claimed the win despite UK's advantage in shots (19-5) and corner kicks (14-1), with UK's 14 corner kicks ranking as the third-most in UK single-game history.

Women's soccer
- Kentucky went 1-1-0 on the weekend, knocking off No. 19 Georgia, 1-0, in the annual Kick-Cancer match on Sunday after falling to the Arkansas Razorbacks 3-0 on Friday night. The win on Sunday pushed Kentucky's record to 8-2-1, 2-1-0 SEC as the Wildcats are now tied for second place in the SEC.
- Stuart Pope scored her SEC-leading fifth game-winning goal of the season on Sunday in the 71st minute, slotting a ball far post for the game's only goal. Pope leads Kentucky with nine goals and two assists on the season, and is tied for fourth in the conference in goals.
- Kayla King notched her fifth shutout of the 2013 season on Sunday, stopping all 14 Georgia shots and making two saves on the night. King currently hoists a 0.92 GAA.
- Kentucky travels to Starkville, Miss., for a Friday night match at 8:00 p.m. ET against Mississippi State before making the trip to Nashville, Tenn., for a Sunday match against Vanderbilt at 2:00 p.m. ET that will be televised live by FOX Sports.

Swimming and diving
- The Kentucky swimming and diving team opened the 2013-14 season with four event wins in a loss at
Georgia on Sept. 25. The men lost 162-110, while the women, going against the defending national champions, lost 165-98. The meet was Lars Jorgensen's debut as UK head coach after taking over for Gary Conelly, who retired after 22 years.
- Divers Greg Ferrucci and Christa Cabot claimed three of the four diving titles and swimmer Maclin
Simpson won the men's 150-butterfly. Ferrucci and fellow senior John Fox finished first and second, respectively, on the one and three meter springboard to sweep the men's diving events. Cabot, a junior, won the women's 1-meter event and finished second in the 3-meter diving competition.
- UK returns home to host Ohio State on Oct. 11 at 5 p.m. in the Lancaster Aquatics Center. Admission is free for all Kentucky home swimming and diving meets.

Volleyball
- The 18th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team secured a 3-0 week to improve to 10-3 on the year. Two of
UK's wins came in SEC-style with victories on the road at Auburn and Alabama. The win over Auburn marked the first defeat in the form of a sweep for the Tigers.
- Kentucky utilized a strong defensive performance with 60 digs which ranks as a three-set high in the Craig Skinner era. UK also turned back 12.5 Tiger attacks led by nine from the hand of senior Alexandra
Morgan.
- Alabama jumped out to an early 1-0 lead, but UK rattled off three-straight set wins for the 3-1 comeback victory. Senior Whitney Billings led the way with 14 kills, while adding team highs in blocks (6) and digs (8) in the win.
- Kentucky will now head home for a pair of SEC matches. Up first is Ole Miss at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, before border-state rival Tennessee visits Lexington on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET.

Upcoming schedule

Monday, Sept. 30
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

Tuesday, Oct. 1
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

Wednesday, Oct. 2
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

Thursday, Oct. 3
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day
(Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

Friday, Oct. 4
Volleyball vs. Ole Miss - 7 p.m.
Men's soccer at Old Dominion - 7:30 p.m.
Women's soccer at Mississippi State - 8 p.m.
Women's tennis at Wildcat Invitational - All Day (Evanston, Ill.)
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

Saturday, Oct. 5
Football at South Carolina - 7:30 p.m.
Women's golf at Schooner Fall Classic - All Day (Norman, Okla.)
Women's tennis at Wildcat Invitational - All Day (Evanston, Ill.)
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)
Cross country at Greater Louisville Classic - All Day (Louisville, Ky.)

Sunday, Oct. 6
Softball vs. Georgetown Ky. - 12 p.m.
Volleyball vs. Tennessee - 1:30 p.m.
Softball vs. Georgetown Ky. - 2 p.m.
Women's soccer at Vanderbilt - 2 p.m.
Women's golf at Schooner Fall Classic - All Day (Norman, Okla.)
Women's tennis at Wildcat Invitational - All Day (Evanston, Ill.)
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

UK football depth chart (South Carolina week)

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Offense

Tight end
Jordan Aumiller
Anthony Kendrick
Steven Borden
Tyler Robinson
Patrick Ligon

Left tackle
Darrian Miller
Jordan Swindle

Left guard
Max Godby
Zach West
Teven Eatmon-Nared

Center
Jon Toth
Zach Myers

Right guard
Kevin Mitchell
Jack Gruenschlaeger

Right tackle
Jordan Swindle
Shaquille Love

Wide receiver
Demarco Robinson
Jeff Badet

Wide receiver
Ryan Timmons
Daryl Collins
Ronnie Shields

Wide receiver
Javess Blue
Alexander Montgomery
A.J. Legree

Quarterback
Jalen Whitlow or Maxwell Smith

Fullback
D.J. Warren
Cody Jones

Running back
Raymond Sanders or Jojo Kemp
Jonathan George
Dyshawn Mobley

Defense

Defensive end
Alvin Dupree
Jason Hatcher

Defensive tackle
Donte Rumph
Tristian Johnson

Defensive tackle
Mister Cobble
Mike Douglas
Christian Coleman

Defensive end
Za'Darius Smith
Farrington Huguenin
Alvin Davis

Strong-side linebacker
Josh Forrest
Kory Brown
Malcolm McDuffen

Middle linebacker
Avery Williamson
Miles Simpson

Weak-side linebacker
TraVaughn Paschal
Khalid Henderson

Nickel
Blake McClain
Marcus McWilson

Cornerback
Nate Willis
Fred Tiller

Safety
Ashely Lowery
Glenn Faulkner

Safety
Eric Dixon
Daron Blaylock

Cornerback
Cody Quinn
Jaleel Hytchye
Eric Simmons

Special teams

Snapper
Kelly Mason
Matthew Adolph
Tyler Robinson

Holder
Jared Leet
Landon Foster

Kicker
Joe Mansour
Austin MacGinnis

Punter
Landon Foster
Joe Mansour

Kickoff returner
Demarco Robinson
Javess Blue
Raymond Sanders

Punt returner
Demarco Robinson
Javess Blue
Daryl Collins

Video: Stoops' pre-South Carolina press conference

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Jon Lipsitz's reaction to his UK women's soccer team's 1-0 win over No. 19 Georgia on Sunday night said everything.

His program has become accustomed to knocking off high-ranked teams over the past few seasons, but the circumstances surrounding a Sunday-evening matchup of elite Southeastern Conference teams made the game about more than just winning or losing for Lipsitz and Company.

The setting for the win was what caused a rain-soaked and suit-wearing Lipsitz to enthusiastically hug each of his assistant coaches and staff members near the touch line as the referee's whistle blew. After respectfully shaking hands with the opposing coaching staff, the fifth-year coach unleashed at least seven fist pumps and then went to midfield to embrace his players.

The Wildcats passed Sunday's stern test with flying colors. The win was an admirable response to a 3-0 loss to Arkansas on Friday night, and the fact that the game marked the program's annual "Kick Cancer Match," which benefits pediatric cancer -- a cause near and dear to Lipsitz and his players' hearts -- all on a national television broadcast.

"I think today was our best performance of the year," Lipsitz said. "There might have been days where we have scored more goals or had more opportunities, but Georgia is such a fantastic team. We watched a lot of film and saw how difficult this game was going to be. For us to win this game means the world to us."

The Wildcats wore gold jerseys for Sunday's match not as a fashion statement, but as a way to signal the game's significance amd a platform to raise awareness for pediatric cancer, fundraising for research and the fight those affected by the disease face.

"I thanked the team afterwards as I was crying a little bit before the game when (Steve and Crystal Berger) walked out on the field," Lipsitz said of the pregame ceremonies in which the team honored the late Allison Berger. "That's what this game is about. The thought of wearing our gold jerseys tonight on national television, doing that for Allison -- there is nothing better."

The UK women's soccer team chose to play an annual match to benefit pediatric cancer largely because of the Berger family.

"We decided to specifically do something for pediatric cancer research," Lipsitz said. "So many people have done 'pink games,' and what a wonderful cause. A few years ago we got invited over to the hospital to meet a young girl named Allison Berger.

"She had just come out of surgery and we heard she was a soccer fan. She became a part of our family and has since passed away. It's was a very difficult time for all of us, but she has positively impacted all of our lives in such a positive way. We want to do something every year in her memory for all of the kids. We wear gold, which is color for pediatric cancer research, to try and benefit 'Dance Blue,' because they do an amazing job here raising money for pediatric cancer research and we just want to be part of that."

Without doubt, the Wildcats' second win in conference play was important in terms of league positioning let alone bouncing back from Friday's performance. Still the meaning of a win to honor a special cause went beyond the value of three points or any other quantifiable metric.

The gold jerseys UK wore on Sunday -- along with the game ball and Lipsitz's tie -- will be auctioned off on UKathletics.com. All proceeds will go toward the fight against pediatric cancer.

Cats take their shots, but Gators too much to handle

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Joe Mansour took this flip from Jared Leet 25 yards for UK's lone touchdown in a 24-7 loss to Florida. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Joe Mansour took this flip from Jared Leet 25 yards for UK's lone touchdown in a 24-7 loss to Florida. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
UK's coaching staff had two weeks to watch tape of Florida's dominant defense, so they knew exactly how monumental the task the Wildcats were set to face would be.

Because a young Kentucky offense was going against arguably the nation's top defense, Mark Stoops devised a unique game plan. Recognizing that lining up and beating the Gators and sustaining long drives would be unlikely, Stoops looked for opportunities to move the ball in chunks.

"Out of respect for their defense, knowing that we were going to have a hard time moving the ball consistently," Stoops said. "So we had to take some shots."

It didn't take long to find one such chance.

After Florida scored on a punishing 13-play, 93-yard drive to open the game, UK found itself in Gator territory. On fourth-and-nine from the Florida 25, the Cats were in range for a field goal that would cut the deficit to 7-3. Stoops, however, never had any intention of kicking it.

Instead, holder Jared Leet flipped over his head to kicker Joe Mansour. Mansour - whom Stoops said had the option to either run or pass depending on how Florida defended the play - sprinted 25 yards to the corner of the end zone for a touchdown.

"It was something we worked all week," Stoops said. "We've been greasing it up."

Mansour - who flashed distinctly un-kicker-like speed - was the beneficiary.

"We executed perfectly," Mansour said. "We practiced it and we went out on the field and they gave us a perfect look like we have been working in practice and we executed. We got a perfect snap from Kelly Mason and a perfect toss from Jared Leet and I ran for the touchdown."

The play set the tone for the rest of the evening, but not necessarily in the way the Cats were hoping. It was the first of a handful of plays in which Stoops and Brown made calls they likely wouldn't try in other games, but the rest didn't work nearly so well as UK (1-3, 0-1 Southeastern Conference) fell to Florida (3-1, 2-0 SEC), 24-7.

"We rolled the dice a couple times, which I felt like we had to coming into the game just because of some of our matchups, and it backfired," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said.

The two most notable rolls of the dice came in the second half as UK tried to overcome a 21-7 halftime deficit. On the Cats' first drive out of the locker room, they faced a third-and-one at their own 31-yard line. Rather than play for a short gain and conversion, Brown gambled with a reverse to Javess Blue on a play UK practiced for two weeks. It was undone by poor blocking and Blue lost three yards.

Then, following a potentially momentum-shifting interception and long return by Josh Forrest, Brown dialed up a jet sweep on which Daryl Collins was supposed to throw back to quarterback Jalen Whitlow. Instead, Collins held onto the ball when the play was there and was sacked for an 11-yard loss. Maxwell Smith would throw deep to the end zone on the next play and was intercepted. UK would never again seriously threaten the Gators.

"We had a few opportunities to make it a game, and didn't make them," Stoops said. "It was going to be hard. We knew that going into it. Felt like we had a few opportunities here and there. Just didn't capitalize on the plays."

UK hung around for much of the night in spite of Florida's dominance at the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. The Gators rode their supremacy in the trenches to a 402-173 edge in total yards, a 246-48 margin in rushing yards and a 38:09-21:51 final edge in time of possession.

Defensively, however, the Cats didn't yield. Florida managed just 149 yards and three points after halftime.

"You get worn down, but I don't think our guys ever quit," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "They were playing as hard as they could the whole game and I was proud of them."

Brown was left a little more frustrated following the performance of his group. UK ran just 47 offensive plays - the fewest Brown can remember for a unit he's coached - and was unable to establish a rhythm with either Smith or Whitlow at quarterback.

Even so, Brown found himself reflecting on a productive two weeks of practice leading up to the Florida game. The Cats may not have shown it Saturday, but they are improving.

"I think we started three freshmen and a junior-college transfer at wide out and a true freshman at running back," Brown said. "And that's who we are. We gotta keep getting those guys better and I'm not discouraged. Obviously we've got to get those guys to play better, but it's not going to happen overnight."

Stoops has been aware of that fact since before he even arrived in Lexington. He and his staff are working nonstop to raise UK's talent level through recruiting, but Stoops has no complaints when it comes to the way his current players are approaching the "process" about which he so often talks.

"I think we'll go back, watch the film, look at the things we did good, the things we did bad," Stoops said. "We'll keep on building on the things we did good and try to eliminate mistakes.

"That's what I like about this group. We'll get back to work on Monday and they'll be ready to go. They'll prepare to execute the offensive, defensive and special teams game plan and we'll just keep on working."

Stoops' plan is to eventually get his team to the point where it can compete on a level playing field with the likes of Florida. That likely won't happen this season, but UK won't quit taking its shots against the SEC's elite.

"We know where we're at as a program," Stoops said. "But we're going to keep on banging. We're going to keep on working. We're going to keep on preparing to win. One of these days when we make enough plays to win, we'll win."  

Video: Brown, Smith, Mansour following Florida loss

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Offensive coordinator Neal Brown


Quarterback Maxwell Smith


Kicker Joe Mansour


dk

Live blog: Football vs. Florida

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Video: Stoops' post-Florida press conference

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Video: Tubby Smith's Hall of Fame speech

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Video: Press Whelan's Hall of Fame speech

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Video: Leslie Nichols' Hall of Fame speech

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Video: Rex Chapman's Hall of Fame speech

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Video: Oliver Barnett's Hall of Fame speech

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On Friday night, six former Kentucky greats were inducted in the UK Athletics Hall of Fame. Included in the group was Oliver Barnett, who finished his career as UK football's all-time sack leader. Here's what he had to say at his induction.


Stuart Pope (Chet White, UK Athletics) Stuart Pope (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Kentucky women's soccer team's current seven-match winning streak has been catalyzed largely by the offensive output of two players who started the season as defenders.

Kentucky has not lost since former defenders Stuart Pope and Arin Gilliland moved into attacking positions before the third match of the season. Pope leads the team with nine goals. Gilliland ranks second in the nation and leads the Southeastern Conference with eight assists.

While Pope and Gilliland have shown off a lethal chemistry in the field's final third, each has a distinct pedigree.

Gilliland has proven a potent offensive weapon for the Wildcats in the past as she led the team with seven goals in an All-America 2012 season. She started the season starting as a central defender largely because she's likely to play there during her United States National Team call-ups.

Pope's offensive success seemed a novelty early in 2013, but it's been sustained through each of UK's seven straight wins. She has found the back of the net at least once in each victory.

That Pope has been so clinical on the offensive front has been due to expert navigation of largely uncharted territory by a player who plied her trade predominantly in wide areas before this season.

Pope had been UK's most creative player during Kentucky's disappointing offensive performances in the first two games of the season. Pope looked lively playing balls over the top into dangerous areas and making surging runs down the flanks in the first two matches.

Her ability to create from the back proved an idea Lipsitz had been considering since Pope arrived in Lexington more than two years ago.

"To imagine a year or two ago her commanding the middle of the field for 90 minutes, we imagined it but there is no way she could have done it, but now she deserves every accolade that she gets," Lipsitz said.

The move proved to trigger Kentucky's recent excellent run of form, and also appears to have put Pope in her ideal position.

"I was always more of a winger in club," Pope said. "This is really the first time I've played in the No. 10 position, but it feels natural to me. Even when I was out wide as a club player I would pinch in a lot into the hole. It's not really any different than where I've been playing, it's just more freedom."

Pope has scored four game-winning goals since moving into the traditional No. 10 role playing behind the striker in the heart of the UK attack. Pope struck the game-winner in last Friday's SEC-opening win at Auburn off an assist from Gilliland.

Indeed both Pope and Gilliland have shown an excellent rapport having both moved from defense to attacking roles earlier this season. The duo's symbiotic relationship is best illustrated be the fact that four of Pope's goals have been assisted by Gilliland.

"Arin's always had the desire (to score goals) and over the past year I've come into that role so we work well off of each other," Pope said. "We work well off of each other because we both work toward getting a goal. She's very good in pressure situations, whenever she needs help up there we work well together."

No one thing can be attributed to Pope's emergence as one of UK's most important attacking players, but her coach has a hunch where the newfound success started.

"Let's just go there and really say what happened last year," Lipsitz said, "She had zero goals and zero assists so zero points to help us last year. The biggest thing that has changed is her fitness.

"Stuart has always had an amazing mind for the game. She's extremely technical because she was so well-coached growing up so she had it all, but she had to decide to do the work. She decided to do the work and now she has become our playmaker."

Pope is in agreement with her coach: The biggest reason she's gone from no points in 20 games last season to 18 points in half as many so far this year is largely due to her offseason training regime.

"I just changed how hard I wanted to work on my fitness," Pope said. "Last spring was when I really got fit and I carried that through the summer. It changes everything when you don't get tired because you don't mess up technically.

"You don't get tired mentally because you don't get tired physically. Raising the fitness level as much as I did has helped me in all areas of soccer."

Pope had a sort of epiphany in regards to getting into better shape in an unlikely setting: on vacation.

"Last Christmas I went to Australia to visit my sister, and being over there and witnessing a lot of Australians' active lifestyles changed my opinion on everything," Pope said. "It made me start eating better. When I got back I just knew I wanted to work."

Lipsitz has indeed found the right formula during UK's current run and Pope is central to that equation, literally, but he did not always have the easiest time getting through to his star midfielder.

"She would be the first one to tell you that she did not like me her first two years here, and I don't apologize for it at all," Lipsitz said. "We always knew that Stu had tremendous potential. One of the greatest conflicts in a coach/player relationship is when the coach feels that a player is not reaching her potential."

Pope changed her nutrition plan, her offseason training and even her position. Still, an attitude change was necessary before she could integrate all her changes in preparation into on-field performance.

"My first two years in college I just had a bad attitude," Pope said. "I was always blaming other people for my mistakes. Last spring I decided to turn it around. I changed my diet, my fitness and my attitude to be more coachable. I think that has all just come out on the field this season."

The personal changes Pope undertook prior to the season and even some in-season adjustments have put her in the playing form of her life. If she can keep that form up -- which will be a challenge as UK begins its first two-match SEC weekend on Friday at home against Arkansas -- the sky is the limit for an already-effective offense that goes through a player who started the season as a defender.

Video: Barnhart and The Wildcat 'brave the blue'

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NEXT: UK Hoops living out season's theme

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The 2013-14 Kentucky women's basketball team. (Chet White, UK Athletics) The 2013-14 Kentucky women's basketball team. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
When his marketing team and assistant coaches pitched the idea of using "NEXT" as the theme of the 2013-14 UK Hoops season, Matthew Mitchell's mind raced with possibilities.

The mantra can be interpreted in so many different ways and applied to so many different people, and that's why Mitchell was so easily sold on embracing it. But with his team's season opener fast approaching, Mitchell is honing in one meaning.

"For me it's just making sure that we are not living in the past, not resting on our laurels and that we're moving on to the next play, the next practice, the next game and not ever being satisfied with where we are," Mitchell said. "Just moving forward."

With all UK Hoops has accomplished in recent seasons, reflecting on past accomplishments is an easy trap to fall into.

