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Best of Blue Weekly Awards (week of Oct. 31)

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Thumbnail image for best of blue logo_web.jpg It can be hard to keep up with everything going on in the University of Kentucky's 22 varsity sports. With that in mind, we will highlight the best from around Kentucky sports each week. We'll recognize the best performances from Wildcat teams and players, we'll show you the coolest videos and photos that you may have missed and we'll mix in some new stuff along the way. Here are your award winners for this week:

Team of the week - Rifle posts NCAA-record score, returns to No. 1

The defending national champion UK rifle team started out the season ranked first in the nation. However, West Virginia eclipsed Kentucky in the national rankings two weeks into the season even though the Cats had been impressive in a pair of season-opening wins. In their first match after falling to second, the Wildcats responded in a big way.

Against conference foe Memphis, UK tallied a score of 4711, breaking their own NCAA-record score set during last season's tournament run. Emily Holsopple led the way with a score of 597 in air rifle as the Cats turned in a performance that returned them to the top of the polls.

Player of the week - Luis Orta stands out at SEC Championships


Cross Country junior Luis Orta has been one of the stars of the fall sports season at UK, winning SEC Men's Runner of the Week honors on three separate occasions. Teams throughout the SEC met in Maryville, Tenn., for the conference championships and Orta showed just how deserving he was of all those accolades.

Orta finished fifth among all runners, leading the men's cross country team to a fourth-place finish, the program's best since 1992. The Venezuela native also earned first-team All-SEC honors for his performance, becoming UK's first runner to earn that distinction since Thomas Morgan in 2003.

Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart took to Twitter to congratulate Orta on his success.

"Really proud of Luis Orta for earning (first) team All-SEC honors at the SEC Championships," Barnhart tweeted. "He finished (fifth and) led the team to (fourth) place. Luis really embodies what being a student-athlete at UK means. He doesn't only excel on the field, but also in the classroom and community."

Game of the week - Volleyball defeats No. 13 Florida in five

Mired in a conference title race with top-20 opponents Tennessee and Florida, every match the Wildcats play down the stretch is a big one, but Sunday's match against Florida felt just a bit bigger. Tied at seven midway through the decisive fifth, UK scored eight of the match's final 10 points to upset the No. 13 Gators and maintain control of its own destiny in the race for the SEC title.

UK won the first and third sets, but Florida responded both times to even things up at two entering the final game. The Wildcats then kicked things into another gear to win in the fifth. As an observer, seeing the intensity of the team during that final stretch and the jubilation they displayed once they got the job done was pretty amazing.

Whitney Billings and Ashley Frazier led the attack with 17 and 16 kills, respectively. Billings also joined Christine Hartmann as one of two Cats to post a double-double. Stephanie Klefot had a career-high 28 digs in the win, carrying her to SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.

Play of the week - Josh Mulvany scores a beautiful goal on Senior Day




Facing off against No. 15 SMU on Senior Day, UK got a pair of goals from departing seniors and held on for a 2-0 upset victory to send the class out in style. The second of those goals was from Josh Mulvany, who came up with a loose ball about 25 yards from goal and spotted the Mustang keeper too far off his line. He volleyed a shot high into the left "upper V" and over the outstretched arms of the beaten keeper.

Mulvany's goal takes place at the seven-second mark of the above video.

Photo of the week - Volleyball celebrates Florida win

Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics Photo by Chet White, UK Athletics

Alumnus/alumna of the week - Andrew Albers pitches Team Canada to Pan American gold

Former Kentucky left-handed pitcher Andrew Albers became the second Wildcat in as many weeks to earn a gold medal at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, following Molly Johnson. Albers started the gold medal game for Canada against Team USA, pitching 6.2 innings and allowing just a single run in picking up the win for his native country.

Facing an American team that featured some of baseball's top prospects, Albers struck out eight batters while walking none, helping Canada to its first gold medal in a senior national event in its history.

Broderick tries new sport, runs to new heights

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In her first year as a competitive runner, Megan Broderick has emerged for UK's cross country team. (Chet White, UK Athletics) In her first year as a competitive runner, Megan Broderick has emerged for UK's cross country team. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For four years, Megan Broderick was the best player on the Kentucky tennis team. She played No. 1 singles each season, winning 64 matches and ranking as high as No. 55 in the nation before concluding her tennis career in the spring of 2011.

At that point, most athletes would be ready to call it a career, but Broderick just isn't built that way.

Instead, Broderick opted to take advantage of an NCAA rule that allowed student-athletes a fifth year of eligibility in a second sport, joining the cross country and track team for the 2011-12 season. The same competitiveness and determination that propelled her to a decorated tennis are what ultimately drove her to her second Division I career.

"Growing up, I played a lot of different sports and I've always had that competitive spirit in me," Broderick said. "It wasn't really a thought of mine whether I was going to fail or succeed. I just really wanted to do it. I thought that I could help the team in cross country and track."

To say Broderick has helped the team in her first two months as a competitive runner would be an understatement. In four races as a member of the cross country team, she has emerged as one of UK's top runners, finishing no worse than third among her Wildcat teammates.

"It's definitely a little bit of a surprise to me how well I'm doing right off the bat," Broderick said. "I owe a lot of that to the girls. They've really accepted me onto the team and the coaches and trainers have all done a great job working with me to allow me to be comfortable in the new environment."

Don Weber, head cross country and track coach, sees things a bit differently. He learned a great deal about Broderick's willpower and talent before taking her on the team, and had an inkling this kind of success would be on the horizon, but maybe not so quickly.

"I'm not really surprised she's doing well based upon what I know about her," Weber said, "but she's doing better than I thought she would do."

Chance training room meeting starts it all

Broderick was already planning on returning to UK for a fifth year. She had one class to finish up before her planned graduation in December and had heard about and researched the rule that would ultimately allow her to participate in cross country and track. Coaches don't often find themselves recruiting current college seniors, but that's exactly what Weber did when he ran into Broderick.

"Last year, sometime during the school year we bumped into each other in the training room and I knew she was a fourth-year senior," Weber said. "I asked her if she had any school beyond this. She said she did and I said 'Would you consider running in your fifth year?' "

Broderick didn't think too much about the possibility at first, but there were a few classes she knew she would like to take other than the one she needed to graduate. Weber continued to talk to Broderick about joining the team, appealing to the passion for running she had always had even during her tennis career. Ultimately, Broderick gave Weber the "yes" he was looking for.

