UK rebounded from a three-game sweep at LSU with a 6-3 win over Austin Peay on Tuesday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Nothing went the way of the Kentucky baseball team last weekend.
The Wildcats played their worst weekend series of the season. LSU - arguably the nation's best team - played exceptionally well in front of a raucous home crowd. And it didn't help that every break went the Tigers' way.
The result was a three-game sweep - UK's first weekend series loss of the season - as the Wildcats were outscored 29-6.
"That wasn't a one-inning blip," head coach Gary Henderson said. "We just didn't play well."
As disappointing as the performance was, Henderson isn't sounding any alarms. There were issues that needed addressing, but UK had played too much good baseball leading up to the road trip to Baton Rouge, La., for grave concerns.
"Baseball's like that," Henderson said. "You've gotta be able to experience those weekends, get through 'em and then get rid of them and then get on to the next one."
But before the Cats could move to the next weekend, they faced a midweek matchup with Austin Peay in a game that suddenly took on additional importance as UK sought to avoid a four-game skid. Behind a second straight strong start by freshman Kyle Cody, the Cats won 6-3 on Tuesday night.
"I thought it was really important," Henderson said. "Austin Peay's a good team, they've got a really good chance of winning the (Ohio Valley Conference), they have really good players, a good track record. For us to play well, pitch well - especially defensively play well - was a really good sign. I thought we came back and played with a lot of confidence."
The task now becomes transferring that confidence back into Southeastern Conference play.
UK (23-9, 6-6 SEC) will host Tennessee (14-17, 3-9 SEC) for a three-game set beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET on Friday. The Volunteers have lost six straight in conference play, but Henderson singled out Saturday and Sunday starters Nick Williams and Zack Godley as pitchers who will give the Cats all they can handle.
"They present the challenges of being an SEC team that's got two solid starting pitchers, and they're in a corner," Henderson said. "They'll show up and they'll be aggressive and they'll fight. We need to respond accordingly."
UK's pitching staff, meanwhile, will face an offense reminiscent of the one it sees in practice every day. The Volunteers have just eight home runs on the season, but have already stolen 54 bases, which will be a test of the Wildcats' ability to control the running game. UK has allowed just 13 steals in 22 attempts in 2013.
"They try to rattle you a little bit," Henderson said. "Our guys typically are very good with that type of approach because it's similar to ours."
Henderson believes it important for the Wildcats to embrace their own offensive identity. At times this season - particularly the first two games at LSU - UK has tried to go against that nature and the result has been pop-ups aplenty.
"It's not a home-run game anymore; it's a different game," Henderson said. "It just is and we need to approach it where we really emphasize or utilize or accentuate our talents, our skills. We're a line-drive, doubles-hitting club and that's how we need to approach it."
In emphasizing that approach, Henderson used a tweaked lineup in the Austin Peay win. It was by no means an overhaul, but Austin Cousino, after leading off in every game of his first season and a half at UK, moved into the three hole, freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett led off and fellow newcomer Zack Storm got his first-career start.
Barrett and Cousino are likely to stay in those spots on Friday. Beyond that, anything could happen.
"I don't think anything's permanent," Henderson said. "That's where we are now, but a baseball lineup is constantly in flux."
Regardless, don't view the Tennessee series as some sort of proving ground or place for experimentation. The Cats will play 14 of their next 16 games against ranked opponents, but this weekend is the priority.
"Anybody in this league is good enough to beat anybody," Henderson said. "That's proven every weekend."
Head coach Rachel Lawson recorded her school-record 182nd career victory in the Wildcats' 6-2 win over Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
This weekend will mark a monumental moment for the Kentucky softball program. Not only do the Wildcats welcome the third-ranked Florida Gators, but the Grand Opening Ceremony of the newly renovated UK Softball Complex is set to precede Saturday's 1 p.m. ET game.
Gates will open at 11:30 a.m. with pregame festivities slated to begin at 11:45. Athletic's Director Mitch Barnhart, head coach Rachel Lawson and select others will be speaking to officially open the new stadium.
Six years ago Barnhart hired Lawson as UK's new softball coach. Since Lawson's arrival, the program has made major strides and now the athletic department is rewarding the hard work of the coaches and players by providing them a brand-new playing atmosphere.
This is a big moment in UK softball history and Lawson is the first to recognize who is responsible for it all and give thanks.
"First you have to thank the Big Blue Nation," Lawson said. "If we didn't have the fan support and the financial support you would never see an amazing stadium like this going up. You have to thank everybody who works so hard in the athletic department to make these things possible."