Mitchell has led the program to unprecedented heights, including three trips to the Elite Eight in four seasons and a Southeastern Conference championship in 2011-12. When he arrived, competing at the highest level on the national stage was only a vision in his mind's eye. It's now become an annual reality.

Even now, as Mitchell surveys the practice floor at the Joe Craft Center, he can't help but be struck by the progress that has been made. UK's on-floor success has translated into recruiting, as seven of the 13 Wildcats on this year's roster are former McDonald's All-Americans.

"I just always try to make sure that I am mindful of our progress," Mitchell said. "That keeps me in a real state of gratitude. It keeps me in a state of humility because there's been so many players that have chosen to come here that have impacted our success that had a lot of different options. I'm just so grateful that we've ended up with the roster we have."

Missing from that roster is all-time great A'dia Mathies, who finished her remarkable UK career as the second-leading scorer in school history. Mitchell will tell you there is no such thing as a next Mathies, but the way the Cats respond to her absence will go a long way toward defining this season.

There is no way to predict how that will play out, but Mitchell is excited to see what's ahead.

"I think it's one of the real opportunities we have to challenge ourselves as a program and as a team and as a coaching staff, to figure out how are we going to move forward," Mitchell said. "I think that has to happen in a real natural way and a real organic process. We'll see who emerges.

"Is it one person that takes over A'dia's role or do we get it in a little bit different ways? I don't know the answer to those questions but it sure is part of the challenge and it sure is part of the fun of building a team."

Mathies was never a very vocal presence, but her steadiness on the court in both games and practice was central to UK's success as an example to her teammates. But in terms of taking up the leadership slack, Mitchell sees a team that's ahead of schedule.

"I've been really happy with how the players have worked in that area," Mitchell said. "The first thing you have to have is a lot of trust among the players. You have to have people that will lead and you have to have people that will take direction and move forward in a positive way."

Taking up that mantle have been two players - a senior and a junior - who have been key contributors in the past, but are now emerging as veteran presences.

"I think Kastine Evans and Bria Goss have really stepped forward in vocal leadership positions and trying to really lead by not only example but also in verbal ways and trying to get things organized and trying to take leadership roles," Mitchell said.

Leadership, however, is often a collective effort for the best teams. Each of the five players in UK's senior class of Evans, DeNesha Stallworth, Samarie Walker, Bernisha Pinkett and Samantha Drake will play a role. And Stallworth - the All-SEC post player who has a strong case as the most talented player on a stacked roster - is showing a bit of Mathies's knack for leading by example.

"We were watching film this morning and DeNesha Stallworth was showing leadership by how she was going about her business on the court," Mitchell said of a mid-September workout. "She was not cutting corners, she was not resting on her talent. She was doing the little things right and that's leadership in some form. You need everybody to embrace that."

For UK to reach its vast potential, Stallworth and her fellow post players will need to bring that kind of effort daily.

Spurred by the presence of versatile transfers Stallworth and Walker, 2012-13 was somewhat of a transitional season for UK's 40 minutes of dread style of play. In past seasons, Mitchell opted to use four perimeter players and just one post player to field the quickest possible team. But last year, he most often employed a more traditional two-post look.

Stallworth and Walker thrived, averaging a combined 21.2 points, 14.1 rebounds and 3.0 blocks. They were also far from the only contributors, and Azia Bishop, Drake and Jelleah Sidney will all compete for minutes again this season.

"We have some talent in the post and that's a comforting fact," Mitchell said. "We also have some room to grow in the post. I think Samarie and DeNesha can be better than they were last year. I know that Azia and Samantha and Jelleah, I know all three of those players can play better than they did last year."

If the group develops as Mitchell believes it can, the Cats could be elite in the interior.

"I think we've got a lot depth in the post," Mitchell said. "We're blessed with that, but depth does not matter unless everybody develops themselves to their maximum potential. Now if we do that, we'll be one of the toughest post units in the country."

In order for those post players to thrive, they will rely heavily on Jennifer O'Neill, who grabbed hold of the point-guard position a season ago. O'Neill offers a combination of speed, passing and scoring at the position that applies constant pressure to opposing defenses and Mitchell sees even bigger things in store from the redshirt junior.

"I'm really, really happy with how she looks right now and how hard she's practicing and playing," Mitchell said. "I have very high hopes for Jennifer O'Neill that this is going to be a better season from her than last season."

Not long ago, O'Neill was a true freshman trying to compete for playing time while adjusting to the college game and UK's unique style of play. Now, the next generation of Wildcat stars is going through that process.

Linnae Harper, Makayla Epps and Kyvin Goodin-Rogers make up an incoming class that ranked fifth in the nation according to espnW HoopGurlz. The credentials of the trio are beyond question, so building confidence isn't something Mitchell has to spend much time worrying about.

"What we just focus on with the freshman is you are talented. Everybody knows that," Mitchell said. "So now let's focus on how you prepare every day. How you come in and your preparation time is so valuable to you so you have to take advantage of every practice. You have to get up to speed with the pace of how we do things. If they'll just focus on that, their talent will emerge and you'll see major contributions from the freshman class."

Like the classes that came before them, the freshmen are thinking about making the Final Four. Three times in four seasons, UK has fallen just a win shy of breaking through to women's basketball's biggest stage, most recently in a loss to Connecticut in April.

The defeat certainly stung and Mitchell is clear that there are lessons to be learned from it even today, but he isn't thinking about it regularly or using it frequently to motivate his team. He's only worried about what's next.

"This team will never have another chance to come together and be our best," Mitchell said. "We really have a sense of urgency for the time being now. And so I'm not looking back on that game and using it to spur this particular team on."

Mitchell's message in the immediate aftermath of the UConn loss, however, still resonates today. Asked whether he believed his program would finally get over the hump and reach the Final Four after falling short again, Mitchell said without hesitation that it's a matter of when, not if.

In other words, Mitchell believes what's next for UK Hoops is even better than what's in the past.

"We've had success with the principles of our program, so we feel really good about who we are and who we're always trying to be," Mitchell said. "And then we have some talented players and some talented staff members. I just have a real deep belief in our people. With those solid principles, I think you're bound to have that success. That's where my source of belief comes from and I just am very optimistic about the future of our basketball program."

UK looking to youngsters in bid to upset Florida

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Jojo Kemp has rushed for a team-high 167 yards through three games of his freshman season. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Jojo Kemp has rushed for a team-high 167 yards through three games of his freshman season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Within a few months of his arrival, Mark Stoops cobbled together one of the best recruiting classes in Kentucky football history.

Considering the talent of the group, it was clear many of the newcomers would play immediately. Few, however, could have predicted just how much of a youth movement would happen in Lexington.

Relying on so many players suiting up for the first time at the Division-I level, of course, has its pitfalls. Three games into the season, there have been plenty of growing pains. But as UK prepares for its Southeastern Conference opener and tries to end a 26-year losing streak to No. 20 Florida, there are positives too.

"They're not worried about the previous 25, 26 games (in the streak)," Stoops said. "They're not worried about last year. They don't know anything about it. They're just worried about coming out here and playing this week."

One of 14 newcomers and eight freshmen who have already played this season, Jojo Kemp fits that description. Kemp has climbed his way to the top of the UK depth chart alongside senior Raymond Sanders, leading the team with 167 rushing yards on just 18 carries.

Kemp and his fellow newcomers have accounted for 798 of UK's 1,111 yards from scrimmage and will have to play a role in order for the Cats to pull the upset at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday in Commonwealth Stadium. The good news is the youngsters are too inexperienced to know they're not supposed to do just that and view the game as just another on the schedule.

Kemp - a native of DeLand, Fla. - is treating the game that way even though he'll be taking on the team for which he grew up rooting.

"I know they're Florida," Kemp said. "I know it's where I came from. I'm kind of practicing and treating them like any other game. I'm going to treat it like I treated Louisville."

Kemp rushed for 80 yards on just five second-half carries against the Cardinals, but Florida likely presents an even stiffer test. The Gators are second nationally in total defense, allowing just 212.3 yards per game, and have limited opponents to just 55.3 yards rushing per game, the lowest total in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

"Here's the deal, I've known (Florida head coach) Will (Muschamp) for a while," offensive coordinator Neal Brown. "His defenses look the same year in and year out. They're aggressive, they're fundamentally sound and they fly to the football. They're really good. I can describe on a bunch of different ways, but they're as good or better than anybody in the country."

Florida will be without star defensive tackle Dominique Easley - who tore his ACL and meniscus this week in practice - but the Gators are deep enough to cope with his absence.

"I see a team that wants to man up and beat you," quarterback Maxwell Smith said. "They don't even really care if they know what you're doing. They're just going to say, 'We're better than you, we're going to line up an we're going to beat you.' Florida's always been a very fast team and it's a very good defense."

Offensively, Florida is in more of a state of flux.

Starting quarterback Jeff Driskel went down with a season-ending injury of his own in last weekend's win over Tennessee, thrusting redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy into action. Driskel was a threat in the running game, but Murphy is an even better athlete. He rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown in the first extended action of his college career.

"Very athletic, makes plays with his feet," defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "He's got a strong, strong arm. He's a good player, good quarterback."

On the other side of the ball, UK will use some combination of Smith and Jalen Whitlow at quarterback. The two sophomores are listed together at No. 1 and have shared reps in practice once again. Smith, after sustaining a shoulder injury two Saturdays ago, has returned to his throwing regimen this week and appeared strong.

"He's thrown the ball well," Brown said Wednesday. "I think the week down did him well. No signs, no signs of the injury to me. Yesterday he was almost perfect in yesterday's practice."

Last season, Smith was forced by injury to miss UK's 38-0 loss at Florida and is aware of the long losing streak against the Gators. Before this week, the same could not be said about some of his younger teammates.

Kemp didn't learn of the drought until a friend mentioned it on Facebook earlier this week. He quickly shouted for fellow Jeff Badet to look, and the freshman wide receiver didn't know about it either.

That's perfectly fine with Stoops, because the main thing he wants his team thinking about is improving.

"I think since we've really been concentrating on that as the season has progressed, I thought we've gotten better," Stoops said. "So we're really worried about ourselves, this team and this week. We really don't worry too much about that streak, but like I told the team: If they want to use it as motivation, go right ahead, but let's not lose sight of the fact that we need to get better, control today and get better today."

UK freshman forward Marcus Lee. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK freshman forward Marcus Lee. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Throughout the 2013-14 season,UKathletics.com and CoachCal.com will be here to serve as your primary source for Kentucky basketball coverage. From feature stories to game coverage, video and more, we pride ourselves on being your one-stop shop for all things UK basketball. However, nobody can paint the picture quite like the people who create the artwork. Throughout the 2013-14 year, the players who make the stories will share in writing a season-long blog to share with the Big Blue Nation their experiences, their thoughts and how the year develops in their own eyes. First up is freshman forward Marcus Lee.

By Marcus Lee

What's up Big Blue Nation? I'm excited to start this blog off for UK Athletics and CoachCal.com and share a couple of things that are going on around here. It's been a busy start to the year, but I'm having a blast.

Luckily I was able to be here for the summer and kind of get used to the grind of everything. Being here over the summer allowed us to get used to going to classes, going to workouts, back to classes, to tutors and then more workouts. Having said that, I don't think there is anything that could really prepare us for going straight into five classes a week and then workouts and lifting all in one week. It can get pretty hectic pretty fast, and you don't really have a lot of time to adjust to it, but we knew what we were getting into when we decided to come here. We're having a ton of fun doing it.

One of the cool things about classes starting up is seeing everybody on campus. Over the summer it was just kind of us basketball players and other athletes with us. I don't want to say it was boring, but it wasn't what you know Kentucky for, the passion and the fans that I got to experience at Big Blue Madness when I visited here last year.

Now that everybody's back, I love it. You can't walk two steps without people being around you. As a basketball player, everybody is looking at you like, "Oh my god, this guy is so tall." They don't really know who you are yet, but they know you have to be a basketball player because of your height. It's pretty funny. So far it's still been pretty chill with all the fan stuff, but I like it all.

One of the cool things we got to experience one of the first few weeks when we got back was Coach's fantasy camp. We got to see basketball from the perspective of the managers, which was really different for me. I've never worked that hard and had to pay attention that much in my life. You had to prep your team, know who liked water, who liked Gatorade, what Gatorade they liked, have towels ready, and make sure there were no wet spots on the floor so no one got hurt. It was a lot more work than we thought actually went in to being a manager, so that was pretty cool.

Doing the work behind the scenes instead of being the people everyone was watching, and seeing those older guys walk around like they were being us for a week was awesome. I had no idea some of those guys could do some of the stuff they did. I don't know if we could do all of that at their age. It was hard work for them, but they loved every minute of it, and we had a ball just watching them.

My favorite moment of that weekend was probably the overtime game our team won. Me, Sam and James were the managers, and we were probably the most energetic managers in the camp. We were screaming and jumping up and down on every play. The overtime game, one of our guys made a big 3-point shot and we thought the game was over. We were going crazy. And then this other guy makes a half-court shot and we were just like, "Oh ..." But we still won that game, which was great.

Later that week, we met with Steve Shenbaum, a communications expert who helped us with some team-bonding exercises. I'll be honest, we weren't too excited at first about it. Coach Cal was like, "Don't worry, this meeting's going to be fun." We looked at each other like, "A meeting that's going to be fun? Those words don't go together." Hoody kind of looked at us like, "Don't worry, it's pretty cool," and Hoody usually knows what he's talking about.

We walked into the meeting and didn't really know what to expect. Steve came in here excited and energetic and he pulled a few of us up for an activity. We were like, "What did we do?" We did improv, and it was probably the funniest improv I've ever done anywhere. Just seeing all the energy coming out of people on my team that I had never seen before, seeing Julius and Derek do some random improv thing, and then switching up and then the twins are in the car with some random walker, it got intensely funny. It was probably the funniest thing I've done since I've been here.

The meeting definitely helped a lot, especially because we got to see parts of people that we don't normally see. We mostly see the basketball player or the strong lifter. We don't always get to see that other side of them. Like Derek being a random driver or Willie being a beat-boxer and not knowing he could actually beat-box, so he just comes out of nowhere and starts beat-boxing in an invisible car - we don't always get to see that side of our teammates.

Probably the biggest thing I took out of the meeting was a coin exercise he had us do. He told us that we all had coins that make us happy. He told us that we should learn each player's coins. Knowing their coins helps because if they are ever down, you know how to pick them up or how to make their day or how to make sure they don't get down because you know those things that make their day.

One of the things I really love about this place is there is always something to do when we're not playing basketball or going to class. Last week, me, Tod and E.J. went to a UK hockey game. I didn't even know we had a hockey team until Tod asked me to go with him. We got to drop the annual puck to start the season, which was really awesome. We walked out on the ice and were all freaking out because we thought we were going to fall. Tod almost fell, but he caught himself. Meeting all the hockey players and realizing they were all really chill people and cheering them on was really cool.

Of course, if you know me, you know I love volleyball, so I'm always at our girls' volleyball games. I haven't missed a home game yet and I'm always keeping track of the away games on my phone. Now that I go to the games, the other basketball players are starting to go, too. Like E.J. always goes with me. James will go with me. The twins will come with me sometimes, and Tod and Hoody are always there. We have slowly made it a team thing to go to the games and cheer them on.

 It's funny because my teammates are always asking me what happened since I played in high school.  I'll have to take most of that time to explain one thing that happened, but once I explain that, they'll ask another question about something different. They're like, "Marcus, this is difficult." And I'm like, "It's easier than basketball to explain."

The last thing I wanted to talk about before I get out of here is next week's campout for Big Blue Madness tickets. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to it. Last year, being on the outside of the players looking in as a fan, I thought it was amazing how many people came to the campout and how they swarm each player over and over. I thought it was pretty awesome. The special effects they had during the actual Madness, it kind of just pulled me in really quick to come here.

Now that I get to finally be a part of it, I'm kind of excited and scared at the same because there are going to be so many people. I know how serious this is to our fans, but I'm excited to see how it all works out and to be able to interact with the Big Blue Nation before the season starts.  If you see me out there, make sure you say what's up to me.

Alright, I've got to get out of here to get to class. Hasta luego, Big Blue Nation. I'll see you next week.

Follow Marcus on Twitter: @SuperKingMe

Head coach Mark Stoops



Offensive coordinator Neal Brown



UK continued a strong week of practice in preparation for Florida on Wednesday, as head coach Mark Stoops was pleased with the effort on offense and defense.

"I thought both sides of the ball had a good practice," Stoops said. "Guys got some good energy this week, good focus to them."

In particular, Neal Brown has been impressed with his unit. The offensive coordinator has a young group, but one that is improving by the week.

"We've had two really good days of work, Tuesday and Wednesday," Brown said. "A little rusty on Monday coming off a little break, but guys are fresh and we're getting better. Young guys are starting some progress. I'm pleased with how they've worked the last few days."

Leading the way for the offense have been Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow, the two quarterbacks listed atop the depth chart. Smith has resumed throwing in practice after sustaining a shoulder injury against Louisville. He remains on a "pitch count" that limits his work, but in reality has not seen his workload altered all that much.

"Because we're rotating them, it wasn't an issue," Stoops said. "So it's not that limited, to be honest with you. We talked about it. He could have gone the whole time. He probably did as much as Neal wanted him to today, let's put it that way, because we're rotating them."

Particularly given his history, Smith's injury was cause for concern when he departed the game against the Cardinals. But after a week of light work and rehab during the bye, Smith's arm is looking strong.

"He's thrown the ball well," Brown said. "I think the week down did him well. No signs, no signs of the injury to me. Yesterday he was almost perfect in yesterday's practice. He had one drop."

Brown was even more effusive in his praise when he spoke directly to Smith during practice on Tuesday.

"I really judge my velocity on out routes and all out-breaking routes and all of them were pretty much on the money and they felt good," Smith said. "And (Brown) said it might be the best he's ever seen me throw the ball, so that was a compliment."

In spite of Smith's return to form, no decision has yet been made on who will start. Both quarterbacks are preparing to play and fans - and the Gators - will likely have to wait until UK's opening series to learn who will open at quarterback, just as they did in UK's season opener against Western Kentucky.

"Probably like the Western game," Brown said. "But they'll play better."

Pre-Florida video: "Under The Lights"

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Offense looking sharp after bye week

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Head coach Mark Stoops



Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot



With a bye week between games against Louisville and Florida, Kentucky had an opportunity to rest up, heal and improve.

After the Wildcats' second game-week practice ahead of Sunday's home tilt with the Gators, it seems the offense has taken full advantage.

"Offensively, one of our better days we've had in a while," head coach Mark Stoops said. "Those guys were flying around, throwing it around pretty good, looked a little bit fresh and caught the ball and did some good things."

Continuing to adjust to and embrace the tempo of Neal Brown's scheme, the offense turned in a solid day. The defense was by no means bad, but with quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow leading the way, the offense was better.

"They were more efficient when we went good against good throwing the ball around than they had been for a few weeks," Stoops said. "So I thought it was a pretty good day, and Max was pretty good."

Last week, Smith practiced but did not throw after sustaining a shoulder injury two Saturdays ago. This week, he is throwing once again, though with a decreased workload that allows him to ease back into action.

"When we were going good on good, again, I didn't notice which quarterback was in there. They were both throwing it pretty good. They were moving too fast for me to notice," Stoops said with a smile.

Stoops himself is still adjusting to UK's pace and his role in guiding the offense. Since his expertise is on that side of the ball, Stoops still spends the majority of his time with the defense, but Brown values Stoops' opinion.

"I go in there with the offensive guys, but I get bored very quickly," Stoops joked. "But, you know, I say that, but it was actually a lot of fun. I said, 'This is what you guys do. You just sit up here and try to torment all of us defensive guys.' Anybody can draw up some fancy play in the dirt. But then you got to go execute it, and that's the difference, and that's what the great teams do."