"Based on how impressed I was with her, how much want-to she had and her very keen interest in doing this, I decided to invest in her and we'll see where it goes," Weber said.

Developing a plan

There was still the small matter of Weber actually seeing his newest runner in action. As soon as she finished the tennis season, Broderick went on a run with Weber looking on. Fortunately, the investment Weber had decided to make in her immediately looked like a good one.

"I was relieved and impressed that she could run pretty well," Weber said. "She looked pretty good and the pace she was running for those three miles was pretty good. After that run, we came into the field house and she did a couple of 200's to get a sense of her speed and how she might run on the track. That was impressive too."

The next step was to begin training. Broderick wasn't in Lexington for much of the summer, but she stayed in close contact with Weber throughout. He assigned her specific workouts with one preeminent concern in mind.

"I didn't have a whole lot of concerns because I was so impressed with her, but the biggest concern was regarding training," Weber said. "Since she had a relatively limited background in running, I didn't want to have her do too much too soon and her body not be ready for that."

The first race

When the season opening race, the Belmont-VU Opener, rolled around, Broderick expected her nerves to be jangling. She had participated in "one or two" races on the cross country team in high school, but this was another level. To her surprise, she was relatively calm on the course, mostly thanks to all her experience on the tennis court.

"I really thought I was going to be more nervous than I was," Broderick said. "Playing a tennis match, you're out there by yourself and everyone's watching you while in a cross country meet, you're running in a pack so eyes are not directly on you as much."

Her debut was an unmitigated success. She finished in 16th place overall and third on the team with a time of 14:53.73. In some ways, it's what she doesn't know that allowed her to start so quickly.

"She's not afraid of hills, she's not afraid of distance, she just competes and attacks," Weber said. "Other people who have done cross country longer, they know those things are additional challenges and, instead of freely accepting them, there's a measure of intimidation. She doesn't have any of that."

As the season has progressed, Broderick has only gotten better. In the team's last race, she turned in her best performance. The Panorama Farms Invitational two weeks ago was UK's longest race of the season so far (6K) and, for the first time in her career, Broderick was the first Wildcat to finish. With a time of 22:28.51, she finished 23rd overall in a strong field.

Broderick's precociousness would suggest it all comes easily for her, but she's gotten a firsthand education in what makes running competitively so different from running to stay in shape.

"I think the biggest difference is the amount of mental toughness it takes," Broderick said. "During my four years of playing tennis at UK, I became a better athlete, not only physically, but also mentally. When you're running races, it's painful and what gets you through is the ability to overcome that pain and be mentally tough."

Cross country season has 'flown by', track on the horizon

With all regular season races completed, UK's focus now turns to the postseason, which begins with the SEC Championships on Oct. 31 in Maryville, Tenn. The brief season has gone by very quickly for Broderick, though she knows there is a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks.

"It's flown by," Broderick said. "Every race, there's a lot of pressure to compete as best you can because there aren't many. We have SEC's and regionals coming up so hopefully we can perform well."

Broderick is optimistic about her and her team's prospects in the postseason, but she admits she doesn't know quite what to expect. Whenever the season does end, though, she'll jump right into training for track. Weber said he expects Broderick to focus on middle distances races such as the 800-meter and mile and he looks forward to seeing her compete in the more intimate atmosphere of track. Weber, though, called every day a "discovery" with Broderick, but there's one thing he knows he can always expect.

 "I expect it to be a whole lot of fun working with her and it will be inspiring to see what she can do," Weber said. "The one thing I know for certain is we'll get her best, because that's the way she is."

'You run the way you do because of the way you are'

Megan Broderick was a standout in tennis at UK for four years before joining cross country and track. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Megan Broderick was a standout in tennis at UK for four years before joining cross country and track. (Chet White, UK Athletics)

Broderick may not go on to set any records or win any national titles during her one year as a runner, but she has come to represent everything Weber looks for in an athlete.

"I've done this for a long time and in terms of attitude, enthusiasm and personal stake in it, she's one of the best we've ever had in that respect," Weber said. "We have a saying around here: 'You run the way you do because of the way you are.' I think she's a pretty good example of that."

She isn't ready to start thinking too much about her legacy or just how unique she is for participating in two Division I sports at such a high level, but Broderick expects to feel graciousness more than anything else when she does reflect on her time at UK.

"I'm really thankful that (head tennis) coach (Carlos) Drada and (assistant tennis) coach (Kevin) Calhoun were able to develop me as a tennis player and to have the success I did in that," Broderick said. "Then, to run across Coach Weber and to have this awesome opportunity is amazing. I'll just really be thankful for all the people, all the experiences and all the competition I was able to enjoy."

Best of Blue Weekly Awards (week of Oct. 17)

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best of blue logo_web.jpg It can be hard to keep up with everything going on in the University of Kentucky's 22 varsity sports. With that in mind, we will highlight the best from around Kentucky sports each week. We'll recognize the best performances from Wildcat teams and players, we'll show you the coolest videos and photos that you may have missed and we'll mix in some new stuff along the way. Here are your award winners for this week:

Team of the week - Men's soccer turns in best performance of season

Sitting at 0-4 in conference play, Ian Collins and the men's soccer team needed to get in the win column badly. With their Conference USA Tournament and NCAA Tournament future at stake, the Cats played their best match of the season against rival Tulsa en route to a crucial 3-1 victory. Charles Pettys had the first two-goal game of his UK career and Josh Mulvany added another goal. It was also a stalwart defensive effort as Tulsa's only goal came on a disputed penalty call.

UK's explosive offensive had been stymied of late, but forward Matt Lodge led the way to an explosion against Tulsa. Although he didn't score a goal, Lodge was the offensive star. He tied a school record with three assists, moving him into second place all-time on the single season assist list with 10 so far in 2011.