Of course Lawson wouldn't be a part of this weekend's celebration had she not been hired back in July 2007. It was Barnhart's decision, but there was another member of the athletic department who played a key role in the process.
"You have to thank Mitch but you have to thank (associate athletic's director) John Cropp for hiring me," Lawson said. "Mitch ultimately made the decision but Coach Cropp was the one that went out and believed in me."
On Wednesday, the Wildcats traveled to Frankfort, Ky., to compete in a doubleheader against Eastern Kentucky. UK took the opener 6-2, giving Lawson her school-record 182nd career victory.
Lawson, who is humbled by the whole experience, is always striving for more and is looking for ways she can improve the program.
However, she did take a moment after to sit back and take it all in.
"It's really cool," Lawson said. "You never stop and think about what you accomplish you only keep moving forward. It was a brief moment in time where I got to stop and I got to think about all the people that helped me get here."
Associate head coach Kristine Himes has been with Lawson since day one at UK and Lawson says she wouldn't be where she is today without her. Lawson also took time to thank the athletic department and all the players that helped rack up the record amount of victories.
A few minutes was enough time for Lawson to think about breaking the record as she quickly turned her focus back to the future goals of the program.
"That's a cool moment, with that said I know we all want a national championship," Lawson said. "While the wins are incredible and it's good to get to that point, it will be even better when we move forward. Every team at Kentucky, our goal should be to win the SEC and to win national championships, that's what we all do. Once you get there and you have one, you're going to want another and another."
Fans should be in for a treat this weekend with the Gators coming into town. Florida is an impressive 39-4 on the season and 12-3 in conference play, but the Cats are having a tremendous season themselves and have no reason to back down.
With the 18th-ranked Wildcats sitting at 8-4 in SEC play, a series win over the Gators would give them loads of confidence heading forward. Lawson knows her Wildcats have a huge challenge in front of them but also realizes it's a great opportunity for them to make a statement.
"It's going to be quite a challenge," Lawson said. "With that said, us and Florida are usually good games. They are usually played hard and played clean and usually they are good television games. Hopefully that will continue this weekend and we can get some wins."
When Lawson was brought in to lead the Wildcats back in '07, one of the things on the top of the athletic department's list was to build the softball team a new facility. The opening of the stadium hasn't been a major shock for Lawson, however the dedication and pace that everything has come together has really taken the sixth-year head coach by surprise.
"I knew it would be coming but for it to be coming so soon and in such a huge fashion has been such a huge surprise for me," Lawson said. "Everything that we have asked for is actually happening. They have gone top rate with everything in here. It's going to one of the best if not the best facility in the country."
Cedric Kauffmann has guided the men's tennis team to the No. 8 ranking in his first year as head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Kentucky men's tennis is team is very good. The No. 8 ranking next to its name suggests that is so.
Cedric Kauffmann, UK men's tennis head coach, would agree. But sometimes very good just doesn't cut it, especially when the head coach holds his program to such high standards.
"I thought we started a little bit better than I expected, and in the middle we took some losses," said Kauffmann. "Overall, they're doing very well. But I'm a perfectionist and I'm very picky, so very good is just not good enough."
The No. 8 Wildcats (19-8, 6-4 SEC) are in the midst of yet another terrific season as they battle through the war that is Southeastern Conference men's tennis. They have eight wins against current top-25 teams including two wins against teams in the top six in No. 3 Georgia and No. 6 Ole Miss. UK also boasts two players in the top 25 in the singles rankings in senior team captain No. 19 Anthony Rossi and No. 21 Tom Jomby.
Those two upperclassmen along with junior Grant Roberts have been given a little extra burden to carry this season as Kauffmann has been forced to fill half of his singles lineup with freshmen. With the loss of junior Alejandro Gomez to injury earlier this year, the lineup got much younger and inexperienced. It also made Kauffmann's job more challenging as UK looks for a strong finish to its regular season.
In Gomez's absence, Kauffmann would like to see a bit more urgency, especially from his younger players, heading into the postseason.
"We've had to do it quicker since we lost Gomez," said Kauffmann. "I have three freshmen in my lineup out of six. It's not easy. My freshmen sometimes act like freshmen. It's OK because they're freshmen, but I don't accept it.
"You can see if you come to a match that there is a difference in the body language in my freshmen than to Rossi or Grant Roberts. You can see the difference. What I want to see not just through one through six, but one through 12, is the way you conduct yourself on the court and how you take care of business every day, and not just talking about it."