The Cats will need to execute on Saturday at 7 p.m. ET because Florida will present a challenge. Stoops said on Monday that the Gators may be the best defense UK faces all season. On Tuesday, he elaborated.

"I know the type of pride they have, the type of energy they play with, the confidence that they play with, and you can see it on film," Stoops said. "They're playing very fast right now. They're a confident group. They're playing very physical and very fast."

Sept. 22 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, September 22:

Volleyball: Morgan Bergren

Sophomore Morgan Bergren led the Wildcats to their most complete offensive performance of the season in a sweep at Lipscomb. Bergren directed the UK offense to 40 kills on a .522 hitting clip, while the Blue and White committed just five errors as a unit in three sets of action. Bergren found seven different players for at least three or more kills. Bergren had six kills herself on a .556 hitting clip. She also contributed six digs and a trio of blocks in the win.

Women's soccer: Kayla King

Kayla King recorded her fourth shutout of the 2013 season on Friday night, making six saves en route to leading the Wildcats to the 1-0 win over Auburn. King dropped her season-low GAA to .079, as she led Kentucky to itsseventh-straight win on the year. King was forced to shot 12 Auburn shots, and a barrage of chances in the final stages of the match, as she helped Kentucky keep a clean sheet for the fifth time of the year. Kentucky is now 3-0-0 inone-goal matches this season.

Volleyball: Alexandra Morgan

Senior Alexandra Morgan was spectacular in UK's 3-0 sweep at Lipscomb on Saturday. She registered a team-high six blocks for an average of 2.00 blocks per stanza in the win. Her presence at the net flustered the Bison into a .089 hitting percentage and the home team did not hit above .100 in two of three sets. She also contributed offensively with six kills on a dazzling .750 hitting percentage.

Women's soccer: Stuart Pope

Stuart Pope connected with Arin Gilliland forPope's team-leading eighth goal of the season in the 27th minute to give UK the win. The goal for Pope was her sixth in the last seven matches since being moved up to an attacking center midfielder.

Kentucky Sports Report (week of Sept. 24)

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Men's golf
- Four Wildcats finished in the top 20 to help the University of Kentucky men's golf team finish third at the Wolf Run Invitational with a total score of 30-over par, 882. Kentucky turned in a final round of 10-over par, 294 on Sunday to give the Wildcats their second top-five finish of the season.
- Leading the way for Kentucky was a pair of seniors in Stephen Powers and Ben Stow. Powers and Stow finished in a tie for ninth at seven-over par, 220. Stow turned in an even-par round of 71, while Powers had a final round of four-over, 75. Junior David Snyder tied Stow for the low round of the day with an even-par, 71. Snyder finished tied for 13th place at eight-over par. Senior Cody Martin rounded the Wildcat performers in the top 20, tied for 16th at nine-over par. Martin turned a scorecard of seven-over par, 78 on the final 18 holes.

Women's golf
- The Kentucky women's golf team completed its second tournament of the season over the weekend at the Mason Rudolph Championshp with a 10th place finish. The Wildcats finished at 35-over par as a team.
- Senior Liz Breed led the way with a top 15 finish in a tie for 13th. Breed registered a three-day total of two-over par. She had eight birdies and an eagle through 54 holes. In two tournaments, Breed has two top 15 finishes.

Men's soccer
- The Kentucky men's soccer team continued its grueling start to the 2013 season with the Gamecock Classic, hosted by South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. UK suffered a loss to Dartmouth on Friday night, 3-1, before a 2-0 loss to South Florida on Sunday afternoon.
- The Wildcats have totaled seven goals in their first six games, surrendering eight tallies with a 1.33 goals-against average. UK has been led individually in scoring by sophomore midfielder Isak Krogstad, who has three goals and two assists. Senior Brad Doliner has been a rock for the Wildcats at nearly every position on the field, owning a goal and an assist. Freshmen Kaelon Fox and Charlie Reymann have a goal and an assist. Dynamic freshman midfielder Napo Matsoso has a goal, while ranking fourth on the team in minutes. Freshman Sam Miller has two assists, with sophomores Jacob Scearce and Bryan Celis sporting assists. Freshman center back Jordan Wilson has played every second of UK's season, with senior preseason All-America center back Steven Perinovic ranking second on the team in minutes played.
- After its season-long road swing, Kentucky (2-4) will return to action on Sunday with its Conference USA opener, hosting No. 20 UAB at 1 p.m. ET at the UK Soccer Complex.

Women's soccer
- No. 19 Kentucky pushed its season-long winning streak to seven matches on Friday night, knocking off the Auburn Tigers, 1-0 in Auburn, Ala. The win was UK's first win in an SEC road opener since the 2004 season.
- Stuart Pope connected with Arin Gilliland for Pope's team-leading eighth goal of the season in the 27th minute to give UK the win. The goal for Pope was her sixth in the last seven matches since being moved up to an attacking center midfielder.
- Arin Gilliland notched her eighth assist on Friday night, as she now leads the Wildcats, SEC and NCAA in assists in 2013. The MAC Herrmann Award finalist has scored 14 points so far this season.
- Goalkeeper Kayla King recorded her fourth shutout of the season, as she made six saves in the net and kept a clean sheet. King dropped her GAA to a season-low .079.
- Kentucky will next host Arkansas on Friday night, and Georgia on Sunday night as the SEC season continues. The match with Georgia will be a 6:00 p.m. ET kickoff and televised live on CSS.

Volleyball
- Kentucky traveled to Lipscomb for a non-conference road tilt and came away with the most dominating performance of the season in a 3-0 sweep. UK's offense was spectacular with 40 kills on a .522 hitting clip, while the defense registered 11 blocks and limited the Bison to a mere .089 hitting percentage.
- Sophomore setter Morgan Bergren led the Wildcats to their most complete offensive performance of the season with the season-high hitting percentage. The Blue and White committed just five errors as a unit in three sets of action. Bergren found seven different players for at least three or more kills. Bergren had six kills herself on a .556 hitting clip. She also contributed six digs and a trio of blocks in the win.
- Senior middle blocker Alexandra Morgan registered a team-high six blocks for an average of 2.00 blocks per stanza in the win. Her presence at the net flustered the Bison into a .089 hitting percentage and the home team did not hit above .100 in two of three sets. She also contributed offensively with six kills on a dazzling .750 hitting percentage.
- Kentucky will conclude non-conference action with a home contest vs. Morehead State on Monday at 7 p.m. ET, before opening up SEC action on the road in the state of Alabama beginning at Auburn on Friday.

Upcoming schedule

Monday, Sept. 23
Volleyball vs. Morehead State - 7 p.m.
Women's tennis at Amelia Island Women's Championship - All Day (Amelia Island, Fla.)

Tuesday, Sept. 24
Women's tennis at Amelia Island Women's Championship - All Day (Amelia Island, Fla.)

Wednesday, Sept. 25
Women's tennis at Amelia Island Women's Championship - All Day (Amelia Island, Fla.)
Swimming & Diving at Georgia - 2 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 26
Women's tennis at Amelia Island Women's Championship - All Day (Amelia Island, Fla.)

Friday, Sept. 27
Women's tennis at Amelia Island Women's Championship - All Day (Amelia Island, Fla.)
Women's soccer vs. Arkansas - 7:30 p.m.
Volleyball at Auburn - 8 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 28
Women's tennis at Amelia Island Women's Championship - All Day (Amelia Island, Fla.)
Football vs. Florida - 7 p.m.
Cross Country at Cowboy Jamboree - TBA (Stillwater, Okla.)
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)

Sunday, Sept. 29
Women's tennis at Amelia Island Women's Championship - All Day (Amelia Island, Fla.)
Women's tennis at ITA All-American - All Day (Pacific Palisades, Calif.)
Men's soccer vs. UAB - 1 p.m.
Softball vs. Wright State - 2 p.m. (Dayton, Ohio)
Volleyball at Alabama - 2:30 p.m.
Softball at Dayton - 4 p.m.
Women's soccer vs. Georgia - 6 p.m.

The season must be getting close, because we have our first official practice report of the basketball season.

NCAA rules permit two hours of practice for men's basketball teams and 20 beginning on Friday and John Calipari is taking advantage of the chance to work with his young team. Eric Lindsey from CoachCal.com was there for one such practice on Monday and provided a breakdown of what he saw.

Make sure you check out the full post, but here are a few highlights:

  • The first thing that struck me when practice began is the sheer numbers and individual competition. There were times last year -- especially after injuries and during key points in the season -- when there weren't even enough guys to be able to practice 5-on-5. When they did have enough, it was often comprised of walk-ons. With all due respect to the walk-ons, that doesn't bode well for improvement. As Coach Cal often says, competition breeds improvement. Where last year's second team sometimes consisted of walk-ons, this year's second team will feature McDonald's All-Americans. That makes a monumental difference in development.
  • OK, on to some individual observations. The first one goes to the guys I was most impressed with. In fact, let me just say I was a bit stunned. I know Marcus Lee was a McDonald's All-American. I know he was one of the best players in high school last season. But wow, he is an athletic freak. He does some things that make you shake your head in disbelief. I know Anthony Davis was here two years ago and made some plays that were hard to believe, and I'm not necessarily comparing Lee to Davis, but the kid possesses some athletic traits that very few people have. He jumps like a pogo stick, runs like a deer, and, despite how thin he is at this moment, throws down dunks with authority.

Link: CoachCal.com's first practice report of 2013-14


Through nine matches of nonconference play, Kentucky seemed intent on giving fans their money's worth. The Wildcats played four five-set matches, including two in the span of five days in hosting Louisville, Pepperdine and Minnesota.

But to close out pre-conference play, the Cats didn't want any part of those marathon matches. On Saturday, they swept pass Lipscomb on the road. To follow it up, UK did the same at home against Morehead State.

Though Monday against in-state Morehead may not have gone the distance, the experience of playing those kings matches laid the groundwork for the 25-18, 25-21, 28-26 victory.

"Winning those tight five-game matches has helped us realize that we have to close at the end of games," setter Morgan Bergren said. "We can't let things extend on and on. We really needed to come out and finish those close ones tonight."

And finish the Cats did.

No. 18 UK (8-3) went on runs of 6-0, 6-2 and 9-4 to close out the three sets, turning close games into comfortable wins in the first and second and overcoming a 22-19 deficit in the third. Just a few weeks ago, the Cats easily may have faltered, paving the way for yet another five-setter, but no more.

"That's a pleasing part of this match for sure, and I thought our concentration level went way up when we got to point 20," head coach Craig Skinner said. "That's a sign of a mature team and a competitive group."

Leading the way was Bergren, the junior who has taken hold of the setter position. Athletic and tall, Bergren adds a dimension that changes the way UK plays and the way opponents play UK. That was particularly true on Monday.

Bergren had five of her seven kills in the first set on well-time dumps, forcing Morehead to account for her. That, in turn, opened up the rest of the floor for her teammates.

"It really got them paying attention to me," Bergren said. "I noticed I had more one-on-ones outside and just mixing it up I was able to go back to it later on because they stopped jumping on me. It was good to get involved early on just to get the one-on-ones outside."

From there, Bergren capitalized by dishing out 38 assists.

Whitney Billings led the UK attack with 13 kills, adding 14 digs for her 36th-career double-double. A senior, Billings has been through the transition from nonconference play to the Southeastern Conference and she's confident in UK's position.

"I feel pretty good about going into conference," Billings said. "We played some really good teams preseason that's prepared us for going into conference. We've played some close matches, so we know if we're in that situation in the conference, we know what we have to do."

Skinner, ever the coach, sees plenty of room for improvement, though even he admits the first month of the season has been a success.

"Well, we set a goal to be at least 8-3 in pre-conference so we're on track," Skinner said. "I feel like our blocking still needs to get better. In the SEC it's going to be a little more physical and people hitting the ball pretty hard, so we gotta slow the ball down at the net. I think this group's chemistry is pretty good and I think that's really important in a long conference season."

Transcript: Cedergren joins Big Blue Update

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IMG951758.jpg On Monday night, UK men's soccer head coach Johan Cedergren joined UK radio voice Neil Price for the weekly Big Blue Weekly show on WLAP 630-AM. Cedergren talked about UK's start to the year and a tough matchup with No. 20 UAB, set for Sunday at 1 p.m. ET at the UK Soccer Complex. Below is a brief transcript of the end of Cedergren's comments on the call-in show.

On senior Brad Doliner ...
"The game sometimes slows down for seniors. They have seen it so many times. They know what to expect and they can play at a different pace. Dolly is great. He is very versatile and wherever you put him he is going to give you 100 percent. He played himself to the ground on Friday and he came back Sunday and was again one of our best performers."

On the strength of C-USA since his time as a player at Cincinnati ...
"Conference USA has done a great job. It is a sport that they take very serious. They make sure that any team that comes into the league has a good soccer program. This past offseason we had some additions in Charlotte, Old Dominion, New Mexico and FAU. Unfortunately that meant that SMU, UCF and Memphis left but I think that net-net, we are an overall stronger conference. Last year you could say that maybe we were a top-five conference in the country, now you can say we are a top two. A team like FAU, who maybe didn't have some great seasons in the past, is still undefeated. It is definitely a really, really tough league. It has traditionally been one of the top leagues in the country.

On UAB and long-time head coach Mike Getman ...
"When I was at Cincinnati, UAB was definitely a powerhouse. They are a team that is always in there. They are a team that always competes against the top. And coach Getman, who I played against when he was already the coach at UAB, he really knows how to win and how to put a team together. I am excited to host them on Sunday. We were able to get a result down there last year and we are hoping to do the same this year."

On the challenges of facing UAB ...
"It is a program that has been successful for a very, very long time. It is a staff that has been together for a very long time. They clearly have things that they do really well that leads them to success. It is a very big team traditionally that is very good on set pieces. The last couple of years they have started to emphasize playing more, so now they can get ball down on the ground and play, as well as hurt you on set pieces. For us last year, we tried to prepare the guys for the battle. (Assistant) Coach (Erik) Imler always says there is no faster player on the field then the ball. That goes for Sunday as well. We will have a bunch of freshmen and when you look across the field at the lineup they are probably going to be the bigger team. But it does not matter so much in soccer. It is more about your mentality, your work rate and about how you can use the ball. I am expecting a very, very tough game, like all conference games are. But we have a couple of things that we are going to work on this week and hopefully we can get a result."

On preparing for the league's top offensive unit ...
"We have let eight goals in over the first six games, on just 15 shots (on goal), so I have to start with that when I talk about defense. But I think defensively we are very good. We have two good goalkeepers who are really fighting each other to see who is going to start. We have a great back four. Again, there are three freshmen in the back four, which is part of the reason why we have let eight goals in but defensively I think we are really sound. That was one of the focuses of the preseason was that we were going to work really hard to make sure we don't let in any easy goals. So far, six games into it, I would say we have absolutely not let any easy goals in. Maybe there have been some situations where someone switched off on a marking assignment. Or there has been some kind of deflection like there was this weekend. But we haven't given up a lot of easy goals. So I think we are sound defensively and then it is just a matter of if we can keep a clean sheet going into halftime and we can use the ball and not shy away from the physical nature of college soccer, then I think we are going to be okay."

Notebook: Stoops, Cats preparing for familiar foe

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Mark Stoops leads Kentucky into a matchup with No. 19/20 Florida on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops leads Kentucky into a matchup with No. 19/20 Florida on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The opening month of the season has been all about navigating uncharted territory for Mark Stoops, from his head-coaching debut to his first win.

Now, after dealing with so many unknowns, Stoops finally gets to prepare for a familiar opponent with the Florida Gators coming to town on Saturday.

"It will be another great challenge as we all know," Stoops said. "A very solid team on all phases. Been very familiar with Florida having played them the past three years and knowing quite a few players on their team."

During his time as defensive coordinator at Florida State, the Seminoles won twice in three meetings with the rival Gators: 31-7 in 2010 and 21-7 in 2011. Most recently, Florida came away with a 37-26 victory last November.

The No. 19/20 Gators have won two of three to open the season, and Stoops sees a team not much different than the one he prepared for 10 months ago.

"They want to be physical," Stoops said. "They're very good defensively, as good as maybe anybody we will play this year. So very good, very talented, very physical defensively and offensively, the same thing. They want to control the football, keep the time of possession and be physical in the run game, and, again, take their shots off of that."

This week, however, it will be a different quarterback taking those shots. Returning starter Jeff Driskel sustained a broken tibia during Florida's 31-17 win over Tennessee and has been replaced by redshirt sophomore Tyler Murphy. Murphy completed 8-of-14 passes for 134 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 84 yards and another score in relief.

Stoops said UK will need to account for Murphy's play-making ability, but it's not as if Driskel was a statue in the pocket himself. Driskel ran for 408 yards and five touchdowns in 2012, including 35 yards and a score against Kentucky in a 38-0 win.

"I think both guys can run the ball a little bit when they want to," Stoops said. "Certainly Murphy showed some athleticism and some speed, and I'm sure they'll want to use him from time to time."

But no matter who lines up at quarterback, Florida's strength remains the same: defense. The Gators are allowing just 212.3 yards and 14.7 points per game and have created eight turnovers, including six against the Volunteers. Stoops says that starts with the defensive line.

"I mean, they're very disruptive," Stoops said. "Very dominant up front, and their secondary is fabulous. I mean, they cover the heck out of you. They're very good players in the secondary. I've known quite a few of those guys for some time, very good."

Stoops not reaching for motivational ploys

With his team set to face Florida, Stoops faced logical questions about possible external motivation from a couple different sources. His answers should come as no surprise.

First, he was asked about UK's streak of 26 consecutive losses to Florida. He didn't wholly discount the notion that the streak is on his team's mind, but it will by no means be a focus during the Wildcats' preparation.

"Well, you've heard me talk enough that we won't get all into all that," Stoops said. "Sure, I think it's motivation, I do. I think it needs to be talked about, but that can't be the focal point. We have to get better each and every day, each and every game. And that's what we're worried about and that's been our message since I've been here is just to get better."

His response on the subject of former UK head coach Joker Phillips returning to Commonwealth Stadium was much the same.

"I wouldn't think that that would give any extra motivation for us," Stoops said. "I think we ought to be pretty motivated as it is to prepare to play a very good football team."

And even if Stoops were the kind of coach who relied on bulletin-board material to get his team ready to play, he wouldn't use Phillips' return to that end.

"I think most people around here have good feelings about Coach Phillips and the work that he's done at Kentucky," Stoops said. "He's a very good person and good coach. I don't think that will have any bearing on the game."

Depth chart updates

Due to the bye week, UK hasn't released an updated depth chart since before the Louisville game. That changed on Monday.

Eyes, as always, went immediately to the quarterback position, where Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow are once again listed first separated by an "OR" after Smith was listed as the sole starter the previous two weeks. The same is true at running back, where true freshman Jojo Kemp has played his way up from third and will compete with Raymond Sanders for the right to start this week.

Another notable change came in the secondary, as Cody Quinn is once again a starter at cornerback opposite Nate Willis. Quinn battled an ankle injury throughout fall camp and during the first two weeks of the season, but played extensively against U of L off the bench.

At strong-side linebacker, Josh Forrest moved ahead of Kory Brown, who is working his way back from an injury of his own. But if UK follows a similar game plan against Florida as it did vs. Louisville, the starter at that position may not matter as much. The Cats relied heavily on a look with three down linemen and Alvin Dupree and Jason Hatcher standing up on the edges. Considering the effectiveness of the package, it stands to reason that Stoops will use it extensively again.

"Jason Hatcher and Bud were in there as well when we were doing some of the odd stuff and trying to get a little bit bigger and give them some new wrinkles and some new things," Stoops said. "We'll continue to build on that package."

Smith, Rumph expected to play


The bye week came at a good time for two important contributors on each side of the ball.

Smith, the sophomore quarterback, hurt his shoulder against Louisville and missed much of the second half. He didn't throw in practice last week, but Stoops expects him to return to action on Monday evening.