Player of the week  - Luis Orta posts yet another top-10 finish

There hasn't been a single UK student-athlete this fall who has been more consistent than junior cross country runner Luis Orta. The Venezuela native finished in fifth place at the Panorama Farms Invitational this weekend, marking his fourth top 10 finish in as many races in 2011. His strong finish paced the Cats to fourth place as a team in the race and has already been named SEC Men's Runner of the Week three times in 2011. Cross country has a couple weeks off before post-season meets begin with the SEC Championships on Oct. 31.

Game of the week - Volleyball upends No. 18 Tennessee in thriller


It's difficult to imagine a midseason volleyball clash meaning more than last Wednesday's match between then-No. 25 UK and No. 18 Tennessee. First place in the Southeastern Conference standings was at stake and ESPNU was broadcasting the match to a national television audience. Adding fuel to the fire was a raucous crowd participating in a "White out" and the fact that UK hadn't beaten the rival Lady Vols in five tries.

Safe to say, Craig Skinner's team responded to the pressure. In a heart-stopping five-set victory, the Cats emerged victorious and pulled into a tie for first in the SEC. In an evenly-matched affair, Whitney Billings filled the stat sheet. The sophomore had 15 kills at a .367 hitting clip along with six blocks and eight digs. Senior Becky Pavan had a team-high 16 kills.

Play of the week - Horner scores golden goal in double OT



With women's soccer teams in the SEC jockeying for position in the conference tournament in Orange Beach, Ala., UK hosted No. 14 Tennessee on Friday in a key match. The Cats played exceptionally well, outshooting Tennessee 22-11, but could not find a way to net a goal. It was a scoreless tie in double overtime when Kelsey Hunyadi found Natalie Horner in the right side of the box. Horner dribbled past a defender and shot into the top of the net for the game-winning goal. Go to the 30-second mark of the video above to see the goal.

Photo of the week - Silhouette shot of Matthew Mitchell as Michael Jackson
UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell was the hit of Big Blue Madness, introducing himself to fans with a spot on impression of Michael Jackson. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) UK Hoops head coach Matthew Mitchell was the hit of Big Blue Madness, introducing himself to fans with a spot on impression of Michael Jackson. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)

Alumnus/alumna of the week - Molly Johnson stars for Team USA in Pan American Games

A couple weeks ago, it was announced that former star UK shortstop and current softball assistant coach Molly Johnson would play for Team USA in the 2011 Pan American Games. Last week, the team played a few exhibitions to prepare for the tournament and Johnson earned a starting spot. The Americans played their opener in tournament play on Monday, earning a 10-0 win over Venezuela, and Johnson was at the middle of it all. She was 3-for-3 at the plate, including two doubles and four RBI.

Team USA plays a pair of games on Tuesday, facing off against the Dominican Republic at 2 p.m. ET and tournament host Mexico at 9 p.m.

Video of the week - Big Blue Madness introduction



Performances of the Week: Oct. 16

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 16:

Men's golf: Joseph Barr

  • Junior Joseph Barr carded a career-best round of 66 (-5) in the first round of the Bearcat Invitational on Oct. 10.
  • Barr followed up his first round 66 with a 2-under par 69 in the second round to hold the lead entering the tournament's final round.
  • Barr finished the tournament in a tie for third, his best result of the season thus far, and helped lead Kentucky to a second-place finish.

Volleyball: Whitney Billings

Sophomore Whitney Billings continued her dynamic play in Southeastern Conference action. Billings was the difference maker in UK's upset of No. 18 Tennessee - its first loss of the SEC schedule. Billings struck for 15 kills, the highest total this season, on a sizzling .367 hitting percentage. She was the only UK attacker to post an above .350 attacking percentage in the victory. Billings' all-around play continues as she also notched a squad-high six blocks and added four assists in the win. Against Mississippi State she totaled her 10th match of the season with 10 or more scoops with 14 digs in the three-set match for an average of 4.67 scoops per stanza. Furthermore, Billings was served at 24 times for the week and she did not commit an error.

Women's soccer: Natalie Horner

Natalie Horner netted the golden-goal in Kentucky's 1-0 double-overtime upset of 14th ranked Tennessee Friday night. It was Horner's second goal of the season and her first in conference play.

Men's soccer: Matt Lodge

Junior forward Matt Lodge shined in a shellacking of UK rival Tulsa on Wednesday, assisting on a school-record three goals in the 3-1 win over the Golden Hurricane ... Lodge's three assists are the most in a single-game in school annals, marking the fourth time in UK history a player has accomplished that feat and the first since Barry Rice in 2006 ... Now owns 10 assists on the year, the second-most assists in UK single-season history, just three shy of Jamal Shteiwi's school-best 13 in 2003 ... Has added seven goals and 62 shots, with his shot total ranking as the second-most shots in UK single-season history ... 16 games deep into his junior season, Loge owns 17 goals and 15 assists (49 points), ranking among the career leaders in points (seventh), goals (eighth), assists (fifth), shots (137; fifth) and game-winning goals (six; seventh) ... With 24 points in 2011, Lodge ranks fifth in UK single-season history ...A Rossington, England, native and a 2009 Freshman All-America honoree, Lodge ranks among the C-USA leaders in shots (first, 62), points (fourth, 24), points per game (sixth, 1.50), goals (sixth, 7) and assists (first, 10).

Volleyball: Jackie Napper

Freshman Jackie Napper has been the epitome of consistency for the Wildcats with seven or more digs in six consecutive matches for the Louisville, Ky., product. Napper put together one of her best performances of the season in the upset victory over No. 18 Tennessee. Napper charted eight scoops, but it was her demeanor on the receiving end of serves that helped propel UK to the win. Napper was served at an astounding 42 times in the match and did not make a single error. Napper then went on to post seven scoops in three sets of action, for 2.33 scoops per set, well above her season average.

Cross country: Luis Orta

  • Luis Orta earned his fourth top-10 finish in as many races this season.
  • The junior from Caracas, Venezuela finished in fifth at the Panorama Farms Invitational, crossing the finish line at the 8,000-meter race in 24:29.74.
  • Orta has led UK in every race this season and has been named Southeastern Conference Men's Runner of the Week three times already.