Kauffmann, who is enjoying his first season as head coach after serving as an assistant coach to former head coach Dennis Emery since 2005, says things haven't changed all that much in his new role, but there have been plenty of challenges in following up last year's SEC regular-season championship.
The biggest challenge heading into the season was finding out if returning players like Rossi and Jomby would be able to handle the roles of No. 1 and No. 2 in the UK singles lineup with UK great Eric Quigley and fellow senior Alex Musialek departing last year. Fortunately for Kauffmann, while those departed players are irreplaceable in many respects, Rossi and Jomby have filled a very deep void and helped make Kauffmann's transition to head coach smoother than expected.
"Rossi and Tom have done a good job replacing the one and two spots," said Kauffmann. "They're very, very good. What Quigley and Musialek did was show up in the big matches and the big moments, especially in the postseason. They came up big.
"I expect Tom and Anthony to do the same in the coming weeks. But they've done a tremendous job filling those shoes."
The shoes left by Emery for Kauffmann were oversized as well because Kauffmann's first match as head coach at UK would be his first as a head coach at the collegiate level.
Emery had basically built the entire men's tennis program from the ground up in his 30-year career as the UK tennis head coach, acquiring legendary status in amassing 655 wins and 23 NCAA Tournament appearances, and is responsible for nearly half of UK's all-time wins. He also lays claim to two SEC championships.
Kauffmann, however, has remained true to himself and the lessons he'd learned from Emery while coaching by his side for the last eight seasons while also playing for him for four as a Wildcat. Not much, other than some extra office duties, has changed the way Kauffmann handles his business. He has, however, found losses a little more difficult to deal with in his new role.
"I don't feel that much different," said Kauffmann. "I maybe just blame myself a little bit more which is normal. If something goes wrong or we lose, I can tell the guys you didn't do this right or wrong, I kind of blame myself first. What could I have done better for this kid to play better and do more of, which is good."
What Kauffmann has come to realize, however, is that there is more to being a tennis coach than coaching tennis. He's learned that there's more to being a student-athlete than just being an athlete. He's taken it upon himself to improve the lives of everyone in and around his program no matter who they are or what they do.
Whether it's improving the skill of the last man on the team or having a roster full of gentlemen, Kauffmann wants his players to constantly grow. That's what he claims is his job.
"I pay a little bit more attention to everybody on the team," said Kauffmann now that he is a head coach. "Even when people are not playing, at the end of the day, I know my job is measured on wins and losses and how we do in the SEC, but I try as a head coach to do more than that.
"I try to make them grow and attack them as much what they do on the tennis court as much as saying 'hi' to people, looking them in the eye, opening the door for the ladies."
As far as results go, he's doing his job just fine. No, the Wildcats won't win the regular-season conference title this year as Georgia has already clinched, but there is plenty of optimism left for a successful postseason run.
With the SEC Championships just around the corner and only three regular-season matches left, Kauffmann wants his team to start preparing for the postseason by treating the remaining matches as such with challenges on the road at Florida and South Carolina.
"We talk about (the postseason) at the beginning of the season," said Kauffmann. "A little bit of reminding when I feel it's not good enough. I just want them to treat each match like it is postseason. I think that's why Virginia, who is the No. 1 team, has not lost this season. They don't take anyone for granted in their play. That's what I'm looking for from me and this team."
As the conclusion of his first full season as head coach draws near, Kauffmann hopes this team has learned from some of the mistakes it's made along the way as they strive to be a perfect, finished product by season's end. He also knows his team has what it takes to be good enough and to reach the standards he's set for them. If he does his job to the best of his ability, year No. 1 for Kauffmann may finish with a perfect ending.
"Yes, I believe they can win the SEC Tournament," said Kauffmann. "I think they can win at the end of the year. It's going to be physical and mental and all those things, but talent-wise, I think we have enough on the tennis court to do it. After that, I have to do a good job."
John Schlarman is in his first season coaching offensive linemen at Kentucky. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Losing weight is not typically high on the priority list for offensive linemen. Given the size and strength of the defenders who line up across from them each down, mass is almost always an asset.
But as Darrian Miller has gone through his first spring practice in Kentucky's new offense, the pounds have melted off. After working for so long to gain or maintain weight, Miller has dropped 10 pounds without even thinking about it.
"I didn't feel like I wanted to or needed to do that at all," Miller said. "It just sort of happened when we got out here with this fast-paced offense."
Offensive line coach John Schlarman - a former UK offensive lineman - says there's no reason to sound the alarm about the shrinking left tackle. Having spent the last five seasons coaching linemen under offensive coordinator Neal Brown, Miller - now 6-foot-5, 285 pounds - is not a unique case.