"He'll be on a pitch count," Stoops said. "We'll keep an eye on how many throws he's making, maybe, just to let him ease back into it for a day or so."

Stoops didn't say when Donte Rumph will practice, but he expects the senior defensive tackle to be ready come Saturday.

South Carolina game time set

Television selections for Southeastern Conference games on Oct. 5 were announced Monday and UK's game at South Carolina will be at 7:30 p.m. ET on Fox Sports Net. Additionally, the matchup with Florida this weekend will be on ESPNU at 7 p.m. ET.

UK football pre-Florida depth chart

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Offense

Tight end
Jordan Aumiller
Anthony Kendrick
Steven Borden
Tyler Robinson
Patrick Ligon

Left tackle
Darrian Miller
Jordan Swindle

Left guard
Zach West
Teven Eatmon-Nared

Center
Jon Toth
Zach Myers
Max Godby

Right guard
Kevin Mitchell
Jack Gruenschlaeger

Right tackle
Jordan Swindle
Shaquille Love

Wide receiver
Demarco Robinson
Jeff Badet

Wide receiver
Ryan Timmons
Daryl Collins
Ronnie Shields

Wide receiver
Javess Blue
Alexander Montgomery
A.J. Legree

Quarterback
Maxwell Smith or Jalen Whitlow

Fullback
D.J. Warren
Cody Jones

Running back
Raymond Sanders or Jojo Kemp
Jonathan George
Dyshawn Mobley

Defense

Defensive end
Alvin Dupree
Jason Hatcher

Defensive tackle
Donte Rumph
Tristian Johnson

Defensive tackle
Mister Cobble
Mike Douglas
Christian Coleman

Defensive end
Za'Darius Smith
Farrington Huguenin
Alvin Davis

Strong-side linebacker
Josh Forrest
Kory Brown
Malcolm McDuffen

Middle linebacker
Avery Williamson
Miles Simpson

Weak-side linebacker
TraVaughn Paschal
Khalid Henderson

Nickel
Blake McClain
Marcus McWilson

Cornerback
Nate Willis
Fred Tiller

Safety
Ashely Lowery
Glenn Faulkner

Safety
Eric Dixon
Daron Blaylock

Cornerback
Cody Quinn
Jaleel Hytchye
Eric Simmons

Special teams

Snapper
Kelly Mason
Matthew Adolph
Tyler Robinson

Holder
Jared Leet
Landon Foster

Kicker
Joe Mansour
Austin MacGinnis

Punter
Landon Foster
Joe Mansour

Kickoff returner
Demarco Robinson
Javess Blue
Raymond Sanders

Punt returner
Demarco Robinson
Javess Blue
Daryl Collins

Live stream: Stoops pre-Florida press conference

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Kentucky men's soccer: Weekly update (Sept. 23)

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Overall Record: 2-4-0
Record Last Week: 0-2-0

Recent results
Friday, Sept. 20 - lost vs. Dartmouth, 3-1 (at Columbia, S.C.) | GAME RECAP
Sunday, Sept. 22 * lost vs. South Florida, 2-0 (at Columbia, S.C.) | GAME RECAP

Upcoming schedule (time Eastern)
Sunday, Sept. 29 - vs. No. 20 UAB - 1 p.m.

Team notes
The Kentucky men's soccer team continued its grueling start to the 2013 season with the Gamecock Classic, hosted by South Carolina in Columbia, S.C. UK suffered a loss to Dartmouth on Friday night, 3-1, before a 2-0 loss to South Florida on Sunday afternoon.

After its season-long road swing, Kentucky (2-4) will return to action on Sunday with its Conference USA opener, hosting No. 20 UAB at 1 p.m. ET at the UK Soccer Complex.

The Wildcats have totaled seven goals in their first six games, surrendering eight tallies with a 1.33 goals-against average. UK has been led individually in scoring by sophomore midfielder Isak Krogstad, who has three goals and two assists. Senior Brad Doliner has been a rock for the Wildcats at nearly every position on the field, owning a goal and an assist. Freshmen Kaelon Fox and Charlie Reymann have a goal and an assist. Dynamic freshman midfielder Napo Matsoso has a goal, while ranking fourth on the team in minutes. Freshman Sam Miller has two assists, with sophomores Jacob Scearce and Bryan Celis sporting assists. Freshman center back Jordan Wilson has played every second of UK's season, with senior preseason All-America center back Steven Perinovic ranking second on the team in minutes played.

In goal, sophomore Callum Irving has a 1.00 goals-against average and two saves in his three starts. Senior Jack Van Arsdale owns a 1.67 goals-against average in his three starts, with four saves.

Kentucky has played a staggering amount of underclassmen and newcomers in its 2013 season, as 70-percent of its minutes played have come from underclassmen.

(Chet White, UK Athletics) (Chet White, UK Athletics)
 Following his program's first NCAA Tournament victory in November 2012, UK women's soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz became noticeably emotional.

"I thought about what I was going to say in this moment so many times and now that I'm at the moment I'm at a little bit of a loss," Lipsitz said just minutes after Kentucky's overtime first-round NCAA Tournament win last autumn. "This is a really special moment for this program. One of the things I talk about is leaving a legacy while you're here ... I was brought here four years ago to make it to this moment."

The huge step forward was emotional for all involved with the program that has done nothing but progress since the fifth year coach took the helm.

Last season's postseason victory marked a major milestone for Kentucky women's soccer, but UK also took another big leap forward last weekend with the program's first win over a top-10 team, at West Virginia.

Lipsitz's reaction to the West Virginia win said a great deal about the state of the 2013 team, and the program as a whole, especially considering how emotional he was following the 2012 NCAA Tournament victory.

"We went into the match at West Virginia expecting to win," Lipsitz said. "I think that's where our program is. It doesn't mean that we didn't expect that last year. That (the 2012 NCAA Tournament win) was a huge momentous occasion that can never happen again. That was the first one.

"This is just a step along the way in a long season so last year I was excited for what that meant to the program, to get over the hump. Beating West Virginia on the road, I was excited for how well we played, but it's a very small step in what will hopefully be a successful and long season."

The Wildcats were no doubt ecstatic to pick up the program's first win over such a highly ranked opponent -- with an emphatic 4-2 score line no less -- but the Wildcats' expectations far exceed one win in September.

Those in and around the UK women's soccer program wouldn't trade the noteworthy victory over West Virginia for very much, and the victory surely turned some heads around the country, but Lipsitz is using the milestone victory as a new challenge to his team. After all, UK, which entered the national polls for the first time in 2013 at No. 19 this week, begins Southeastern Conference play on Friday at Auburn.

Indeed Kentucky is looking to exorcise the demons that go along with a recent history of disappointing results following strong performances.

Take the 2012 season for example.

After an emotional upset win over then-No. 12 Louisville on a Friday night, UK fell 3-1 to Samford two days later. UK defeated top-15 Florida last season as well, but lost to Arkansas the next time out. Again after a hard-fought draw with No. 6/8 Texas A&M in late September, the Wildcats lost 2-1 to Alabama two days later. Even after the NCAA Tournament victory of UT-Martin last November, Kentucky lost to an admittedly superior UCLA team in the second round.

The 2013 Wildcats are looking to prove they're a different group. The Wildcats did well to prove that point in their first opportunity to do so two weeks ago as they topped Dayton 3-1 two days after a 2-0 win over Louisville.

The proposition is very much the same as UK will look to extend its six-game winning streak with Friday's SEC-opening trip to Auburn.

"The SEC is a different level," Lipsitz said. "We as a staff keep telling our young players that they have never experienced soccer at this level. They all thought the Louisville game was tough, but SEC soccer is another animal. I trust my captains and upperclassmen to guide them along the way, and we are looking for a great challenge from a very well-coached and extremely organized Auburn team."

Links: Women's soccer star Gilliland making headlines

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Arin Gilliland has 13 points as the women's soccer team is off to an 6-1-1 start to the 2013 season. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Arin Gilliland has 13 points as the women's soccer team is off to an 6-1-1 start to the 2013 season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
If you didn't already hear, Arin Gilliland had a big weekend as the women's soccer team put the finishing touches on an impressive run through its nonconference schedule.

Gilliland scored seven points in UK wins over UTSA and West Virginia, assisting on or scoring all five of the Wildcats' goals. The junior's efforts, as you might expect, have earned her a fair bit of recognition. She was named Southeastern Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Monday and CollegeSoccer360.com Primetime Player of the Week on Wednesday.

On top of that, she is featured in a pair of stories this week on espnW.com and SECDigitalNetwork.com.

First, Gilliland continued her series of blogs on espnW.com. In it, she writes about UK's four wins the last two weekends and the momentum the Cats are carrying into SEC play.

It was such a quick turnaround for Game 2. It was going to be a huge challenge for us because of all the hype of the previous game against Louisville. But we came out with just as much passion, aggression and grit and tallied up a 3-1 win over a very good Dayton team. Here's an excerpt.

So now we were sitting with four straight wins and two weekend sweeps. You cannot allow that to let you get lazy or arrogant. Next up was Texas-San Antonio and West Virginia at No. 10.

After a 1-0 victory over UTSA at home, we packed up on another bus trip, this time to the mountains of West Virginia. Once there, we stepped onto the field and wasted no time. I put a goal away in the first 10 seconds of the game. We were here and making a statement. We came out with a 4-2 win over WVU.

Third straight sweep, six straight wins: We are ready to take on the SEC!

Next, Sean Cartell posted an excellent profile of Gilliland on the SEC's official website. By now, you may have heard the story of Gilliland overcoming an ACL injury and the loss of her mother to cancer during her freshman season, but the story is worth a read regardless.

Head coach Mark Stoops



Offensive coordinator Neal Brown




A week and a half before Kentucky next takes the field, the Wildcats began initial preparations for their game against the Florida Gators.

They did, however, turn their backs entirely on the first-team defense vs. first-team offense work that took up most of Tuesday's practice.

"We decided to do a lot of work against each other again today and just get better," head coach Mark Stoops said on Wednesday. "We did get ahead and work certain situations and first, second down versus Florida in some segments. But got some good work in."

Though he was pleased with his team's focus, Stoops did say the drops that plagued UK in its loss to Louisville have popped up more often this week than during previous practices. The kind of work the Cats got in on Wednesday can help address that, among other things.

"It goes back to trying to do too much," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "They've got to do their job. It's like I tell them all the time: We're down by 10, there's no 10-point play. It's not like we can go out there and get a 10-point play. All you can do is catch the ball. Once you catch it, let's get straight up field and see what happens."

With some additional time on his hands during the bye week, Brown has taken some time to watch tape of some of the nation's elite offenses. That's only served to reinforce Brown's point that the Cats need to focus on making the simple play.

"I think, and you all have heard me say that before, is often good offense - like during this bye week I've watched some of the better offenses in the country - they just consistently make routine plays," Brown said. "That's what we've got to do. If we consistently make routine plays, last week we're in good shape. Do we win? I don't know. But we play a lot better."

Freshman running back Jojo Kemp played about as well as he could have given his opportunities against U of L, rushing for a career-best 80 yards on just five carries. After the game, Stoops and Brown both said their intention was to get him more touches, as well as sophomore Dyshawn Mobley. Both have responded to the opportunity in practice.

"Jojo had a good day today," Brown said. "Dyshawn's had two good days. There's always...He can smell getting on the field. He can smell the playing time. He understands what he has to work on. He has to be better in protection and things when he doesn't have the ball in his hands. He's good with the ball in his hands. He's got to help the team when he doesn't have the ball."

UK will return to the practice field on Thursday, but Wednesday was the last day any players or coaches will be available for interviews until next week. Stoops intends to put the extra time to good use.

"We just got some work to catch up on and some recruiting," Stoops said. "I will spend some time with the family though. Have to do that when you can, right?"

Freshman Hatcher emerging in new role

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Jason Hatcher had a career-high four tackles in UK's 27-13 loss to Louisville on Saturday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) Jason Hatcher has nine tackles through three games of his UK career. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
Jason Hatcher was strictly a defensive end during a standout career at Trinity High School. He became comfortable with his hand in the dirt and grew into a four-star prospect because of it.

But three games into his college career, Hatcher is in the middle of a conversion to more of a hybrid role. In a continuing effort to put the best 11 players on the field as often as possible, the coaches worked Hatcher into the rotation more by standing him up on the edge as a linebacker.

Hatcher might have limited experience doing that, but that wasn't always clear in watching him play against his hometown team.

"Actually I didn't do any in high school," Hatcher said. "But we've been working it (since fall camp), so I had some confidence. There was some nervousness, but I feel like I did alright so I'm good on it now."

Facing Louisville, Hatcher had a career-best four tackles, showing pass-rushing ability and strength against the run, particularly when beginning plays on his feet. There were some occasional mistakes, but Hatcher showed more promise than anything else in filling a role he really never had before.

"There were some things that I worked on from week one to now because it was kind of the game plan for me to keep standing up, dropping back," Hatcher said. "There are still some things I need to work on with it, but I expected to do that."

Hatcher has worked at the outside linebacker spot since the opening of fall camp, but originally was behind Bud Dupree in the package. Through the first two weeks of the season, head coach Mark Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot recognized the need to get more size on the field, so Hatcher now plays with the first string in UK's three down linemen look.

The defensive line was always going to be the strength of the UK defense. And with juniors Dupree and Za'Darius Smith holding down the defensive-end spots, Hatcher seemed unlikely to move ahead of either as a freshman.

But in the new package, he doesn't have to. Dupree (6-foot-4, 252 pounds) and Hatcher (6-3, 250) stand up as outside linebackers, while Za'Darius Smith (6-6, 254), Mister Cobble (6-0, 334) and Donte Rumph (6-3, 320) man the defensive line. Avery Williamson (6-1, 238) and TraVaughn Paschal (6-4, 242) fill out the front seven to give UK a much bigger look.

It certainly worked against U of L, as UK held the explosive Cardinal offense to just 148 yards and 10 points in the first half.

"It does a lot for us scheme-wise," Dupree said. "No one can key in on blocking just one person."

That all sounds good on paper, but the execution is still a work in progress, particularly for Hatcher. Fortunately, there's a teammate he can turn to who has alternated between end and linebacker multiple times throughout his career.

"Jason never stood up before, so I had to really just show him little techniques about standing up and pretty much show him a lot of things," Dupree said.

Dupree reports the toughest task in standing up doesn't come in altering pass-rushing technique or even learning to cover speedy backs and receivers.

"It could be reading run or pass is probably the toughest thing because as a regular (defensive) end, you see pass and you're just going to go," Dupree said. "Standing up you gotta cover somebody possibly, so you've just got to be able to turn around and read your keys at all times."

Hatcher agrees that the mental aspect of the game is more difficult, because it requires accepting the inevitability of mistakes.

"I'd say it's more mental, you know what I mean, because you mess up but you can't let that keep me down," Hatcher said. "I gotta just keep going and keep going because I'm going to mess up a lot."

Considering his potential - both in the short and long term - the coaches are certainly willing to take the good with the bad.

"He plays physical, he plays with a passion," Eliot said. "So he's going to play hard, we just gotta get him going in the right direction all the time."

As for Hatcher, he has always planned on playing early in his college career and that was a factor in his decision to come to UK, even if he didn't expect to be playing as stand-up linebacker. Having made the change to the hybrid role, another of his reasons for coming to UK is proving to be valid as well.

"That was one of the reasons I came," Hatcher said. "I know those are great coaches and that's just proof."

Head coach Mark Stoops



Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot



With two weeks to prepare for their next game, the Kentucky Wildcats returned to the practice field for the first time since facing Louisville on Saturday.

Taking advantage of that bye week, UK focused its work primarily on correcting mistakes and improving on a "physical, competitive day."

"Today, like I said, primarily we did corrections and then we did just good work, good on good, just to get better; just to fundamentally get better and execute better against good people," UK head coach Mark Stoops said on Tuesday.

The coaching staff, of course, is busy away from practice preparing game plans for UK's next opponent - No. 19 Florida - but at least for one day, the Cats were focused only on themselves.

"We can certainly use this week to get better as a football team and not worry so much about game-planning as far as just getting better," Stoops said. "I think it can help in that regard."

Even though the game ended in a loss, Kentucky showed plenty of signs of growth in going toe to toe with the highly ranked Cardinals.

"Like I told you after the game, I think I saw a little bit more fight," Stoops said. "I saw us a little bit more aggressive."

With that mentality, UK handcuffed a dynamic offense for long stretches and seemed poised to put more points on the board if not for some untimely drops and turnovers. In watching tape with players, the coaches plan to hammer those points home.

"They saw us have the chance to play with that team, and I hope that motivates them to get better," Stoops said. "Like I told them, we've got to mentally--we've got to be tougher and execute when it counts, and we've got to dig down and find some more heart and compete a little bit harder."

The bye week also gives a good chance for a few Wildcats to heal up before they resume a brutal stretch in their schedule. Quarterback Maxwell Smith and defensive tackle Donte Rumph both sustained shoulder injuries during the Louisville game and did not participate fully in practice, but Stoops expects them to be available when the Cats host the Gators.

"If there was an injury that I felt that would keep somebody out of the Florida game, I would tell you right now, but that doesn't appear to be the case," Stoops said.

On Wednesday, UK will begin installing its game plan for Florida, though the Cats will continue to focus more internally this week.

"We'll do a mixture tomorrow," Stoops said. "We'll do a lot of good on good, a little bit more than a normal Wednesday good on good and we'll also do Florida for the next two days."

Kentucky Sports Report (week of Sept. 17)

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Football
- The Kentucky football team fell to 1-2 on the season with a 27-13 setback to No. 7 Louisville Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. The Wildcats will have a bye week before starting Southeastern Conference play Saturday, Sept. 28 at Commonwealth Stadium.
- Kentucky rushed for 162 yards on 31 carries against Louisville, averaging 5.2 per attempt. The Wildcats have averaged at least five yards per rush in all three games this season. Freshman Jojo Kemp rushed five times for a career-high 80 yards, an average of 16 yards per carry.
- Senior linebacker Avery Williamson led all players with 15 total tackles, including one for a loss. He has a streak of 22 consecutive games with at least three tackles. Defensive end Za'Darius Smith shared a quarterback sack among his three tackles against U of L. He has had a sack in all three games this season, which is the first time a Wildcat has earned a sack in three-straight games since Jeremy Jarmon in 2007.

Women's soccer

- The Kentucky women's soccer team went 2-0-0, sweeping the weekend for the third-straight week. The Wildcats picked up a 1-0 win at home over UTSA on Friday and knocked off No. 10 West Virginia, 4-2, on Sunday in Morgantown, W. Va., to record their sixth straight win.
- Arin Gilliland scored seven points, netting two goals and adding three assists in the two matches. The junior scored 10 seconds into UK's 4-2 win over WVU and added another goal and two assists. For her efforts, she was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week for the fourth time in her career.
- The win over No. 10 West Virginia was Kentucky's first win over a top-10 team in the Jon Lipsitz era.
- With Friday's shutout of UTSA, Kayla King has now recorded three shutouts on the season, and the Wildcats have held their opponents scoreless in four matches overall this year.

Volleyball
- The Kentucky volleyball team improved to 6-3 on the season with a 2-1 week at home. The Wildcats defeated in-state rival Louisville on Tuesday before upsetting No. 4 Minnesota on Sunday, both by 3-2  scores. Friday, UK lost a 3-0 decision to Pepperdine. Senior Whitney Billings was named the SEC  Offensive Player of the Week, while freshman Anni Thomasson was named the conference's Co-Freshman of the Week.
- The win over the fourth-ranked Golden Gophers was the highest ranked opponent UK has defeated in the Skinner era, and the biggest victory since Kentucky defeated No. 3 Texas in 1993. The victory was capped by a dominating 15-8 fifth-set win.
- Against Minnesota, Billings led the way offensively with 25 kills on a blistering .467 hitting percentage. The hitting mark was the highest in her career for a five-set match where she tallied 15 or more kills. She also picked up 12 digs for her 35th career double-double. Tuesday vs. Louisville, she tallied 11 digs in the win to become the sixth player in program history to amass 1,000 career kills and digs.
- Thomasson began the week with a career-high 13 kills and a career-best 16 digs in the win over Louisville. She continued her streak of 10-or more digs with 10 scoops in a loss to Pepperdine. In the
upset victory over the Golden Gophers, she registered her fourth double-double in the last five matches with 10 kills and 10 digs and a pair of blocks.