Men's soccer: Charles Pettys

Junior midfielder Charles Pettys notched his first career two-goal game, in leading UK to a 3-1 beatdown of Conference USA powerhouse Tulsa on Wednesday ... Pettys notched both of UK's two goals to start of the game, getting his first in the 13th minute and adding his second in the 27th frame ... On the year, Pettys owns three goals and seven assists, ranking fourth in the league in assists and ninth in the conference in points (13) ... Pettys' first career two-goal game marked the 57th all-time two-goal outing from a UK player in program history ... In his two-year UK career, Pettys - a native of Los Angeles, Calif. - has played in 29 games with 20 starts, posting four goals and eight assists.

Women's soccer: Kayla Price

Freshman Kayla Price notched her fifth shutout of the season in the upset of Tennessee. She currently second among all-time UK freshmen in shutouts and her 1.19 GAA is the third lowest among freshmen in program history.

Women's tennis: Jessica Stiles and Khristina Blajkevitch

  • Junior Jessica Stiles and sophomore Khristina Blajkevitch have paired up for doubles play at the USTA/ITA Women's Tennis Ohio Valley Regional's and have yet to lose a match. Their impressive play has earned them a spot in the semi-finals in the main draw.

Oct. 2 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, Oct. 2:

Women's golf: Ashleigh Albrecht

  • Won the Bettie Lou Evans Fall Invitational by one stroke.
  • This is her second career collegiate win, first being at the UCF Challenge in Feb. 2011.
  • Finished the invitational with 12 birdies and an eagle.

Volleyball: Whitney Billings

Sophomore Whitney Billings was simply the impact-player of the week for UK in two road victories. Billings has been a defensive ace for the Wildcats in helping UK to a 14-3 overall start and a 5-1 mark in league play. This week, Billings averaged 3.29 digs per set (Only UK's libero ranked higher with 3.43) and she also posted 1.14 blocks per set - meaning she contributed on the defensive side in both ways. Kentucky averaged 15.57 digs per set and 3.00 blocks per set in the two wins combined, with only Billings ranking in the top-two on the team in both digs and blocks per set. Her 15 scoops in the win at Arkansas were a season-best and ranked as the highest mark in the match. Her six blocks at LSU was a season-high mark and was the best on the floor as well.

Football: Winston Guy

Had another fantastic game with 12 tackles, including two tackles for loss. Guy ranks second in the SEC in tackles this season53 stops, while sitting first on the team in tackles for loss with six and a half and interceptions with two.

Volleyball: Christine Hartmann

Junior setter Christine Hartmann directed the Wildcat offense to a pair of victories at Arkansas and at LSU this weekend. For the weekend, Hartmann passed out 86 assists and moved into 10th place all-time in the UK record books with 1,534 career assists. In both matches she topped 40 assists, including a career-high 41 for a three-set match. In the win vs. LSU, Hartmann found six players for five or more kills and the offense had a .385 hitting clip. She also contributed six kills of her own. She notched 45 assists in the win at Arkansas with Ashley Frazier posting a career-high 18 kills in the match. Hartmann is in charge of an offense that leads the SEC in kills and assists per set.

Women's soccer: Caitlin Landis

Caitlin Landis netted her fourth goal of the season on Friday night in Kentucky's 1-0 win at South Carolina ... It was UK's first win against USC since 2006 and it's first win in Columbia since 2005 ... Landis' goal was her game-winner this season ... She finished with a team-high three shots in 85 minutes of action ... It was also her third goal in league play this season, tied for second most in the league.

Men's golf: Cody Martin

  • Finished in fourth at the rain-shortened Inverness Intercollegiate Invitational with an even-par round of 71.
  • Has finished in the top five in each of Kentucky's first three tournaments this season.
  • Has a season stroke average of 70.14, the lowest on the team.
  • Of the seven rounds of golf he's played this year, five have been even par or better.

Volleyball: Lauren O'Conner

Freshman Lauren O'Conner had an all-around weekend in helping guide UK to a 2-0 record on the road. O'Conner posted 3.29 kills per set on a team-high .435 hitting percentage. She totaled 10 or more kills in both victories, including 13 on a career-high .545 hitting clip at LSU. For the week, she took 46 swings and committed a mere three hitting errors. Her all-around game has continued to improve with five digs and a four blocks this weekend - which are both above her average for the season.  

Cross country: Luis Orta

  • Finished in 10th out of 240 runners at the Greater Louisville Classic on Saturday in Louisville, Ky.
  • Led the men's cross country team to an eighth place finish out of 29 competing teams.
  • His time of 24:17.72 is also is his collegiate-best time.
  • Has finished in the top 10 overall in each of Kentucky's first three races this season, including back-to-back wins in each of UK's first two races.

Women's soccer: Kayla Price

Kayla Price earned her first career SEC shutout Friday, in helping to lead Kentucky to 1-0 win at South Carolina ... It was UK's first win against South Carolina and its first win in Columbia since 2005 ... Price is currently tied for fourth in league games in saves with 19 and tied for second in shutouts with one ... Her four shutouts on the season is tied for fourth on UK's all-time freshman goalie list

Women's tennis: Jessica Stiles

Junior Jessica Stiles took third place in her singles draw after defeating Jennifer Rabot of Purdue University in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.

Football: Danny Trevathan

Senior posted 13 tackles in the game, marking the third time this season he has earned 13 tackles or more. Trevathan has double-figure tackles in four of UK's five games this season and is currently leading the SEC in tackles with 59.

Fall sports get athletics year off to hot start

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When Mitch Barnhart took over as Athletics Director in 2002, he set out his vision for the success of all 22 varsity teams at the University of Kentucky. During that time, UK has seen unprecedented levels of achievement across those sports, especially during the last athletic year.

Between rifle's national championship, men's basketball's trip to the Final Four, softball's berth in the Super Regionals, the appearance by men's tennis in the Elite Eight, volleyball's sixth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament, football's fifth straight bowl game and UK Hoops' second consecutive NCAA berth, 2010-11 was arguably the best season in the history of UK Athletics.

As good as last year was, this one is setting up to potentially be even better. Teams with high expectations like rifle, men's and women's basketball and softball have yet to begin their seasons, but fall sports have the 2011-12 athletics year off to an amazing start. The fall sports teams have a combined record of 27-9-1 among those with win-loss records, while teams that play tournaments or participate in meets have four first place finishes in eight opportunities.

Here are some of the top storylines from the first month of the season:

Volleyball rallies from early season adversity

Craig Skinner presents junior libero Stephanie Klefot with a game ball commemorating her 1000th career dig. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Craig Skinner presents junior libero Stephanie Klefot with a game ball commemorating her 1000th career dig. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Knowing UK would be hosting a regional in the 2011 NCAA Tournament, the Wildcats had high goals entering the season, wanting to position themselves to potentially play in the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight in Memorial Coliseum. The season, though, did not get off to the best start. Volleyball lost two of its first four matches, both by sweeps. The second came at home against Cincinnati and the Cats did not hesitate to call the performance "embarrassing".

Since then, the Wildcats have been anything but embarrassing on the floor, winning 10 of 11 matches to run their record to 12-3 on the season, 3-1 in SEC play. In the 10 wins, UK has won an astounding 30-of-33 sets. The lone loss came in the toughest game the conference has to offer: on the road against No. 6 Florida.

After winning SEC Libero of the Year a season ago, junior Stephanie Klefot has been a defensive stalwart. Averaging nearly five digs per set, Klefot became the 11th player in school history with 1,000 digs three weeks ago. UK's attack is a balanced one, with five players averaging at least two kills per set, including junior Ashley Frazier with a team-leading 2.73.

Men's and women's soccer making a mark

Both the men's and women's soccer teams recently entered conference play having established themselves as contenders during difficult non-conference schedules.

Senior forward Kelsey Hunyadi has tallied 20 points in 10 games this season (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics) Senior forward Kelsey Hunyadi has tallied 20 points in 10 games this season (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
At 8-2-0, Jon Lipsitz and his women's team rank 12th in the nation in the RPI, the highest rating in program history.  Seven of the Wildcats' 10 games have come against teams ranked in the top 100 of the RPI, with UK winning five. The team started the year with six straight wins, but a loss to No. 24 Dayton on Sept. 17 ended the streak and forced Lipsitz to cut the beard he promised to grow until his team's first loss.

After losing their next game at Alabama in the SEC opener, UK bounced back with a 4-1 win over Auburn in which Kelsey Hunyadi tied a career-high with five points. Her two goals and one assist moved her point total on the season to 20, putting her on pace to make a run at the school record.

Since arriving at UK before the 2009 season, Lipsitz has built the program quickly. The Cats advanced to the SEC Tournament Quarterfinals a season ago and appear poised to improve upon that finish in a difficult conference that features nine teams in the RPI top 50. Next up for UK is a pair of road games this weekend against South Carolina and Florida.

Ian Collins and the men's team (7-4-1) currently are ranked 21st in the nation. Right off the bat, UK made a statement with a home upset of then-No. 9 ranked Michigan en route to a 4-0-1 start. The Wildcats are in now the midst of a stretch of games that called for them to travel nearly 10,000 miles in three weeks and face some of the country's top teams. Though the Cats have lost four games during that time, three of the losses have come at the hands of teams ranked in the top 20 and all have been on the road.

Most recently, UK suffered an overtime loss against No. 10 Central Florida, but sophomore Tyler Riggs scored his team-leading ninth goal. Riggs leads one of the nation's top attacks and ranks among NCAA leaders in both points and goals. Junior Matt Lodge also keys UK's high-octane offense and has tallied seven goals and seven assists.

Don't let the record fool you, because UK is more than capable of making noise in the post-season. With that stellar offense, an improving defense and the experience of playing an exceptionally tough schedule, there won't be a challenge the Cats face that they won't be capable of overcoming. UK next faces Florida International at noon ET Sunday in the second game of play in Conference USA.

Orta leads cross country's strong start

Junior Luis Orta has twice won SEC Runner of the Week this season. (UK Athletics) Junior Luis Orta has twice won SEC Runner of the Week this season. (UK Athletics)
Following a strong first two seasons at UK, junior Luis Orta entered the season with high expectations. Looking to improve on his three top-five meet finishes from a year ago, Orta has exceeded the goals head coach Don Weber set for him.

In the opening two meets of 2011, the Caracas, Venezuela, native has dominated, leading the men's team to a pair of wins in the Belmont/VU Opener and the Tennessee Invitational. Orta placed first in both meets, including finishing the 8,000-meter course at the Tennessee Invitational over 17 seconds faster than his nearest competitor. Orta was named SEC Men's Runner of the Week after both wins, the second and third times he earned the award in his career.

The women's team has also had a successful start to the season, placing first in the Tennessee Invitational and third in the Belmont/VU Opener. Junior Chelsea Oswald has paced the Cats in both meets.

The men's and women's cross country teams are in action again this weekend in the Greater Louisville Invitational in Louisville, Ky.

Men's, women's golf in full swing

Women's golf head coach Golda Johansson Borst is in her second season as head coach and is looking to build on a successful first year that saw the team advance to post-season play for the first time since 2008. Things are looking good so far as UK finished third in its first tournament of the season, the Texas A&M "Mo"Morial. The finish is the best of Borst's tenure. Senior Ashlee Rose and junior Ashleigh Albrecht each finished in the top 10 of individual play to lead the team.

Women's golf is the only fall sport with a home event this weekend, as they host the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational Friday through Sunday.

Men's golf has had three events already this season, including a first place finish in the UK Bluegrass Fall Invitational two weeks ago. Sophomore Cody Martin has been steady for UK, earning top-five finishes in all three tournaments. UK next plays in the Bearcat Invitational in Hebron, Ky., Oct. 10-11.

Sept. 18 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, Sept. 18:

Volleball: Ann Armes

Senior Ann Armes provided the spark for the Blue and White in UK's perfect 2-0 weekend. Armes was sensational both offensively and defensively. Armes posted a career-high seven rejections and added her third match with 10 or more kills in UK's victory over Georgia to preserve Kentucky's ninth consecutive victory. Armes struck for the 11 kills on a .450 hitting clip. In Kentucky's victory over Auburn, Armes posted seven kills and did not commit an error with a .778 hitting percentage. Her two aces in the win over the Bulldogs was also a season-high. Only one other player has tallied seven or more blocks in a match this season for the Wildcats. Armes currently ranks second in the SEC in hitting percentage and sixth for blocks in conference matches.