Men's soccer
- The Kentucky men's soccer team concluded its one-game week with a 2-1 loss on Saturday night at Xavier in a rematch of the 2012 first-round of the NCAA Tournament. UK will return to action on Friday with the Gamecock Classic, hosted by South Carolina, facing off with traditional powers Dartmouth and South Florida on Sunday.
- Kentucky (2-2) battled the Musketeers in a rematch of the first-round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament Saturday in Cincinnati. After allowing a goal in the third minute, UK fought back on the strength of freshman Kaelon Fox's first career goal on an assist from freshman Charlie Reymann. Xavier, a team that has advanced to three straight NCAA Tournaments, netted the game-winning tally in the 69th minute.
- The Wildcats have netted six goals in their first four games, surrendering three goals and owning a 61-30 advantage in shots and a 20-12 mark in corner kicks. UK has been led offensively by sophomore midfielder Isak Krogstad, who has two goals and two assists. Senior Brad Doliner has a goal and an assist, with Fox and Reymann each sporting a goal and an assist. Freshman Napo Matsoso has a goal, with freshman Sam Miller notching two assists. Sophomores Jacob Scearce and Bryan Celis each have assists.
In goal, sophomore Callum Irving has two shutouts in his two starts, with senior co-captain Jack Van Arsdale owning a 1.50 goals-against average in his two starts, with four saves.

Women's golf
- The Kentucky women's golf team opened the 2013-14 season with a team title, individual title and individual runner-up at the "MO"Morial Invitational. The win marked the third team title under head coach Golda Johansson Borst. The Wildcats placed three individuals in the top 10 en route to winning the tournament by an astounding 11 strokes. UK finished the three-day tournament at eight-over par, while the second-place team, Virginia, finished at 19-over. UK clinched the title with a final round score
of two-under par 286, which is the third-lowest round in program history.
- Freshman Haley Mills and sophomore Sarah Harris led the way as the two finished first and tied for second, respectively. Playing in her first collegiate tournament, Mills brought home the individual title at three-under par. She was the only participant to finish the "MO" under par.
- Harris tied for second at one-over par to tie a career-best finish. Rounding out the top 10 was senior Liz Breed who tied for seventh at four-over par. UK returns to the course Sept. 20-22 when the Wildcats head to Franklin, Tenn., for the Mason Rudolph Championship.

Cross country
- Cally Macumber won Kentucky's first home cross country meet since the 2007 SEC Championships on Saturday at Masterson Station Park. The senior was named the USTFCCCA National Athlete of the Week.
- Macumber was quickly followed by fellow-senior Allison Peare who impressed in her first-ever home collegiate meet with a third-place time of 17:11.08.
- The UK women placed third in the team competition.
- Adam Kahleifeh also enjoyed his first home cross country meet as a Wildcat, placing eighth.
- The UK men's team placed fourth in the team competition with 111 points.
- Kentucky will return to competition on Sept. 28, 2013 for the Oklahoma State Cowboy Jamboree in Stillwater, Okla.

Upcoming schedule

Friday, Sept. 20
Men's soccer vs. Dartmouth - 4:30 p.m. (Columbia, S.C.)
Women's soccer at Auburn - 8 p.m.
Women's golf at Mason Rudolph Championship - All Day (Franklin, Tenn.)

Saturday, Sept. 21
Volleyball at Lipscomb - 3 p.m.
Men's golf at Wolf Run Invitational - All Day (Zionsville, Ind.)
Women's golf at Mason Rudolph Championship - All Day (Franklin, Tenn.)

Sunday, Sept. 22
Men's soccer vs. USF - 11 a.m. (Columbia, S.C.)
Men's golf at Wolf Run Invitational - All Day (Zionsville, Ind.)
Women's golf at Mason Rudolph Championship - All Day (Franklin, Tenn.)

Video: Football spirit intro 2013

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Sept. 15 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, September 15:

Volleyball: Whitney Billings

Senior Whitney Billings began the week with 11 digs in a win over Louisville to become the sixth player in program history to amass 1,000 career kills and digs, and the first since the inception of the 25-point rally scoring era. She contributed nine kills in the win narrowly missing out on a double-double effort. In the upset-victory over No.4 Minnesota (the highest ranked opponent defeated in the Craig Skinner era), Billings was unstoppable. She went off for 25 kills on a blistering .467 hitting percentage. The hitting percentage is the highest in her career for a five-set match where she tallied 15 or more kills. With the 25 hammers she became the first player in the 25-point rally scoring era to have two matches of 25 or more kills in a single season. She also picked up 12 digs in the victory for her 35th career double-double effort. She had a season-high five blocks and was perfect from the serve-receive line as the Gophers attacked her 23 times. In the loss to Pepperdine, she reached double-figures in the digs column for the sixth time this season, while also posting a season-best three service aces.

Women's soccer: Arin Gilliland

Arin Gilliland scored seven points on the weekend, netting two goals and adding three assists in the two matches. Gilliland scored 10 seconds into the Wildcats 4-2 win over WVU, and also added another goal and two assists. Gilliland was named the SEC Offensive Player of the Week, and also named to the TopDrawerSoccer National Team of the Week.

Volleyball: Jackie Napper

Junior libero Jackie Napper has found her rhythm in her new position as she led the Wildcats in digs for the week with 3.85 per set. She logged a .966 serve-receive stat line, while registering double-figure dig efforts in every contest. She opened the week with 15 scoops against her hometown rival, Louisville. She also added four assists and an ace. Against Pepperdine she totaled 11 digs. She saved her best for last in helping UK to the biggest upset since 1993 with a career-high 24 dig performance. She coupled that with five assists and an ace. The Gophers served at her 28 times and she registered a perfect 1.000 serve-receive percentage. With the 50 digs on the weekend, she has now tallied 656 career digs which is the fourth-highest total in the 25-point rally scoring era for UK.

Volleyball: Anni Thomasson

Freshman Anni Thomasson continued to provide a spark on the floor for the Wildcats as UK upset No. 4 ranked Minnesota and Louisville who is receiving votes in the AVCA poll. The week began with a career-high 13 kill, 16-dig performance in the victory over in-state rival Louisville. She then continued her streak of 10-or more dig matches with 10 scoops in the loss to Pepperdine. In the upset victory over the Golden Gophers, Thoamsson registered her fourth double-double in five matches with 10 kills and 10 digs, while also adding a pair of blocks. She was served at 41 times in the three matches, and did not make a single error. She averaged 2.08 kills per set, good for third on the team. Here 3.08 digs per frame was second only to UK's starting libero. Her 2.58 points per game ranked third on the squad.

Cedergren's persona transforming UK soccer

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Johan Cedergren is in his second season as Kentucky men's soccer head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Johan Cedergren is in his second season as Kentucky men's soccer head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It took coach Johan Cedergren just 11 months to lead Kentucky men's soccer to its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2003.

Entering his second year, the 38-year-old native of Solvesborg, Sweden, has his Wildcats primed for future success, despite a youthful roster that is feeling its way into collegiate soccer.

When Cedergren was announced as the third head coach in program history in December of 2011, he spoke eloquently about his goals and ambitions for the program.

He wanted to create a highly professional atmosphere, a die-hard commitment to recruiting the best, intense knowledge of the tactics and fundamentals of the game, and be on the cutting edge of the technological innovations in the sport.

Flash forward 21 months to three games into his second season and Cedergren has successfully transformed the UK program into one of the nation's rising units, while systematically checking program goals off his list.

A former All-Conference USA standout at Cincinnati, Cedergren built a dynamic and highly respected coaching staff with assistants David Casper and Erik Imler, director of operations Marco dos Santos and a former full-time assistant at Dartmouth currently serving as UK's volunteer assistant, Lucas Richardson.

He has transformed UK's video scouting and development system, created a heart-rate monitoring program and implemented innovative approaches to recovery from the physical nature of college soccer.

In his first season, Cedergren led Kentucky to the historic NCAA Tournament hosting berth, helped guide UK to school records in wins over top-25 foes and the highest final season RPI in school history (No. 25). He routinely credited UK's senior leadership, competitive edge and willingness to buy-in as a reason for UK's 2012 success, something he is looking for from his second-edition.

As time has progressed, Cedergren's fingerprints on the up-and-coming program are increasingly present.

With a roster of 19 underclassmen among its 25 players, just three games into the 2013 campaign, the youth movement's impact on the program and the development of the veterans under Cedergren's tutelage is apparent.

The evidence was on display during UK's 4-0 win over IPFW last Sunday, as UK shattered the program record for shots in a game (34), eclipsing the previous record set in 1994. Playing 13 newcomers in the game, including six freshmen starters, UK's offense was historically sensational. It included a 21-shot output alone in the second half that saw UK score all four of its goals and hit the post or crossbar three times.

With such a young roster, ups and downs, however, are to be expected. Six days after the record-setting win, the Cats lost a hard-fought 2-1 rematch with 2012 NCAA Tournament opponent Xavier.

But with dynamic talent in the likes of freshmen Napo Matsoso, Charlie Reymann, Alex Bumpus, Kaelon Fox and Jordan Wilson, combined with a vibrant sophomore class, upperclassmen leadership, and the infectious personalities of the coaching staff, the future for the UK soccer program is uniquely bright.

Kentucky upset fourth-ranked Minnesota in a five-set thriller in Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Kentucky upset fourth-ranked Minnesota in a five-set thriller in Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
When he put Kentucky's 2013 volleyball schedule together, Craig Skinner knew his team would be put to the test this week.

Archrival Louisville was up first on Tuesday. Three days later, the Wildcats would have to turn around and host perennial power Pepperdine. To cap it all off, UK would take on Minnesota, the nation's fourth-ranked team.

Predictably, there were ups and downs.

UK defeated U of L in a five-set thriller to get it going, coming back from a set down and playing through 89-degree heat inside Memorial Coliseum. Pepperdine would then bring the Cats back down to earth with a decisive sweep on Friday, leaving serious doubt about whether UK would be to hang with the unbeaten Golden Gophers less than 24 hours later.

Not only would the Cats compete, they would win. In doing so, they delivered one of the most memorable moments of the Skinner era.

"That's what it's all about right there!" Skinner told his team in a jubilant postgame locker room.

The No. 19 Cats (5-3) pounced on their opponents, taking the first set 25-18 and energizing the crowd of 1,586. Expectedly, Minnesota responded, winning the second set. UK, however, wouldn't wilt, winning the third, narrowly losing the fourth and dominating the fifth, 15-8.

"Just a heck of an effort," Skinner said of the win over Minnesota, the highest-ranked team UK has defeated during his tenure. "We were very aggressive tonight and followed the game plan to a T and players just stepped up and made plays. You gotta make individual plays against great teams and that's what we did tonight."

Making more than her share of individual plays was Whitney Billings. The senior All-American had 12 digs and 25 kills, hitting a blistering .467 and committing just four errors in the process.

"I just went out there and just played my game," Billings said. "I wasn't thinking about anything. I was thinking about now and I wasn't thinking about the next point, I wasn't thinking about the last point. I was just going for it basically."

That's perhaps the most impressive thing about Billings' night: She surprised no one by doing it.

"Whitney played like herself," Skinner said. "She played free, she played aggressive. She's capable of big things and she really performed tonight for us."

Billings, though, was hardly the only Wildcat to deliver on Saturday night.

Lauren O'Conner had a career-high 18 kills. Anni Thomasson tallied her fourth double-double with 10 kills and 14 digs. Jackie Napper had a career high of her own with 24 digs. Running the show was setter Morgan Bergren, who bested her previous high with 55 assists and added 10 digs.

"We were consumed with playing for each other and not thinking about our individual roles," Skinner said. "When we get consumed with how we're going to play for each other, we allow ourselves to play at a higher level. Probably one word to describe that would just be aggressive and live with the outcome."

That's all Skinner was asking for heading into the match. Less than a day removed from seeing his team play far below its potential against Pepperdine, Skinner just wanted the Cats to let it fly. They certainly did that.

"I think it was a hard-fought game, honestly, from the beginning until the end," Billings said. "Before we even went out there, we knew we had to give it our all because they weren't going to give it to us. They didn't give it to us; we went out there and took it."

Even after the Friday-night loss, Skinner knew UK was capable of this kind of performance. In fact, he drew up a challenging schedule hoping to bring it out of his team. With play in the always-challenging Southeastern Conference not far away, the Cats now have incontrovertible proof of what they can do when they're clicking.

"To me, the biggest thing is it builds our confidence and allows our players to understand the level we can play at," Skinner said. "I'm proud of these guys the way they stepped up and I'm looking forward to the next opportunity to get in the gym with these guys because they're fun to coach."

Ryan Timmons caught three passes for 72 yards in UK's 27-13 loss to Louisville on Saturday. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Ryan Timmons caught three passes for 72 yards in UK's 27-13 loss to Louisville on Saturday. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
No matter the situation, Mark Stoops won't accept losing.

Even with his young Kentucky Wildcats taking on the nation's seventh-ranked team, Stoops won't change that approach. But that's not to say Stoops can't see positives and growth in his developing program in a defeat to Louisville on Saturday.

"I was proud of our guys' effort," Stoops said. "I felt like we fought, played tough at times, had our opportunities. Disappointed that we didn't make the plays when we needed to."

Following a 27-13 loss to U of L (3-0), Stoops and the Wildcats (1-2) were left ruing missed opportunities in those kinds of situations.

Many predicted that in order for the Wildcats to compete with the high-powered Cardinals, Neal Brown's Air Raid offense would need to light up the scoreboard in Commonwealth Stadium. Instead, the UK defense kept the Cats in the game, particularly in the first half.

Relying much more heavily on looks featuring three down linemen, the Cats didn't allow a first down until U of L's fifth drive. They pressured Heisman Trophy contender Teddy Bridgewater, making the normally unflappable star quarterback uncomfortable by frequently mixing it up. The Cardinals' only points before late in the second quarter came on a field goal following a Jalen Whitlow fumble.

"I was proud of the stops," Stoops said. "I felt like we had a good plan. I felt like our guys were starting to play more aggressive, make them earn their yards. Had a few wrinkles here and there."

With the defense playing at a high level, the offense had an opportunity to give the Cats an early edge with a loud crowd of 65,445 behind them. The Cardinal defense, however, was stout, stymieing UK's two-quarterback attack. Not helping the cause was a serious case of the drops on the part of Wildcat receivers.

"Those are drive killers," Stoops said.

Drops were a major issue during spring practice, but not as much of late with the infusion of a talented group of young wide receivers and a lot of work, most notably catching tennis balls following every practice.

"It was just lack of focus," freshman Ryan Timmons said. "We had a good week of practice. Those dropped balls, we make in practice. Like I said, we have to try to be more consistent from practice into the game."

Those drops played a significant role in UK's troubles on third down. The Cats failed to convert a third down in 13 attempts.

"We just didn't make routine plays," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "We were poor on third down. No argument there. But where we lost the game was on first down. We had drops, missed opportunities."

Counted among those missed opportunities are UK's turnovers.

All told, UK gave the ball away three times to Louisville - twice on fumbles and once on a Whitlow interception. The aforementioned Whitlow fumble directly led to U of L's first points, while the other two turnovers ended promising UK drives and essentially took points off the board.

In the final minute of the first half, the Cats had driven into the red zone in response to a Louisville touchdown that put the Cardinals up 10-3. But on first and 10 from the U of L 14, Maxwell Smith and Raymond Sanders couldn't execute a hand-off on a run-pass option play.

On UK's next drive, the Cats were looking to orchestrate a response to a U of L touchdown drive to open the second half. Maxwell Smith began the drive at quarterback, but went to the sideline with a shoulder injury that sapped his velocity and Whitlow took over. On third and nine from the Cardinal 28, the athletic sophomore escaped the pocket, but forced a pass deep that was intercepted at the two-yard line.

Taking over exclusively for most of the second half, Whitlow had good and bad moments. For the game, he completed 8-of-17 passes for 105 yards and a touchdown and added 37 rushing yards, though the two turnovers were costly.

"Jalen did some good things and obviously made some critical errors," Stoops said. "He's not unlike a lot of our players. It's hard to swallow when you're the quarterback and he's very visible. He can't afford to make those mistakes. We need to get that corrected."

Correcting mistakes was the theme of Stoops' postgame comments, particularly for the numerous newcomers on which UK is relying.

No one doubts the ability of Javess Blue (six catches for 58 yards and 133 return yards on Saturday), Ryan Timmons (81 all-purpose yards) or Jeff Badet (three catches for 44 yards). Each of the first-year players has big-play ability that can't be taught. But adjusting to the speed of the college game, embracing blocking responsibilities and focus make them all works in progress.

The same goes for Jojo Kemp, who led UK in rushing yards for the second game in a row with 80, needing just five carries to do it.

"He played a different gear, and he earned himself more playing time," Brown said. "There's no question."

However, it's on Kemp to match that effort on the practice field from now on.

On the defensive side, UK integrated so many more defensive looks in large part to get more snaps for freshman defensive end Jason Hatcher. He responded with four tackles and some solid pass rushing, but Hatcher was not without a few uneven moments of his own.

"We love Jason," Stoops said. "He's going to be a very good player. He's a young guy. He's out there. He went through some growing pains a little bit. He did some very good things, but he did some things that he'll get better at."

With so many young players and even UK's veterans learning under a new coaching staff, it's only natural that there is much work ahead. Even so, the growth from two weeks ago during a season-opening loss to Western Kentucky to now is impossible to miss, even for a coach as focused on winning as Stoops.

"I think we're better," Stoops said. "Same thing I told them. If we continue to do that, just go to work, just get better, next week is a bye week, we'll watch the film, clean things up on Monday. We'll practice hard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to get better. They'll be off for the weekend to heal up. Only long break they'll have. We got to get better. ... I believe they will. We're going to continue to make strides and move in the right direction."

Offensive coordinator Neal Brown



Freshman wide receiver Ryan Timmons




Freshman running back Jojo Kemp



Freshman defensive end Jason Hatcher




Video: Louisville Cat Walk

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Governor's Cup live blog: Football vs. Louisville

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Video: 2013 UK football intro

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Video: Governor's Cup Rewind - 2009

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Video: Governor's Cup Rewind - Stevie got loose

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Video: Behind the scenes at cross country photo day

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Video: Governor's Cup Rewind - 1997

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Do you remember when the original Air Raid was born?

Video: Governor's Cup Rewind - 1994

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In 1994, Kentucky and Louisville met for the first time in 70 years. With 3:18 left, quarterback Antonio O'Ferral rushed for a four-yard touchdown to give the Wildcats a 20-14 victory.

U of L the first of many big games of Stoops era

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Mark Stoops will coach in his first UK-U of L game on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops will coach in his first UK-U of L game on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It took until the final question of his introductory press conference for Mark Stoops to get a question about his new archrival.

Even then - hours after arriving in Lexington on an early-morning flight- Stoops didn't try to downplay the annual showdown with Louisville as just another game on Kentucky's schedule.

"Oh, I know it's a good rivalry," Stoops said in December. "We're going to embrace that rivalry. Really looking forward to it."

Nine months later, the wait is almost over.

On Saturday at noon ET, UK (1-1) will host the No. 8 Cardinals (2-0) in Commonwealth Stadium. Stoops remains eager to take on U of L for the first time, but he also knows this won't be the last time he leads his team into a matchup with the Governor's Cup on the line. It also won't be the last time UK takes on a high-profile opponent with a national-television audience - in this case, on ESPN - tuned in.