Men's tennis: Tom Jomby

Jomby went 3-1 at the Olympia Fields Invitational, including his first career win over a ranked foe at the collegiate level when he took down No. 28 Casey Watt of Notre Dame in dominating fashion 6-2, 6-0.

Volleball: Stephanie Klefot

Junior Stephanie Klefot posted a pair of 17-dig matches to help preserve UK's unbeaten streak in the month of September. Klefot has now charted 10 or more digs in 12 matches this season and 50 in her career. With 34 digs this weekend, she moved into eighth place all-time at Kentucky with 1,062 career scoops. Furthermore, Klefot's serve-receive line continues to be incredible. She received a team-high 42 serves in UK's two victories and did not commit an error.

Men's golf: Cody Martin

  • Finished in second at the UK Bluegrass Fall Invitational with a final score of 1-over par.
  • For the second-straight tournament, Martin led the Wildcats with the lowest score on the team.
  • Led UK to the team title at the UK Bluegrass Fall Invitational.

Men's tennis: Alex Musialek

Musialek had a great start to the fall season, earning two wins over ranked foes at the Olympia Fields Invitational. The senior defeated No. 113 Ben Chen of Texas and No. 45 Nick Andrews of California at the event. Musialek went 3-1 at the tournament with his only loss coming to No. 7 Dennis Nevolo.

Football: Morgan Newton

Set career highs by completing 27 of 41 passes for 255 yards and two touchdowns.

Volleball: Lauren O'Conner

Freshman Lauren O'Conner continues to soar for the Wildcats, this time charting a team-high 22 kills and committing just four errors on 57 attempts in UK's 2-0 week. O'Conner tallied a career-high 14 kills in UK's victory over Georgia to keep UK's record in the month of September unscathed. She also charted her first career service ace in the victory as well. Furthermore, O'Conner's .364 hitting clip against Georgia matches a career-high. O'Conner has been a consistent performer for the Blue and White with at least seven or more kills in Kentucky's nine consecutive victories. She has posted six matches with 10 or more kills in that stretch.

Cross country: Luis Orta

  • Won the Tennessee Invitational, his second-consecutive first-place finish this season.
  • Led the men's team to its second team title in as many events this year.

Men's soccer: Tyler Riggs

Sophomore star Tyler Riggs continued his breakout season with three goals during No. 29 UK's conquest of the 2011 Gamecock Classic ... Riggs led UK to a 2-1 win over High Point on Friday and a shelling of No. 15 Brown, 5-1 on Sunday ... A native of Louisville, Ky., Riggs netted the first goal of the game vs. High Point on Friday, putting UK in position to win the Gamecock Classic with a match with Brown Sunday ... Riggs led UK to the dominating win, netting two goals as UK posted its second win over a top-15 foe in 2011 ... He sparked UK's first five-goal outing since the season opener in 2008 ... In the win Sunday vs. Brown, Riggs fired a six shots in just over 80 minutes, with all six coming on target ... Riggs' three goals came against two quality opponents, as No. 15 Brown finished in the NCAA Elite Eight in 2010 and High Point is coming off a 16-win season and an unbeaten slate in conference play ... Through nine games, Riggs has an eye-popping eight goals and four assists, ranking among the NCAA leaders in goals scored ... Riggs was honored with NSCAA Player of the Week, C-USA Offensive Player of the Week and Soccer America National Player of the week honors during the opening weekend after helping UK claim the 2011 UK Invitational Championship.

Men's tennis: Anthony Rossi

Rossi, who is ranked No. 95 in the nation by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, had an impressive run to the Duke Fab Four singles title, earning arguably the best singles win of his career in the semifinals on Saturday when he took down Duke's top-ranked player and No. 4-ranked Henrique Cunha. Rossi wrapped up the tournament with a dominating 6-3, 6-3 win over Luke Marchese to claim the tournament title.

Link: Luis Orta on track to reach distant goals

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Luis Orta led cross country to victory in the Belmont-VU Opener, finishing first in the 5K. (UK Athletics) Luis Orta led cross country to victory in the Belmont-VU Opener, finishing first in the 5K. (UK Athletics)
Men's cross country got off to a winning start this past weekend in the Belmont-VU Opener. Junior Luis Orta led the Cats to victory, besting all runners in the 5K with a time of 15:22.40. Paul Martin of the Kentucky Kernel wrote a story on Orta's transition to UK coming from Venezuela and his future. Here is an excerpt:

It is evident that this student athlete has made much progress since arriving at UK. He is currently working on a double major in international commerce and Spanish, with a minor in Latin American Studies. Orta added with a smile, "I love Lexington; it is an awesome place. I'm happy and comfortable, and I really appreciate the safety here. It's a dream come true."

The future looks bright for Orta. He will compete in the Pan American Games hosted by Guadalajara, Mexico, in October. This particular event is second only to the Olympics in terms of importance to the sport of cross-country. Orta will participate in the 5K race and the 3K steeplechase event, both conducted on regular track surfaces. When asked about what Orta needs to do in preparation for the Pan American Games, UK cross country head coach Don Weber said, "What he can do is to continue to work hard and be daring on the track. He has to be willing to take risks during the race to discover his full ability and potential."

Sept. 4 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, Sept. 4:

Football: Winston Guy

  • Two interceptions
  • 10 tackles
  • 2.5 tackles for loss

Volleyball: Christine Hartmann

Setter Christine Hartmann started her first three matches of the season and directed Kentucky to a trio of sweeps en route to earning All-Tournament team honors as the Wildcats claimed the Kentucky Classic. Hartmann passed out 10.3 assists per set as four players averaged 2.20 kills per frame or more in UK's impressive weekend. Hartmann notched 32 or more assists in all three matches while also contributing 11 kills of her own including a 5 kill performance on .667 hitting in an impressive sweep of Western Kentucky, a team receiving votes this week in the AVCA poll. Hartmann saved her best performance for UK's clinching win over Virginia Tech with a season-best 39 assists as UK charted a .215 hitting clip and three players reached double-figures in the kills column.

Women's soccer: Kelsey Hunyadi

Kelsey Hunyadi had a banner weekend in helping the Wildcats win the Cardinal Classic championship ... Hunyadi assisted on the golden-goal in UK's 2-1 overtime win against Central Michigan on Friday night ... She then scored Kentucky's first goal in Sunday's 2-1 victory over previously undefeated Baylor ... She wasn't finished though, as she delivered another perfect corner kick that was headed home for the game-winner in the 84th minute ... She finished with a goal and two assists on game-winners for the weekend ... She leads the team with 11 points on four goals and three assists, also team highs ... Hunyadi is off to the hottest individual start in program history ... She has scored a point in every match this season and her 11 points is the most by any Wildcat in school history through the first five games.

Stephanie Klefot was named MVP of the Kentucky Classic. Stephanie Klefot was named MVP of the Kentucky Classic.

Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot

Junior Stephanie Klefot was the epitome of consistency for the Wildcats this weekend en route to capturing the Kentucky Classic in sweeps of three opponents. Klefot was tabbed the tournament MVP for her performance in which she averaged 5.00 digs per set for the weekend and a 5.25 digs per set for the week. Klefot also added a bit of offense to her performance with a squad-best five aces in the three matches - including a season-high three in a win over Ohio. She currently leads the SEC with 5.17 digs per set for the season and she has topped 10 or more digs in every match this season.

Men's soccer: Matt Lodge

Kentucky junior Matt Lodge had a dynamic weekend, pacing the No. 21 Wildcats to the title in the 10th annual UK Invitational ... A native of Rossington, England, Lodge tallied two goals and an assist in the two games, with a goal in each contest ... Spearheaded a UK attack that fired 52 total shots in two games, with Lodge taking a team-best 14 efforts, including a career-high eight-shot game in a win over Wright State on Friday night ... Netted his first goal of the season on Friday vs. Horizon League power WSU, a gorgeous strike that gave UK the win ... On Sunday, gave UK an early lead with another eye-popping goal amongst traffic inside the box ... Took a team-high six shots on Sunday, with UK firing 28 total team shots, ranking tied for fourth-most in UK single-game history ... Lodge had several close calls on the weekend, hitting the crossbar and the post twice each in the two games ... A two-time All-Conference USA honoree and UK's first freshman All-America selection in 2009, Lodge owns 12 goals and six assists in his career, including five game-winning goals.  

Volleyball: Lauren O'Conner

Freshman Lauren O'Conner broke out as UK's top offensive threat en route to three consecutive sweeps in capturing the Kentucky Classic this weekend. O'Conner was simply spectacular topping the team with 3.09 kills per set which included three matches with 10 or more kills as she paced the UK attack in all three victories and earned All-Tournament team honors for her efforts. Her 13 hammers in a tournament-clinching win over Virginia Tech is a career-high. O'Conner smashed seven kills in the final stanza that UK won 29-27 to preserve its unblemished mark in its home tournament. She had not totaled more than seven kills in a match in her previous four appearances. O'Conner also had a career-high .364 hitting clip in a win over Ohio. Her breakout performance began against Western Kentucky, a team receiving votes in this week's AVCA poll, with a then career-best 11 kills on .216 hitting with career-bests in digs (3) and blocks (3). She now is tied for the team lead with three matches with 10 or more kills in a match, and is the only player on the team to string together three straight matches with that output.

Cross country: Luis Orta

University of Kentucky junior runner Luis Orta began the 2011 cross country season on the right foot Friday evening by winning the Belmont-VU Opener with a first-place time of 15:22.40. Orta's time on the 5K course at Percy Warner Park in Nashville, Tenn., led the men's team to a first-place finish. Orta has led the Wildcats in six of the last seven races dating back to the beginning of the 2010 season.

Women's soccer: Stuart Pope

Stuart Pope netted the golden-goal in Kentucky's 2-1 overtime win over Central Michigan ... It was her second goal of the season ... She connected on the goal, heading in a corner kick in the 95th minute ... Pope finished with five shots on the weekend

Football: Ronnie Sneed

  • One interception
  • Career-high 10 tackles

Football: Danny Trevathan

  • 13 tackles

Football: Ryan Tydlacka

  • Seven punts for 47.1-yard average
  • Three punts inside 10-yard line

The inaugural Scratchies

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scratchies logo award (2).jpgWhat happens when you have no games, finals week, the end of the year approaching and a blogger with time on his hands? You get the Scratchies (not a skin disease). Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I'm proud (or embarrassed) to introduce the inaugural Scratchies, an end-of-the-semester awards rundown that I plan hope to do at the end of every fall and spring semester to recap the previous athletics season.

Not to be confused with ESPN's Herbie Awards or UK's end-of-the-year CATSPY Awards, the Scratchies offer no actual hardware of glitzy awards show. Instead, these honorees have earned the appreciation of a lowly blogger trying to pass the time of a six-day game-less stretch.

Nonetheless, check back during finals week of the spring semester for the Spring Semester 2011 Scratchies Awards. Without further ado, I give you the 2010 Fall Semester Scratchies. And please feel free to disagree and comment on who you think should have won.

MVW (Most Valuable Wildcat)
Randall Cobb, football
- Who else? Mr. Do Everything was, well, just about everything for the Kentucky football team. He caught passes, ran the ball from the quarterback position, returned punts and kicks, held snaps, took out your trash, and even got the paper. What didn't Cobb do this year? He led the Southeastern Conference with 2,192 all-purpose yards, broke the career touchdown mark at UK and was the program's first Associated Press first-team All-American since Derek Abney in 2002.

The Dream Team (team of the semester)
Men's basketball - I'm going to take a lot of grief for this one because the Cats are only nine games into the season, but John Calipari's team has been the most impressive through the first semester. Given the schedule UK has had to manage through - most computers rank Kentucky's early season slate as one of the toughest in the nation - and the players Calipari had to replace, the Cats have played remarkably well in early season tests. Enes Kanter's status remains up in the air, but this team still has a chance to make a deep run come March.

RBW_6808.jpgThe Adolph Rupp Award (coach of the semester)
Craig Skinner, volleyball
- One could make a case for Skinner winning this award just about every year. Too often overlooked for his team's accomplishments, Skinner has put together arguably the steadiest program at UK in guiding the Cats to six straight NCAA Tournament berths. The team's appearance this year may have been his most impressive. Despite losing All-SEC stalwarts Sarah Rumely, BriAnne Sauer and Sarah Mendoza, and losing four of five midway through the season, Kentucky rallied down the stretch to win six of seven and make the NCAA Tournament.