"It's very important to myself, this team, our program, the fans, and everybody," Stoops said. "It's very important. But we'll be in a lot of big games here, we hope. As we improve this program and keep on making those steps and getting better and better, we'll be in a lot of big games in the SEC."

U of L is big, and the Wildcats wouldn't have it any other way. Players come to UK to play in these kinds of games. But at the same time, it's just another step in the development of a team and a program.

That's true even for the seniors who will never again suit up against the Cardinals.

"It really is big," senior linebacker Avery Williamson said. "You can say it's another game, but it's big. I'm really excited about. I want to go out on top my last time playing Louisville. I'm excited about it, amped up, but you've gotta take it a game at a time and try not to get too excited."

For that reason, the coaches really aren't talking about U of L more than they would any other opponent during game week.

Unlike Stoops, Brown been a part of this game before. He was in a helmet and pads back in 1998 when UK set the all-time single-game yardage record in a 68-34 win over U of L, signaling the arrival of the first iteration of the Air Raid offense in the Bluegrass.

"We haven't spent a whole lot of time building it up," Brown said. "It's out there. Everybody in their classes are talking about it. The families are talking about. They realize the importance. I don't think they're going to approach the game any differently than they have."

Brown then amended his statement slightly.

"Well, they better approach it better than they did the first one," Brown said, "but I don't think they're going to approach it any different than the second one."

The first one, of course, was a 35-26 loss to Western Kentucky, the second UK's 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio). Against Miami, the Kentucky offense was spurred by a two-quarterback rotation featuring Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow. Stoops and Brown expect to use the same system against Louisville, though they will face an admittedly tougher test in the Cardinal defense.

Through two games, U of L ranks in the top 15 nationally in total defense and top 10 in points allowed.

"The thing that sticks out about their defense is when you turn it on they fly to the football," Brown said. "They play with a lot of energy, a lot of passion, they're physical and they fly to the football. If I was coaching defense, that's how I would want my guys to play, because they are really into the game."

On the other side of the ball, the Cardinals are perhaps even better. Led by quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, U of L has scored 93 points in two games while averaging more than 400 passing yards.

"He's just very good at what he does," Stoops said of Bridgewater, an early Heisman Trophy frontrunner. "He has a great feel in the pocket. He eludes the pressure when and where he needs to, and the rest of the time he sits in there and distributes the football."

Bridgewater has plenty of weapons at his disposal as well. U of L has size and speed in its receiving corps, led by junior DeVante Parker, who has caught nine passes for 207 yards and three touchdowns already in 2013. Three more receivers - Eli Rogers, Damian Copeland and Kai De La Cruz all have at least 128 receiving yards.

U of L hasn't been as dominant in its running game, rushing for 277 yards and averaging 4.1 yards per carry, but Stoops believes that has had as much to do with the way opponents have elected to defend the Cardinals as anything else.

"I think they do a nice job of keeping you off balance," Stoops said. "They run it. They threaten you with their run game, and they love taking their shots and their play-actions off it because they're very skilled at wide receiver, and Bridgewater does a heck of a job with the play fakes and getting the ball down the field."

Considering Bridgewater's ability to throw the deep ball, UK's inexperienced secondary figures to be tested. Fortunately for the Cats, sophomore Cody Quinn is expected to be fully available for the first time this season after suffering a high-ankle sprain during fall camp.

"It is (big to have Quinn back)," cornerbacks coach Derrick Ansley said, "because you go against the caliber of receivers that they got and the quarterback obviously is really good so anytime you can get your better guys back out there and get everybody full strength, it's a positive."

An even bigger positive would be if UK's veteran defensive line can pressure Bridgewater. Louisville has given up just one sack in two games and neither Eastern Kentucky nor Ohio have been able to generate much in the way of a pass rush against the Cardinals. The Cats, however, believe they can.

"I haven't seen him uncomfortable," Williamson said. "That's kind of reassuring that he hasn't seen any pressure in his face. So that gives us an opportunity to see how he's going to react if we get pressure on him."

That's still far easier said than done, but facing a team as dynamic and balanced as Louisville is a task the Cats embrace.

"It's going to be a great challenge," Stoops said. "Obviously, we know Louisville has done a great job, very good on both sides of the ball, well-coached. So it will be a real challenge. We're looking forward to it. Just looking to improve. I thought we made some strides last week to improve our team, and we're looking to do the same thing again this week."

Cats building on success of first win, two-QB system

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Head coach Mark Stoops



Offensive coordinator Neal Brown



With Kentucky's annual battle for the Governor's Cup just three days away, the Wildcats are hard at work in preparation for rival Louisville.

In hot temperatures, UK turned in a solid, physical practice on Wednesday, continuing a theme from earlier in the week. Neal Brown thinks that has something to do with UK's first win of the season on Saturday.

"I think our guys are focused and I think anytime with young people when you start having a little bit of success, I think you can build off of it," the offensive coordinator said. "I think they've kind of seen the fruits of their labor last Saturday and we've had two good spirited workouts."

Much of UK's success on offense had to do with the two-quarterback rotation the Cats deployed to great effect against Miami (Ohio). After Jalen Whitlow played the first three quarters of the season opener and Maxwell Smith the fourth, the UK coaches hatched a plan to use the two sophomores even more interchangeably.

In UK's first series in its home opener, Smith and Whitlow rotated freely and even multiple times per series in some instances. Using the unconventional approach, Kentucky scored on its first five offensive possessions and rolled up 675 yards of total offense.

"We, again, you've also heard me say whatever we've got to do to put our players in a position to be successful, whatever we think can help us in any schematic advantage, anything we have to do to help us win, we're going to do," head coach Mark Stoops said.

Following the Wednesday session, Stoops and Brown gave some additional insight into the two-quarterback rotation, including the way Smith and Whitlow split reps at practice.

"Jalen really practices everything as the backup and Max has most of the game plan that he practices and then Jalen's got special things," Brown said. "We'll practice kind of rolling them in and out, so they were used to it by the time game time came on Saturday."

Brown admitted the system makes his job more challenging, but more so in the way he has to prepare than actually orchestrating the offense on game day.

"I can handle it," Brown said. "It just takes a little bit more preparation. Mentally, I have to be really in tune about who's in the football game as to what I'm calling. I probably get our game plans done earlier now just because, for me, I've gotta practice that rotation Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday to get it down for Saturday."

All the switching may seem a possible impediment to the tempo with which Brown wants to play, but he's thought of that too. Smith and Whitlow only substitute for one another when the clock stops, whether that be on first downs, incomplete passes of changes of possession.

It's all worth it because of the effect it can have on a defense. With two quarterbacks possessing such complementary skill sets, opponents have to be ready for very different looks on any given play. However, any advantage gained is dependent on the Wildcats getting the job done.

"It does (affect the defense) with the speed at which we operate. ... I've often said that tempo can be effective if you're executing the right way," Stoops said.

As for the two quarterbacks, they're more than willing to split time, particularly if they have the same kind of success as last weekend. That's the right approach, because Brown doesn't know when he'll go back to one signal caller.

"It's kind of what it is right now," Brown said. "If one guy separates himself, then we'll play one. But right now I think the best opportunity to play well on offense and for us to win is kind of playing both those guys."

Video: Cousins mic'd up for Alumni Charity Game

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Kentucky Sports Report (week of Sept. 11)

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Football
- The Kentucky football team earned its first win of the season and first in the Mark Stoops era on Saturday by defeating the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks 41-7 at Commonwealth Stadium. The Wildcats scored 24 points in the first quarter - the most points a UK team has ever scored in a quarter - to take control of the game.
- The Kentucky offense had 675 yards of total offense in the game, which is the third-most total offense in program history and most since 1998. Sophomore quarterbacks Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow both played well with Smith throwing for 310 yards and three touchdowns, while Whitlow threw for 103 yards and rushed for 48 yards and a touchdown. Newcomer Javess Blue lead UK in receiving yards, while true freshman Jojo Kemp paced UK in rushing yards.
- The UK defense limited Miami (Ohio) to 122 yards of total offense, which is the fourth-lowest total a UK opponent has gained in the last 25 years. Overall, Kentucky recorded five sacks and seven tackles for loss with junior defensive end Za'Darius Smith earning three sacks, which was the most by a UK player since 2003. Alvin "Bud" Dupree led UK with seven tackles a sack and two tackles for loss.

Women's soccer
- Kentucky went 2-0-0 on the weekend, striking for wins against in-state foe Louisville (2-0) and Dayton (2-1) to pick up its fourth-straight win, and second-straight weekend sweep.
- The Wildcats knocked off Louisville for the third-straight season, 2-0 on Friday night, as UK got goals from Stuart Pope in the 51st minute and Arin Gilliland in the 85th on a penalty kick. The win marks the third-straight time UK has shutout Louisville and head coach Jon Lipsitz improves to 4-1-0 all-time against the Cardinals.
- Kentucky capped off its second-straight weekend sweep on Sunday, striking for two first-half goals and an extra in the second half to tally the 3-1 win over the Dayton Flyers. UK got goals from Alex Carter, Zoe Swift and Stuart Pope. The goal for Pope was the fourth-straight game that she has scored in, as she has five goals in the last four games.
- Goalkeeper Kayla King, combined with freshman Ayanna Parker, have now gone the last 510 minutes only allowing two goals, a stretch spanning over five games.
- UK next plays the USTA RoadRunners at the UK Soccer Complex at 7:30 p.m. ET in Lexington. The Wildcats will then travel to top-10 ranked West Virginia on Sunday afternoon at 1:00 p.m. ET in Morgantown, W. Va.

Volleyball

- The Kentucky volleyball team earned a 3-0 start to its home schedule in 2013 by claiming the eighth-annual Kentucky Classic with wins over VCU, Liberty and East Tennessee State. Junior Jackie Napper was named MVP of the tournament and was joined on the All-Tournament team by sophomore setter Morgan Bergren and freshman outside hitter Anni Thomasson.
- Napper averaged 3.91 digs and 1.64 assists per set in the three victories. She logged a season-high 19 digs in a win over VCU, while narrowly becoming the first defensive player to earn a double-double in school history with nine assists in the match.
- Bergren averaged 1.82 kills, 1.73 digs and 9.55 assists per set in the three wins. She posted seven digs, 36 assists and nine digs in a five-set win over VCU. The eight kills in a win over ETSU marked the most for a UK setter since Sarah Rumely had 10 in the only triple-double ever recorded in school history in 2007.
- Thomasson had a breakout weekend for the Wildcats. After playing exclusively in the back row in the win over VCU, Thomasson was inserted into the starting lineup for the full six-rotations against Liberty. She delivered with her first career double-double with a career-high 12 kills on a .435 hitting clip and 13 digs.

Men's soccer
- The Kentucky men's soccer team completed a two-game week with a 4-0 win over IPFW on Sunday, setting a program record with 35 shots in the rout of the Mastodons. UK will return to action with a rematch of the 2012 NCAA Tournament on Saturday, traveling to Xavier for a 7 p.m. ET kickoff.
- Kentucky (2-1-0) suffered its first loss of the year in the road opener, falling 1-0 to a strong ETSU team in front of 1,052 fans in Johnson City, Tenn. The Wildcats bounced back with an offensive explosion on Sunday afternoon, pounding out a school-record 35 shots and scoring four goals, with each coming in the second half. UK got a two-goal game from Isak Krogstad, who also added an assist. Sophomore goalkeeper Callum Irving worked his second shutout of the year and the third clean sheet in his five-start UK career.
- The Wildcats have netted five goals in its first three games, allowing just one tally, coming in the setback at ETSU. UK has been led by Krogstad, who has two goals and two assists, with senior Brad Doliner owning a goal and one assist. Freshmen Napo Matsoso and Charlie Reymann also have goals, with Sam Miller adding two assists and Jacob Scearce and Kaleon Fox each notching an assist. In goal, Irving has saved one shot in his 180 minutes, with senior Jack Van Arsdale sporting a 1.00 goals-against average in his 90 minutes.

Men's golf
- The Kentucky men's golf team opened the 2013-14 season at the Northern Intercollegiate this past weekend with a fifth-place finish. Playing as an individual, David Snyder was the top finisher as he tied for ninth at one-over par for the weekend. Seniors Stephen Powers and Ben Stow each placed in the top 20 in a tie for 12th and a tie for 20th, respectively.
- Snyder recorded the lowest round of the weekend for Kentucky with a five-under par 67 on Friday in the first round. The junior from Somerset, Ky., finished with 11 birdies and an eagle for the weekend.

Upcoming schedule

Wednesday, Sept. 11
Women's golf at "MO"Morial Invitational - All day (Bryan, Texas)

Friday, Sept. 13
Volleyball hosts Pepperdine - 7 p.m.
Women's soccer hosts UTSA - 7:30 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 14
Cross Country hosts Bluegrass CC Invitational - 9:30 a.m.
Football hosts Louisville - 12:00 p.m.
Men's soccer at Xavier - 7:00 p.m.
Volleyball hosts Minnesota - 7:00 p.m.

Sunday, Sept. 15
Women's soccer at West Virginia - 1:00 p.m.

Cats top Cards in hotly contested battle

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Freshman Anni Thomasson had a double-double in her first-ever match against Louisville, a five-set UK win. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Freshman Anni Thomasson had a double-double in her first-ever match against Louisville, a five-set UK win. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
When Kentucky and Louisville get together on the volleyball court, it's a pointless exercise to try to predict the winner.

The only thing you can be certain of is that it will be a battle.

"I don't know what it is," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "Four out of the last six have gone five (sets). It's a battle and you can throw out records, you can throw out the last match, you can throw out statistics and it always just seems to be a real competition. You see a lot of emotions, a lot of adrenaline, a lot of nerves and tonight was no exception."

It certainly was not.

The outcome was in doubt until the final moments, but the No. 19 Wildcats (5-2) took down the visiting Cardinals (2-4) in five sets. In a seesaw affair, UK fell behind 1-0 before winning the second and third sets. U of L would answer in the fourth, but a 5-0 run in the fifth closed it out for the Cats.

"I feel like we left everything out there and we knew that all of us were going to win that game," said senior Alexandra Morgan, who tied for the team high with 13 kills. "We knew that we were going to fight our hardest for every point."

Tuesday evening's match, with its momentum swings and emotional moments, could be figuratively described using the word heated, but the term is even more fitting in a more literal sense. With outside temperatures reaching the low 90s earlier in the day and 1,888 fans in Memorial Coliseum for the rivalry showdown, event staff reported the temperature on the floor was around 90 degrees throughout.

"I didn't even play and it felt like I lost about six pounds out there with the heat and tried to drink as much water as possible," Skinner said.

Skinner said both teams' setters had the toughest task in coping with the heat, as perspiration from passes made for a slippery volleyball. UK's Morgan Bergren managed a game-high 51 assists anyway, applying her experience practicing indoors during the summer.

"We do practice in it a lot," Shelby Workman said. "We're used to it. It's definitely not been that hot in a while, but we're kind of more prepared. We know what to expect. We worked in it in August in 100-degree weather, so we've just got to fight through it. We don't have another option."

The Cats had more than just heat to fight through against U of L. Using a more aggressive approach, the Cardinals got off to a blistering start in taking the first set, 25-17. UK responded in the second, building a 24-18 lead. Louisville, however, would score the next five points to create a few tense moments, but UK avoided a 2-0 hole by taking the next point.

"We could have packed it in there when they got it to 23 and we got it done," Skinner said. "Those are big moments."

More big moments awaited after Louisville dominated the fourth set to force a decisive fifth. The two teams traded points throughout the middle of the set, but UK rode a wave of emotion during that match-ending run.

Thomasson committed an attack error that gave the Cardinals an 11-10 lead, but redeemed herself two points later with the kill - her career-best 13th of the match - that would give UK the lead for good.

"I don't think she fears much and she thrives in those situations," Skinner said. "That's what competitors do."

Anni Thomasson added a team-best 16 digs - also a career high - in the match, which served as her initiation into the UK-U of L rivalry.

"It's intense, for sure," Thomasson said. "I've never really been on a team that wanted to win as much as this team does. Just seeing all the emotion from the girls with this game is just unreal."

UK's will to win has been on display over the past five days, as the Wildcats have won a pair of five-set matches to bookend four victories to open their home season. Skinner knows there's no substitute for a proven ability to produce in those situations.

"It's a lot of experience because you can't create that in practice," Skinner said. "You can't create being up big in a set and winning. You can't create going down big in the fourth and then coming back in the fifth. For us to weather the storm and win the last two five-setters we've been in says a lot about the toughness of these guys when it matters."

Skinner just hopes UK's next five-setter comes in more comfortable temperatures.

"I didn't," Skinner said when asked whether he ever considered loosening his tie, "but I saw an ice bucket behind the bench and I was thinking about sticking my head inside it."


Video: UK-U of L volleyball highlights

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Head coach Mark Stoops



Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot



At his weekly news conference on Monday, Kentucky football head coach Mark Stoops noted that it is always easier to be tougher on a team in practice after a win. Combine that mentality with Stoops saying the Wildcats had an average practice on Tuesday and Wednesday's practice appears poised to intense.

"Good practice today," Stoops said before clarifying, "I say good practice, but it was more of an average practice, to be honest with you. Just OK, not flashy. We need to pick it up a little bit, lock in a little bit more with our intensity and have a better day tomorrow. So looking forward to picking it up a bit more as the week goes on."

Stoops said Tuesday's practice was by no means a bad or wasted day and praised his team for good work on the practice fields Monday. As for the reasoning behind the less-than-satisfying practice Tuesday, the first-year head coach said some of that can be expected given the Wildcats added some "new wrinkles."

"Maybe just a few new wrinkles here or there sometimes gets on their brain and they take a step back a little bit, but we'll pick it up," Stoops said. "Each time you go on the field you're trying to build. You know, we've talked about that, just even going into the first game, just playing the basics and trying to build our package as we go. We've got a lot to learn still on both sides of the ball, certainly defensively, but yes, we're always trying to keep on building, keep on adding as we go."

Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot talked after practice about the challenges that are facing Kentucky this week, including slowing down Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Although both coaches have praised Bridgewater's talents and athleticism, they have also noted the true danger of Louisville's offense is how they are well-balanced. 

"They are a very multiple offense so you have to make sure that you are sound in everything that you do within your game plan because you are going to get a lot of different looks," Eliot said.

One defensive position that appears to really be under the spotlight this week is cornerback. Stoops said Monday that cornerback Cody Quinn, who led UK in pass breakups last season, was back to practice this week and could have played Saturday against Miami (Ohio) if needed. Stoops said Quinn will add depth to the Wildcats secondary and give the squad some versatility in the nickel and dime packages.

As for the cornerback group as a whole this week against a talented Louisville offense, Stoops wants his guys to compete and understand there is "no hiding."

"They put you on an island at times with some very good wide receivers and you've got to step up and play," Stoops said. "We've got to mix things up and change up coverages and all that, but there's times when there's no hiding. You've got to go out there and you've got to win."

Video: Alumni Charity Game - 'Welcome Back'

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Video: 2013 volleyball intro

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Volleyball bracing for emotions of U of L rivalry

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Jackie Napper leads UK into a match with Louisville -- her hometown school -- after winning Kentucky Classic MVP honors this weekend. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics) Jackie Napper leads UK into a match with Louisville -- her hometown school -- after winning Kentucky Classic MVP honors this weekend. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
Craig Skinner has coached in his share of rivalry matchups.

He's patrolled the sidelines as Kentucky has battled for Southeastern Conference supremacy with the likes of Tennessee and Florida. He has been there as UK resumed its annual series with Louisville in 2009.

Based on that experience, Skinner has come to grips with the fact that there's only so much he can control when it comes to his team's psyche in those kinds of matches.

"I guess I've probably given up trying to temper emotions because I don't know if it's possible in a rivalry match," Skinner said.

On Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET, UK (4-2) will host U of L (2-3) for the fifth time since the rivalry's return. Winners of four straight matches - including a perfect weekend en route to a Kentucky Classic title last weekend - the No. 19 Wildcats look to earn bragging rights in Memorial Coliseum. The all-time series between the two schools is knotted at 25-25, with both schools winning twice since 2009.

Before the first serve, Skinner won't try to play the just-another-match card with his team.

"It's obviously going to be emotional and exciting," Skinner said. "The thing I usually tell the team is I don't know where your first five swings are going to go because there's going to be adrenaline, but let's settle down after that and play some good volleyball."

In recent years, the volleyball played between Kentucky and Louisville has only gotten better.

UK, of course, has reached eight consecutive NCAA Tournaments under Skinner's guidance and continues to take steps forward as a program each season. U of L, meanwhile, has made the postseason each of the last three years, including in 2012 when the Cardinals won the Big East regular-season and tournament titles.

The rebirth of the rivalry has coincided with unprecedented growth of the sport in the Bluegrass. More and more youngsters are playing volleyball in the state, feeding talent to programs like UK, U of L, Western Kentucky and Morehead State and fueling interest.

"The amount of people participating in volleyball here is phenomenal," Skinner said. "The amount across the state, obviously, is good and obviously the college programs are doing well, so it's one of the premier rivalries in our sport across the country. And I think (Tuesday) night will be no different."

A year ago, a record crowd of 5,007 packed the KFC Yum! Center for U of L's four-set win over Kentucky. Thousands turned out as UK hosted back-to-back matches vs. Louisville in 2010-11. The home team has won all four matches between the two teams since 2009.

"The crowds have always been phenomenal," Skinner said. "I think last year in Louisville there was over 5,000 people. Our place was a big crowd two years ago and three years ago and I expect the same."

Louisville native Jackie Napper will play the match in search of her second in three years over her hometown school. She played against U of L each of the last two seasons, but will take on a different role this time around. She is now UK's libero, succeeding  fellow Louisville native Stephanie Klefot.

Napper's presence has been vital during UK's ongoing winning streak, but Skinner is now looking for even more from the junior.

"Jackie's a very confident player," Skinner said. "She's very competitive. She serve-receives as well as anybody in the country and she's a great leader. Her whole team has a lot of respect for her and I think opponents do too. Jackie knows this: She needs to dig a few more balls. But serve-receive, she's as good as anyone we've had in that position."

Louisville - having lost a number of key contributors - is a different team this year, but UK's ability to serve-receive remains important. More important, however, is the simple fact that UK-U of L is a volleyball rivalry once again.

"It's good we've played this rivalry again since '09 and it's great for the sport," Skinner said. "Really glad we're playing it and there's really good volleyball all over this part of the country, so it's good to have this type of match in our house. It'll be another exciting match tomorrow night. Louisville's very athletic and our players will definitely be ready to go."

Sept. 8 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, September 8:

Volleyball: Jackie Napper

Junior Jackie Napper was tabbed the Most Valuable Player and earned Kentucky Classic All-Tournament teams in helping guide UK to a trio of wins this week. Napper averaged 3.91 digs and 1.64 assists per set in the three victories. She logged a season-high 19 digs in a win over VCU, while narrowly becoming the first defensive player to earn a double-double in school history with nine assists in the match. She notched 16 digs in a three-set victory over ETSU. In the final win of the weekend, Napper dished out six assists while accumulating eight digs in the victory over ETSU. Furthermore, she posted a kill in the win over VCU, her first of the year.

Women's soccer: Stuart Pope

Kentucky capped off its second-straight weekend sweep on Sunday, striking for two first-half goals and an extra in the second half to tally the 3-1 win over the Dayton Flyers. UK got goals from Alex Carter, Zoe Swift and Stuart Pope. The goal for Pope was the fourth-straight game that she has scored in, as she has five goals in the last four games. Pope was named the SEC Player of the Week last week by CollegeSoccerMadness.com.

Volleyball: Anni Thomasson

Freshman Anni Thomasson had a breakout weekend for the Wildcats en route to earning Kentucky Classic All-Tournament team honors. In the opening victory vs. VCU, Thomasson was utilized as a defensive specialist playing in the back row exclusively. The following morning, Thomasson received her first career start and played all six rotations. She delivered her first career double-double effort with a career-high 12 kills on a blistering .435 hitting clip. She notched 13 digs and added a block, while turning in a perfect performance in the serve-receive game. She remained in the starting lineup for the win over ETSU and notched seven kills, while adding eight digs and a career-high four blocks. For the week, she averaged 1.73 kills per set (despite only playing in the front row for two of the three matches). She ranked third on the squad with 2.18 digs per stanza. 

Video: Alumni Game intro

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Video: Wall dunks in slow motion at Alumni Game

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Video: Post-AlumnI Game interviews with Knight, Wall

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Brandon Knight


John Wall


John Wall had 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in leading the Blue team to a 111-95 victory in the Alumni Charity Game. (Chet White, UK Athletics) John Wall had 40 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in leading the Blue team to a 111-95 victory in the Alumni Charity Game. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
By now, everyone has heard the numbers. Four years. Seventeen NBA Draft picks. Eight lottery choices. Two No. 1 overall picks. Two Final Fours. A national championship.

But until the players who made those numbers come together, it's difficult to fully understand the parade of basketball talent that has come through Lexington during the John Calipari era.

That's where the UK Alumni Charity Game comes in.

On Monday, 12 former Coach Cal players returned to Rupp Arena to play in the second annual UK Alumni Charity Game. At the end of the first quarter, Calipari summoned them all - along with "assistant coaches" DeMarcus Cousins and Eric Bledsoe -- to midcourt to present more than $1 million raised through the event. Taking the microphone, he took a moment to reflect.

"I just got to tell you, folks," Coach Cal said. "How proud are you of these guys right here?"

The 19,255 in attendance responded, giving the former Wildcat stars a standing ovation that lasted nearly 30 seconds. It may have been the loudest moment of the evening, but fans had plenty more to cheer for.

"It's a state of basketball," John Wall said, "so it's not surprising to me knowing that anytime you put something together and this great group of guys come back, it's all like a brotherhood. Coach Cal and the University of Kentucky do a great job of getting everybody organized and putting stuff together. I'm happy to have the opportunity to come back and have fun and put on a show for the fans."

Led by Wall - flashing the same speed and athleticism that helped reestablish UK basketball among the nation's elite - the Blue team defeated White, 111-95. Wall led all scorers with 40 points - proving his former backcourt mate wrong - adding 10 rebounds and 10 assists to tally the triple-double that evaded him in college as Blue built a lead that grew to as large as nine points in the fourth quarter.

"E. Bled told me I wasn't going for 40 so I just tried to get 40," Wall said.

It was then, however, that White rallied. Led by Brandon Knight - Wall's point-guard successor - and his team-high 30 points, White closed to within 88-86 when Terrence Jones was fouled on a made layup. Knight was equal to the task of facing the former No. 1 overall pick, hitting six 3-pointers in 11 attempts.

"We're both competitors and it's tough for us to just get out on the court and kind of just not play," Knight said. "So you get on the court and you want to make sure nobody gets hurt and play smart, but at the same time go at each other a little bit and have some fun."

Jones would miss the free throw, and Calipari would grab the microphone shortly thereafter as the clock ticked closer to six minutes remaining. He announced the running-clock rule would be abandoned for the final minutes and directed players to play "serious" the rest of game. Wall and his Blue team would take the challenge to heart, pulling away for a double-digit win.

"It was fun," Wall said. "The main thing is to give back support to the community. It's fun being back and Kentucky and playing on that court again. It was fun and for a great cause."

Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and DeAndre Liggins needed not listen to Calipari, because they were playing with the energy that defined their Wildcat careers from the opening tip. The two swingmen guarded each other for nearly every second, defending in a way not customarily seen in an exhibition setting.

Kidd-Gilchrist finished with 26 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and four steals, while Liggins had 20 points and five rebounds.

Patrick Patterson (20 points and 13 rebounds) and Josh Harrellson (11 points and 10 rebounds) also posted double-doubles for the Blue team, while Anthony Davis - Kidd-Gilchrist's former teammate - had one of his own with 12 points and 10 rebounds. Davis struggled with his shot, hitting just 5-of-18 field goals, but not when time was running down.

Davis hit buzzer-beating 3-pointers to end both the first and second quarter, including an off-balance shot from well beyond midcourt to close out the first half and bring his team to within 45-44.

Davis' shots drew smiles from players all over the floor, a common occurrence throughout the UK Alumni Charity Game. Though not all the former Wildcats played together, the bond they shared having worn the same colors and suited up for Coach Cal is unmistakable.

"A lot of coaches, once you're done playing for them, you don't hear from them," Knight said. "That's not the same with Coach Cal. I not only hear from Cal, but (Rod) Strickland, Coach Strick, Kenny Payne, Coach (John) Robic. I hear from all those guys all the time. So it's really a family when you come here. It's not you play for us, you leave, we're done with you. We always stay in contact, always keep in touch. It's really family oriented."

They have similar feelings for the fans who came out in droves to support them. Even during the offseason, the schedule of a professional player is tight. The former Wildcats come back even though they don't have to.

"It just shows the appreciation that's here, the tradition and how much the fans are behind the players here," Knight said of the large September crowd. "I think that's why we take the time out of our schedules now to come back and play in things like this, because we know we have a lot of support when we were here. It means a lot to us, so we have to take time and come back and do things like this."

In coming back, the former players have spent time with the current generation of Wildcats. The players now in the NBA just finished a season during which they lost locker-room bragging rights as UK missed out on the NCAA Tournament. They don't see that happening again.

"They've got a lot of talent and I think that as Coach Cal gets in the gym with them and works with them and they start to mold together and build together and grow together, there's going to be a lot of competition throughout the gym and I think it's going to really pay off," Knight said.

Video: Alumni Charity Game highlights

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Following last year's efforts that raised $350,000 at the inaugural UK alumni weekend, John Calipari told the crowd at Rupp Arena that he hoped to bring in $1 million the next year. Behind the scenes, there were those that thought he was reaching a little too far this time.

Perhaps everyone should stop doubting him after Monday night.

Coach Cal, Kentucky and ProCamps did the unthinkable and raised more than $1 million with proceeds from this weekend's alumni festivities, which included the UK Alumni Charity Game, the John Calipari Basketball Fantasy Experience and a pair of auctions at Coach Cal's house on Sunday.

The money generated was presented to 17 different organizations during breaks of Monday's UK Alumni Charity Game on Sunday. The 16 organizations and the dollar amounts they received include:

4 Paws for Ability - 50,000
City House - 100,000
EverFi  - 100,000
Foundation for Appalachian Kentucky - 50,000
Hope For The Warriors® - 50,000
Hope House - 50,000
Kentucky Army National Guard Memorial Fund - 100,000
Kids 2 Camp - 50,000
Louisville Zoo - 20,000
Red Cross for the Bluegrass - 50,000
Samaritan's Feet - 50,000
Save the Children - 10,000
Starkey Hearing Foundation - 100,000
Streets Ministries - 200,000
Team Focus - 50,000
UK Healthcare - 25,000
Urban League  - 50,000

The idea for alumni weekend was to bring back former players and make them feel a part of the Kentucky family once again, but charity was at the heart of the game.

Calipari had his former players present the checks to the different organizations to show that when "you come back here, you still have an impact."

"How about these guys coming back here to help this community and help this state? How about that?" Calipari said. "Let me thank on all of you on behalf of all the charities and all of us for what you've done to help this be a special night for a lot of people. Thank you very much."

There's no telling what number Coach Cal will reach to raise next year. After this year's$1 million, nothing appears impossible.

Video: Skinner previews Louisville match

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UK defeated Miami (Ohio), 41-7, to move to 1-1 entering a rivalry matchup with Louisville. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK defeated Miami (Ohio), 41-7, to move to 1-1 entering a rivalry matchup with Louisville. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Heading into the season opener, Kentucky's coaching staff was still getting a feel for how to handle its players.

Seeing the need to build up the Wildcats after a disappointing 2012, the coaches went to work on the Wildcats' self-esteem. The thinking was sound, but after a loss to Western Kentucky, it changed.

"So on Tuesday and Wednesday this week, we practiced really, really hard and we didn't give an inch," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said on Saturday. "I was probably worried a little bit too much about confidence going into that opener and I should have coached them more. That's my fault, and we got that corrected this week."

Instead of trying to manufacture confidence, the coaches elected to let the Cats build it themselves on the field. Responding to more intense coaching from the week of practice, UK routed Miami (Ohio), 41-7.

"Of course it's a big confidence boost, and not just for myself but I feel like for the whole team," running back Jonathan George said. "Defense, they played awesome and pitched a shutout. The offense, we had the opportunity to move the ball down the field numerous times."

So, after rolling up 675 yards of total offense and holding the RedHawks to 122 yards, are the Cats looking forward to a reprieve in practice? Not so much.

"Honestly, I like it," George said. "Obviously it showed great improvements through the first week, so hopefully they will continue to go even harder on us in practice because I feel like it will help the discipline and some of those mistakes that we had, such as the penalties before the snap."

Leading up to UK's annual rivalry matchup with No. 7 Louisville on Saturday, the coaches are more than willing to oblige.

"They thought last week was tough," head coach Mark Stoops said. "We'll be more tough this week. So it's always better to be harder on them after a win."

In spite of how much improvement UK made between its first and second games, there's plenty of room for improvement.

The Cats were consistently haunted by penalties against Miami, committing 11 for a total of 117 yards on the heels of being flagged 10 times for 69 yards against WKU. And after Demarco Robinson went down with an ankle injury on the opening kickoff (his status for Saturday is uncertain), UK committed multiple mental mistakes on punt returns.

"It's just accountability," Stoops said. "We're all accountable. That's just it, not getting ahead of ourselves. We need to improve this week. We need to get better today. We need to watch the film, correct our mistakes from this past Saturday, and move on."

Correcting mistakes will be key this weekend, because Louisville figures to capitalize on most any the Cats make. The Cardinals have been dominant through two games, defeating Ohio and Eastern Kentucky by a total score of 93-14.

"They're a very good team," Stoops said. "They're a top-10 team for a reason, and we'll need to play good on all three sides to win these games. To beat quality teams, you have to play good in all areas."

Drawing the headlines and the early-season Heisman Trophy buzz for U of L is quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Forced into action by injury, Bridgewater had his coming-out party two years ago in Commonwealth Stadium and hasn't looked back since.

"He's pretty good," defensive end Bud Dupree said. "He's the number one quarterback in the nation, probably going to be the number quarterback in the draft this year. We just gotta have a good week of practice and preparation preparing for him and the things he can make happen because, you know, good quarterbacks make big plays happen."

Facing a team with as much experienced talent as U of L and in a rivalry game to boot creates a sense of urgency to match some of the big plays Bridgewater will inevitably make. But against WKU, the UK defense learned the hard way that abandoning assignments in pursuit of a turnover or tackle for loss is a dangerous game.

The Cats got that corrected after Stoops and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot changed the defensive game plan minutes before kickoff to adjust to Miami's double-slot option. They'll need to put the lessons they've learned the first two weeks into practice under trying circumstances on Saturday.

"We just played assignment football, I think, better this week than we did last week," Dupree said. "Last week everybody was trying to do too much and just be superman on defense when we should have just been doing our job and playing our spot."

Though the emphasis will be executing assignments, Stoops isn't hiding from the magnitude of the UK-U of L rivalry. It's his first time coaching with the Governor's Cup on the line and Stoops has said from his opening press conference onward that beating the Cardinals is a priority.

"Our players need to understand that every week is important, and we will be very systematic in our approach," Stoops said. "But I'm never going to shy away from a big game and a rivalry, let's put it that way. We know it's important."

But, like almost every aspect of his job, that's a balancing act. Stoops knows from experience that motivation only goes so far.

"We've also learned from week one too, trying to get them hyped up and amped up maybe wasn't the answer," Stoops said. "We have to go about our business to prepare to win."

Video: George, Dupree on Louisville matchup

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Running back Jonathan George


Defensive end Bud Dupree



UK football week three depth chart

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Offense

Tight end
Jordan Aumiller
Anthony Kendrick
Steven Borden

Left tackle
Darrian Miller
Jon Toth

Left guard
Zach West
Teven Eatmon-Nared

Center
Jon Toth
Zach Myers
Max Godby

Right guard
Kevin Mitchell
Jack Gruenschlaeger

Right tackle
Jordan Swindle
Shaquille Love

Wide receiver
Demarco Robinson
Jeff Badet

Wide receiver
Ryan Timmons
Daryl Collins
Ronnie Shields

Wide receiver
Javess Blue
Alexander Montgomery
A.J. Legree

Quarterback
Maxwell Smith
Jalen Whitlow

Fullback
D.J. Warren
Cody Jones

Running back
Raymond Sanders
Jonathan George
Jojo Kemp

Defense

Defensive end
Alvin Dupree
Jason Hatcher

Defensive tackle
Donte Rumph
Tristian Johnson

Defensive tackle
Mister Cobble
Mike Douglas
Christian Coleman

Defensive end
Za'Darius Smith
Farrington Huguenin
Alvin Davis

Strong-side linebacker
Kory Brown
Josh Forrest
Malcolm McDuffen

Middle linebacker
Avery Williamson
Miles Simpson

Weak-side linebacker
TraVaughn Paschal
Khalid Henderson

Nickel
Blake McClain
Marcus McWilson

Cornerback
Nate Willis
Cody Quinn

Safety
Ashely Lowery
Glenn Faulkner

Safety
Eric Dixon
Daron Blaylock

Cornerback
Fred Tiller
Jaleel Hytchye

Special teams

Snapper (FG/PAT)
Kelly Mason or Matthew Adolph

Snapper (Punt)

Kelly Mason or Tyler Robinson

Holder
Jared Leet
Landon Foster

Kicker
Joe Mansour
Austin MacGinnis

Punter
Landon Foster
Joe Mansour

Kickoff returner
Raymond Sanders
Javess Blue
Demarco Robinson
Dyshawn Mobley
Daryl Collins

Punt returner
Demarco Robinson
Daryl Collins
Javess Blue

Video: Stoops' pre-Louisville press conference

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Second-half flurry sparks men's soccer rout

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Sophomore Isak Krogstad sparked UK's rout with two goals in the span of four minutes. Sophomore Isak Krogstad scored two goals in four minutes in UK's 4-0 win over IPFW on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
After scoring just one goal through the first two games of the season, the University of Kentucky men's soccer team unleashed a flurry of goals in the span of 11 minutes Sunday afternoon in a 4-0 win over IPFW.

The Wildcats even failed to score in the first half against the Mastodons, but after IPFW's Alex Kemp committed a handball -- resulting in a red card and an ejection -- in the penalty box in the 50th minute, Kentucky took full advantage. Steven Perinovic stepped up looking to put the Cats on the board, but was stifled by goalkeeper Raphael Kotzock.

As young as they are, the Wildcats could have put their heads down after a missed opportunity, but the Wildcats showed a sign of maturity. Just over a minute later, Isak Krogstad received a pass from Alex Bumpus and Kaelon Fox and found the back of the net for the first of his two goals on the afternoon.

Krogstad scored again just four minutes later. His two goals were the first of his career.

"It felt amazing," said Krogstad about his first goal. "I really wanted a goal today and (assistant coach Erik) Imler told me before the game that he was expecting a goal. Killer spirit wanted it in."

Napo Matsoso then made it 3-0 in favor of the Wildcats in the 56th minute and Charlie Reymann gave UK its final edge of 4-0 on his first career goal in the 63rd minute.

A four-goal afternoon is just what the doctor ordered for a team that's struggled offensively through the first two games. 