The Jose Bautista Award (most improved player)
Danny Trevathan, football
- Danny Trevathan has long been touted as the next great in a recent trend of star linebackers at Kentucky, but nobody could have predicted Trevathan would have the type of breakthrough season he enjoyed in 2010. On a defense in serious need of a leader, Trevathan emerged from last year's somewhat limited role and became one of the best linebackers in the SEC. Trevathan led the SEC with 130 tackles.

The Butler Award (surprise team)
Women's soccer - In Jon Lipsitz's first season as head coach, the Cats struggled just to find the back of the net much less wins. A season after scoring 11 goals on the year, Lipsitz's 2010 team managed to match that in two games alone against Mississippi State and Vanderbilt. With a newfound offense and a continually stingy defense, the Cats made the SEC Tournament and nearly pulled off an upset of No. 2 seed South Carolina. With most of this season's starters returning next year, the future is extremely bright.

One Shining Moment (best moment)
Football's upset of No. 10 South Carolina
- Joker Phillips notched one of the few signature victories that his predecessor, Rich Brooks, could not attain. In snapping a 10-game losing streak to South Carolina and beating coach Steve Spurrier for the first time, UK ended one of the notorious streaks that has plagued the program. Mike Hartline's 24-yard pass to Randall Cobb put the Cats ahead and Anthony Mosley's interception in the end zone sealed the victory.

The "band is out on the field" Award (best game)
Volleyball's upset of No. 15 LSU
- In desperate need of a marquee win to enhance its NCAA Tournament resume, the Kentucky volleyball team rallied for a come-from-behind 3-2 win over defending conference champion LSU on Senior Day. The victory proved to be the turnaround victory Skinner's team was looking for as the Cats made their fifth straight NCAA Tournament.

52_UK_Vanderbilt_14_ASB.JPGThe Doug Flutie Hail Mary Award (best play)
Cobb's sensational run
- Already in the midst of a career rushing day against Vanderbilt, Randall Cobb saved his best run for last. On a designed throw from the quarterback position, the 5-foot-10, 186-pound junior scrambled away from two would-be sacks, ran down the left sideline, cut it back across the field and shook a couple more defenders -- all before finally running out of gas and stepping out of bounds on the right sideline.

The Cam Newton Award (breakthrough player)
Eric Quigley, men's tennis
- Not that Quigley isn't already a star at UK, but this fall season cemented his status as one of the best players of the 2010-11 athletics class. Quigley won the USTA/ITA Ohio Valley Regional Indoor Championship in dominating fashion, defeating the country's No. 1-ranked player. Quigley also made school history by becoming only the sixth player in school history to play in the finals of a collegiate grand slam.

All-Calipari Team (All-Freshman team)
Caitlin Landis, women's soccer
- Scored seven goals in her first season
Brandon Knight, men's basketball - Averaging 17.4 points and has dished out 33 assists through his first nine career games
Tyler Beadle, men's soccer - Recorded four shutouts as the full-time starter
Maegan Conwright, women's basketball - First-year point guard is averaging 9.1 points
Emily Holsopple, rifle - Represented UK at the USA Shooting Championships

All-Up-and-Comers (non-freshmen on the rise)
Sophomore Stephanie Klefot, volleyball
- Named SEC Libero of the Year
Sophomore Chelsea Oswald, cross country - Won the Iona Meet of Champions this fall
Sophomore Larry Warford, football - Garnered All-SEC honors in first full-time duty
Junior Kelsey Hunyadi, women's soccer - Led UK with eight goals despite missing four games
Junior DeAndre Liggins, men's basketball - Sure, he's a veteran, but in his first season as a starter, he's averaging 9.9 points

All-Wildcat Team (The Scratchies equivalent of the All-America team)
Freshman Terrence Jones, men's basketball
- Leads the team in scoring (18.9) and rebounding (10.2)
Senior Victoria Dunlap, women's basketball - Reigning SEC Player of the Year leads the SEC in scoring (19.3), rebounding (11.4), steals (3.7) and blocks (2.3).
Senior Lauren Rapp, volleyball - Finished seventh in school history with 1,280 kills
Eric Quigley, men's tennis - See above
Randall Cobb, football - See above

All-Rex Ryan Team (when you need a sound bite, these are your go-to guys)
Senior Ricky Lumpkin, football
Ian Collins, men's soccer
Jon Lipsitz, women's soccer
Derrick Locke, football
Amber Smith, women's basketball

A77G2095.jpgThe Craig Sager Award (best dressed)
Jon Lipsitz, women's soccer -
He wears a suit on the sidelines of every soccer game. Enough said. And yes, that Craig Sager Award has just a touch of sarcasm to it. And no, Lipsitz does not dress like Craig Sager.

The Streak (strangest stat or streak)
Overtime, anyone?
- The men's soccer team played in a school-record nine overtime games in 2010. The nine overtime games came during a 12-game stretch in which the Cats battled a slew of injuries.

The Steve Bartman Award (best blooper)
Chris Matthews, football
- During one of Joker Phillips' weekly news conferences, Matthews, who had just finished up with interviews of his own, sat in the back of the media room minding his business while dozens of reporters fired questions at Phillips. In a rather quiet room, a loud bang turned the attention of everyone to Matthews lying on the floor. Matthews had leaned back too far and fell out of his seat. It was one of those things where you had to be there.

He said what? (quote of the semester)
"I love that kid. He does everything that you want a center or a big man to do. He plays ball screens great, he rebounds the basketball, he blocks shots. He's the mother hen out there." - Boston coach Patrick Chambers on men's basketball forward Josh Harrellson

The "Get Your Popcorn Ready" Award (best celebration/dance)
Matthew Mitchell, women's basketball
- Already famous/notorious (you choose the adjective) for being one of the most outspokenly confident and hilarious men in UK's athletics department, Mitchell saved his best moment for this year's Big Blue Madness. With "The Dougie" being the craze these days, Mitchell decided to bust out the move in front of 24,000 fans during the UK women's basketball team's introductions. Only the video itself of the dance can do it justice.

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