"I thought everyone did a great job of that today in terms of staying switched on," said Kentucky head coach Johan Cedergren. "They (IPFW) aren't an easy team to break down. We just needed that one unselfish run to unlock them and I'm really happy with how we played."

When 19 of your 25 players are underclassmen, there are bound to be some headaches early on.

"I've been telling the guys ever since the first day that age is just a number," Cedergren said. "For me and the staff, it's a bad number, but for them it's a great number because some of these guys are going to play for four years. It's just great to see that we have so much talent in the freshman class."

On the day, Kentucky fired a school-record 35 shots, besting the previous record of 31 set back in 1994. Of those 35, 15 came on goal.

"I really love that we keep on pushing through the entire game," said Krogstad, a native of Tromsoe, Norway. "In the first half we were pushing, but we just lacked that last ball, especially offensively. In the second half we just kept on going and (IPFW) got that red card, which was a relief for us. The goals then just started rolling in."

Krogstad and the Wildcats hope this is a sign of what's to come for the rest of the season because once conference play begins, goals will be a premium.

"It means a lot for us, especially to score four goals and not just one," Krogstad said. "We're starting to get it and you can see it in practice. I have great faith in this team and we've got something good going this year."

Up next for Kentucky is a rematch with Xavier, which knocked the Wildcats out of the NCAA Tournament a season ago, a destination UK hopes to reach again this season.

UK defenders converge on a Miami ball-carrier. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK defenders converge on a Miami ball-carrier. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It's not every day that a team implements an entirely new defensive game plan just minutes before kickoff and holds its opponents to no offensive touchdowns and just 122 total yards. Such was the case in Kentucky's 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.

Given the Wildcats' success on the defensive side of the ball during the game, it came as a surprise when Mark Stoops revealed he and defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot more or less scrapped their game plan in pregame warm-ups.

Stoops and the UK staff had prepared all week for Miami's read-option offensive scheme where the majority of plays come with the quarterback starting in shotgun or pistol formations and reading pass or run only after the snap.

While watching Miami practice some formations on the field before the game however, Stoops realized Miami would feature plenty of offensive looks the UK staff hadn't seen on game tape.

The UK head coach was correct, and his intuition went a long way toward making his first victory as a head coach so convincing.  Stoops' experience facing a similar offensive scheme also came in handy on Saturday.

"They've been running the gun-read stuff that we were preparing for all week, and they went to the double-slot option stuff," Stoops said. "They didn't do much teamwork in pregame warm-up, which was odd, but they did do some handoffs and exchanges. We saw their alignments on some things.

"(We) came in here (the locker room), went over the double-slot option. Fortunately Coach (D.J.) Eliot and myself prepared for that in the ACC Championship game. We had some basic rules we applied quickly."

Stoops and his defensive coordinator game-planned for Paul Johnson's triple-option offense at Georgia Tech in their final game at Florida State, their previous coaching stop. They implemented the lessons learned to great effect against Miami.

Even with the spot-on adjustments, the UK players still had to execute. A task easier said than done given how complex Miami's option-heavy offense is.  

"That offense is so unique," Eliot said. "That's the offense that Georgia Tech runs and Georgia Southern runs. It's that double-slot option. One thing that defensive coaches complain about is within a week you don't have enough time to prepare for it. We had minutes. So I've never done that before."

Eliot was pleased with how well his players dealt with the large-scale adjustments on short notice.

"Hats off to 'em," Eliot said. "They did exactly what we asked and they didn't fret. When we told them, 'Listen guys, what we've been practicing, that's not what we're going to do, OK? This is what we're going to do.' We told them minutes before they went out there, they went out there, they played and they executed."

Brown mastering quarterback rotation

Some doubted whether Kentucky would really return the Air Raid offense to Commonwealth Stadium following last week's performance, but the sirens were on full blast after each of UK's three passing touchdowns Saturday.

Maxwell Smith started the game for UK behind center, but just six plays into an opening drive where UK had moved the ball 38 yards, Jalen Whitlow entered and capped the possession with a touchdown run.

Both played well throughout the game as each passed for over 100 yards. Smith completed 15-of-23 for 310 yards and all three scores and Whitlow 10 of 12 for 103.

"There was not a lot of scientific reasoning going in between when I was rolling them in and when I was rolling them out," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "I pretty much went on gut instinct on that and that's probably the way it'll be for a while. I thought Max did some really good things. He left a lot of throws out there. He'll tell you that. He'll probably be the first one to tell you. Jalen did some things. He threw the ball today like he threw the ball in camp."

UK continued to rotate the signal-callers fluidly throughout the game, but most frequently during the first few drives of the opening quarter. The quarterback carousel, seldom executed with so much turnover as effectively as it was on Saturday, helped UK to a school-record 24-point first quarter with 279 yards of total offense.

The constant quarterback subbing reached its height on UK's second drive of the game, which went 10 plays and 69 yards with five quarterback substitutions.

Brown rotated his quarterbacks so often during the first quarter on Saturday that Maxwell Smith had to answer questions about his fitness because he was forced to run from the huddle to the sideline so often.

"It's obviously something I've never done before, but I'm doing it," Smith said of rotating in and out of the game. "We won the game and we played pretty well so just keep doing it, right?"

Brown has been saying for weeks that both Smith and Whitlow would see action for the foreseeable future, but few could have imagined just how often the two would relieve one another.

If nothing else, the Big Blue Nation is seeing why the staff has found it so difficult to commit to a set number of snaps for either player.

"They've both done some things really well through camp and through the spring and then other times they've struggled," Brown said. "And some of those struggles are their fault. Some of them are my fault. It's frustrating at times, but they're young. Each of them has started eight games now, right? And some of those games they didn't have a chance. So it's encouraging that both of them did well. We're going to continue to play both."

Stoops' youngest troops shine bright

A number of the youngest Wildcats made up some of UK's biggest plays on Saturday.

In all, 437 of UK's 675 yards from scrimmage came from players recruited by Stoops' first-year staff. The young receivers were especially effective as 298 of UK's 413 yards passing were hauled in by five of UK's newcomer receivers: Javess Blue, Ryan Timmons, Alex Montgomery, Jeff Badet and (tight end) Steven Borden.

"That's impressive, especially for young kids," Brown said of his receiving corps. "We're going to lean on them. We have to get guys that we feel like are playmakers with the ball. And we lost one of our playmakers the first play of the game, Demarco (Robinson, to an ankle injury of yet-unknown severity). We shuffled those receivers around and it was real positive to see Javess Blue, Jeff Badet make plays. I think Jojo (Kemp) was our leading rusher."

Despite multiple breakout performances, one game isn't good enough to impress Brown. The UK play-caller is looking for consistency now.

"It's encouraging," Brown said, clearly aware of the brutal four game stretch UK now faces beginning with No. 8 Louisville. "Now obviously - no offense to Miami (Ohio) - our deal gets a little tougher after this."

Return game leaves room for improvement

Despite the impressive score line, the Wildcats have plenty to work on in the coming days of practice. Without a doubt, UK struggled in the punt return game.

First-string punt and kickoff returner Robinson took the opening kickoff back 39 yards, but seemed to hurt his foot on the play and he did not return to the game.

In his absence, the UK punt returners struggled. Daryl Collins dropped a punt that he fielded inside the UK 10-yard line. The ball was recovered by Miami and returned for the RedHawks' lone points and the struggles didn't stop there.

Javess Blue also made attempts to catch balls inside his own 10, a major no-no in Bradley Dale Peveto's mostly lenient return system.

"There are some simple rules that are applied that most people in college football know," Stoops said. "That you don't back up behind the 10 and catch it, secure the football on a punt safe.

"We made some plays that we're not very proud of. That's what we got to constantly do. We need to be a smart team. I thought we played harder tonight and we need to continue to be more disciplined and play smart."

Despite the struggles, the mistakes were made by young players. It's something Peveto will use in his coaching during the lead up to next week's Louisville game.

"We have to be better in the punt return game," Peveto said. "A couple of the young guys have to come on and get better with ball security. We have to be smarter on the field. I have to do a better job of coaching that. We'll get that fixed with some work on that this week.

"When you're in the bright lights of the Southeastern Conference and (punt returning) is new for you that is a tough situation to be in all of the sudden. We got our feet wet tonight with a couple of young guys and they will work at it and be better."

Game-week prep changes pay off

UK faces one of the nation's top teams next Saturday, and the matchup also happens to be a huge rivalry game.

The Wildcats proved they have the ability to make adjustments on the fly and bounce back with their performance on Saturday, but next week's matchup poses challenges they've yet to experience in the first two weeks of the season.

Stoops made changes in the buildup to the Miami game as opposed to the season opener. He was happy with the improvements in game-week preparation this past few days, but the next few could make the difference going forward.

"I believe I mentioned this a time or two after practice, but I felt like we were more poised this week," Stoops said. "Still focused, but more poised ... It's one play at a time. That gets so boring to hear. We need to improve and focus and do the best we can on every play. That's what we talked about, just trying to be perfect at one play, then stack another one, then get another one."

Mark Stoops won for the first time as a head coach in UK's home opener vs. Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) Mark Stoops won for the first time as a head coach in UK's home opener vs. Miami (Ohio) on Saturday. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
Mark Stoops isn't normally one to reflect. After all, he's made his way up the coaching ranks by always focusing on the next step.

That's the mode he was in following his first ever win as a head coach. Walking to the locker room, he found himself thinking about what he would tell his team, a speech that would surely end with a message about getting back to work. After that, his mind would be on spending time with family visiting for Kentucky's 41-7 win over Miami (Ohio) on Saturday, then watching tape Sunday morning.

But in that locker room, something stopped Stoops in his tracks.

"Then Avery gave me the game ball," Stoops said. "It hit me."

Avery Williamson, the unquestioned leader of UK's defense, walked to the middle of the room acting as if he was about to deliver a simple few words to the team. At the urging of Director of Recruiting Dan Berezowitz, Williamson was about to surprise everyone - Stoops included.

"He was pretty shocked," Williamson said. "He was shocked. He wasn't expecting it all, so it was definitely a good feeling."

It was an even better feeling for Stoops.

"That was like a 'wow' moment for me," Stoops said. "You're so busy in the moment, trying to take care of things, operate things the right way. But I hadn't been there before as a head coach to win it. When he did that, it did mean an awful lot to me. I'm very proud of it and look forward to many more."

Many more may be in store, but certainly not all like Saturday's blowout victory. The Wildcats (1-1) blistered the visiting RedHawks for 675 total yards and allowed just 122 yards. If not for a fumbled punt return that Miami ran in for a touchdown, UK would have pitched a shutout.

"I felt like the approach this morning getting up, we were focused, we were excited in the locker room, but not hyper," Stoops said. "So I thought we were in good shape. I like the way the team played early.  Obviously there's plenty to get corrected. But we're excited about the win."

It wasn't on the level of getting the game ball, but Stoops' offensive coordinator had a 'wow' moment of his own.

Neal Brown inspired excitement among fans in returning the exciting offense UK ran during his playing days, but he heard the rumblings about the Air Raid offense following a season opener during which the Cats relied heavily on the run and didn't throw effectively until the fourth quarter.

He won't be hearing them after Saturday.

UK rolled up 413 yards through the air, deftly deploying a two-quarterback attack with Maxwell Smith and Jalen Whitlow that kept Miami off balance from UK's record 24-point first quarter onward. All told, the Cats' final yardage total ranked third in school history and most since Hal Mumme originated the Air Raid in Lexington. In a bit of an eerie connection, the record of 801 total yards was set in 1998 against Louisville.

"When I was walking in here, Tom said - Leach - I walked by him and Tom said that was the third-highest total we had and the highest being that Louisville game," Brown said. "That's actually the first game of my career. I either caught one or two passes that game that (Tim) Couch had."

Smith completed 15-of-23 passes for 310 yards and three touchdowns, but when he learned where UK's yardage total ranked in the record books, he started thinking again about a few throws he missed as the offense momentarily stalled during the second and third quarters.

"I feel like if I played better, we could have maybe gotten the most in school history to be honest. But it was awesome," Smith said. "I'm sure Coach feels really good about, but he knows we can be a lot better than that."

Brown will worry about getting better next week, but for now he's thinking how much his offense improved since the last time it took the field. In response to seeing the Cats not play as hard or as physical as his previous units have, Brown took his coaching up a notch over the last week.

"I was probably worried a little bit too much about confidence going into that opener and I should have coached them more," Brown said. "That's my fault, and we got that corrected this week. I thought the guys came out and executed and played with a lot more energy. Our number one goal was to be excited to play and I thought they were from the first drive on."

Excited and ready, the Cats scored on their first five offensive drives, perhaps the most encouraging of which came toward the end of the first quarter. UK began the drive on its own 27, but quickly found itself back up to the 12 facing a third and 21 following three penalties.

After offensive lineman Jordan Swindle spoke up in the huddle and challenged his teammates, the Cats put one of Brown's philosophies into practice when Smith hit Javess Blue for an 88-yard touchdown.

"The thing is, we talked about next play, next play," Brown said. "It doesn't matter what happened the previous play. You can't go back and fix it so we had a next-play mentality. And I thought that was really one of the first times since I've been here that those guys have been able to shake things off and go to the next play. I thought that was huge."

The long touchdown strike was one of three times fans got to hear the return of the Air Raid siren on Saturday. The 54,846 fans in attendance at Commonwealth Stadium surely enjoyed it, and Brown hopes even more will be there to enjoy it next weekend.

"It's fun, there's no question about it," Brown said. "It's a good thing and I think the fans got into it. Hopefully we'll fill this place up next Saturday. We gave them a little excitement. I don't blame them for being a little frustrated last week. I was too."

For a few hours, frustration will turn into celebration as Stoops and Brown enjoy their moments. UK experienced its share of firsts on Saturday, but another one awaits next week when a new coaching staff experiences the Louisville rivalry for the first time.

"We're looking forward to it," Stoops said. "It's going to be a big challenge. They're a good team, well-coached team. We're going to be excited."

Video: Highlights from volleyball's sweep of ETSU

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Offensive coordinator Neal Brown



Quarterback Maxwell Smith


Quarterback Jalen Whitlow




Defensive end Bud Dupree




Linebacker Avery Williamson




Video: Stoops' post-Miami press conference

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Video: Highlights from Stoops' first win

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Video: Football home opener Cat Walk

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Live blog: Football vs. Miami (Ohio)

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UK junior midfielder Stuart Pope shoots from distance vs. Louisville. (Chet White, UK Athletics) UK junior midfielder Stuart Pope shoots from distance vs. Louisville. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Spend any time around Jon Lipsitz at a UK women's soccer training session -- or on the sidelines during a match -- and it becomes clear quite quickly that he puts a major emphasis on playing with a quick tempo offensively.

The Wildcat's possession-dependent system requires fast passing to keep defenses guessing and moving. The Wildcats pushing the tempo of the match was very much the difference in Friday's 2-0 victory over Louisville.

Kentucky went into halftime tied 0-0 having created the better of the first-half chances, but UK also struggled to sustain possession.

Lipsitz and his staff shouted to play faster over and over from the touch line during most of the game's opening moments, but it took until around the half-hour mark for the UK players to respond. Even then it wasn't until the second interval where the fact that the game's pace had changed became evident.

"We have to move the ball and I thought early on we were playing at a pace that was not who we are," Lipsitz said. "I said 50 times: 'faster.' Sometimes players feel like, 'I am playing as fast as I can,' but we know they can do better. So we kept pushing and I thought about the last 15 minutes of the first half we started playing better and continued that into the second half."

On both goals speed was the difference. On the opener, Courtney Raetzman capitalized on quick one- and two-touch buildup play along the left sideline before getting behind the U of L defense and playing a cross for a Stuart Pope mid-range effort near the 18-yard line.

Arin Gilliland created the second scoring chance with sheer individual speed. She ran onto a long ball over the top from out of the UK back line. With the entire pitch in front of her she dribbled into the box and at two defenders, eventually drawing a foul on the penalty spot.|

Both goals came out of playing with pace in two different ways: passing and foot speed, respectively.

"We talk about don't let somebody else set our pace," Lipsitz said. "Louisville is a tremendous team at picking off central passes and counterattacking. They are so good at it. So as we played more slowly in the back because we weren't heavily pressured we are setting up to get picked off and countered and give up a breakaway.

"We don't want their defensive pressure up top to dictate how fast we play. We have to move the ball that is who we are. We have to play to feet."

Pope proves lethal since returning to attacking role


Stuart Pope has been close to unstoppable in the attacking midfield since moving back to her more comfortable creative role after starting the season as a defensive outside back.

Having found the back of the net on Friday, the junior now has four goals in three games since her positional switch. Indeed Pope has proven to be a perfect fit at the heart of the UK attack, but as early as this offseason Lipsitz himself wouldn't have believed she could be so effective up front.

"Stu has just changed who she is," Lipsitz said of his versatile junior. "She would be the first one to tell you that she did not like me her first two years here. And I don't apologize for it at all. We always knew that Stu had tremendous potential. One of the greatest conflicts in a coach-player relationship is when the coach feels that a player is not reaching her potential.

"Her confidence, her fitness, she has always been very technical and tactical but for her to be able to control the game the way she does now that is all her. She did the work. I could not be more proud of her. To imagine a year or two ago her commanding the middle of the field for 90 minutes, we imagined it but there is no way she could have done it, but now she deserves every accolade that she gets."

Pope was in many ways the Wildcats' most lively attacker from the start of the game, but on multiple occasions early Lipsitz felt she was being to patient in buildup play. He instructed her to shoot more.

The suggestion worked as she began to try her luck from distance late in the first half, and a long-range effort ended up being the game's first goal.

"He has been telling me for three years to shoot the ball more and one of these days it is going to come," Pope said. "I finally put one in and hopefully next game I can work on Jon's coaching points. I just like attacking.

"I am an attacker at heart and been an attacker my whole life. It suits my style and suits me better to attack and I can be in the right place at the right time and not have to worry about the back line."

King unblemished at home.


Senior goalkeeper Kayla King has yet to concede a goal at the UK Soccer Complex this season. In three matches at home the Wildcats have kept three clean sheets.

"It was a great team shutout," King said. "The shutouts are what (Assistant) Coach Ian (Carry) and I always talk about and what we always want. It's just a little sweeter against Louisville on our home field in front of our home crowd."

Friday's 2-0 victory may have been the Wildcats' most convincing defensive performance. UK faced 13 shots, with King only called upon to save four times.

When King did come to make a save, she came strong as she decisively caught multiple Cardinal crosses and notably punched another well out of danger.

The Wildcat captain has shown impressive confidence in this, her second season as a starter.

"On your home field, you can't lose and you can't give up goals," King said. "I joke that (Associate Head Coach) Michelle (Rayner) has tricked the goalkeepers out with our team outfits. We call our kits the shutout shirts. We don't give up goals especially not at home. We earned the shutout on the practice field."

Gilliland picks power

Gilliland, UK's junior forward and captain, converted her second-half penalty with authority.

The Wildcats' designated penalty taker, who also drew the foul in the penalty box after dribbling from midfield to the penalty spot chose to go high and down the middle on her PK.

The decision was tactical ... sort of.

"To be honest on the PK I usually place them, but I was so tired I literally just kicked the (you-know-what) out of it," Gilliland said. "That was my tactic. I knew she was going to dive one way so I just decided to kick it as hard as I could."

Wildcat goalies stand out. Literally.

Kayla King (Chet White, UK Athletics) Kayla King (Chet White, UK Athletics)

The sartorial talk around the Wildcats usually revolves around head coach Jon Lipsitz's suit selection (he wore a navy subtly striped suit with a white shirt and royal blue tie on Friday, by the way). For the Louisville game, the Wildcat goalies dominated the soccer fashion conversation as their shirts and shorts were a shade of yellow that would be most aptly compared to a highlighter.

"It looks great," King said. "I'm pretty much glowing in the dark. Coach Rayner picks out all of our stuff and she does a great job. I was surprised at this one when I came in the locker room, but I really like the look."