"It's very high-paced," Schlarman said. "These guys burn a lot of calories out here in these practices."
If he needed any additional evidence, Schlarman needs look no further than Miller's play in 13 practices so far this spring to reassure himself. Lining up most often opposite Za'Darius Smith - a 6-foot-6, 257-pound defensive end - Miller has more than held his own.
"Darrian Miller, I've been very, very pleased with him this spring," Schlarman said. "He's really had a good spring. He's played very, very consistent. I know we still have two practices left so I hope I don't jinx him, but he's been real consistent all spring long, come to work every day with a great attitude and done a great job on that left side."
Miller, who played well as a sophomore at left tackle in 2012, has shown himself to be a natural in UK's quick-tempo attack. The Lexington, Ky., native had a reputation as a cerebral player over his first two seasons, but reports the speed of the new offense helps him because he has less time to think, paradoxical as it may sound.
"I like to play fast," Miller said. "I think best when I don't have a lot of time, if that makes sense. Sometimes when you have more time to think about stuff, you start second-guessing yourself and you start to get confused, things start blurring together. When you actually know the offense, things sort of pop up and I guess that's what you're supposed to do."
Having established himself as a solid performer this spring, Miller is being asked by his coaches to step up in other areas. When something needed in either of the past two years, Matt Smith and Larry Warford would be the ones saying it. With those two having exhausted their eligibility - though they are still fixtures at practice as they pursue professional careers - the staff wants Miller to help fill the void.
"They've told me several times that they wanted me to step up and be more of a vocal leader," Miller said. "I'm not really all that big on yelling and screaming; I usually try to lead by example. But that's something different that I'm trying to get used to."
Miller is a logical candidate to move into a leadership role because of his experience, something many of his fellow linemen lack.
At right tackle, Jordan Swindle has gotten the majority of first team reps. The true sophomore played in 11 games, but only as a reserve or on special teams. Junior Teven Eatmon-Nared and senior Kevin Mitchell have worked at the two guard spots, but only Mitchell has starting experience and that was at right tackle. At center, redshirt freshman Zach Myers is ahead of the pack.
Left out of that group, but not because he is not a potential starter, is Zach West. The redshirt sophomore started all 12 games last season next to Miller at left guard, but had offseason shoulder surgery. Because of his recovery, West missed the first two weeks of spring and is still working his way back into the mix.
"Zach's coming along," Schlarman said. "I'm proud of him. Just coming off of surgery and getting out here in spring ball and getting some work. There's a lot of guys that could have just kind of gone through non-contact in the spring and probably nobody would have said anything. But Zach's not that type of guy."
Adding West to the conversation at guard and potentially even center, Schlarman sees his group of contenders.
"Right now I would have to say we've got a starting six," Schlarman said. "We've gotta figure out how that six turns into five."
Those six linemen still have the Blue/White Spring Game to make their cases, but final decisions on starters aren't likely to be made before the fall. However, work in the summer could be what lays the foundation the five linemen that start on Aug. 13 vs. Western Kentucky.
"We're nowhere near the shape we need to be in to run this offense for four quarters right now," Schlarman said. "So the summer program is very important for us up front.
"Now they have a little taste of what this is all about. I think they'll really understand the importance of getting into good shape."
Not only do the linemen have a taste for what will be demanded of them next season, but they also have a pretty clear idea of what they could do to opposing defensive lines in the new offense, even if they might be a bit trimmer than a season ago.
"Watching our defensive linemen, I know it's going to take a toll," Miller said. "It's not something that's easy to keep up with. It hurts. It hurts to say the least."
You better throw all your Kentucky gear in the laundry right now, because you're going to need every clean piece of blue clothing you can find.
This weekend, the UK campus will be buzzing with activity, highlighted by the Blue/White Spring Game at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday. But that's far from the only opportunity fans will have to cheer on the Wildcats this weekend. With upwards of 10 events on Friday, Saturday and Sunday across five different sports, it's going to be a Big Blue Weekend.
Let's take a look at your options (all times Eastern):
There's a fair bit of overlap here, but you can make it to doubles play and at least the start of singles at the tennis match before making a short trek north or south to baseball or softball.
Saturday, April 13 (Forecast: Sunny with a high of 57 degrees, zero percent chance of rain) 11:30 a.m. - UK Softball Complex grand opening 1 p.m. - Softball vs. No. 3 Florida (UK Softball Complex) 2 p.m. - Baseball vs. Tennessee (Cliff Hagan Stadium) 4 p.m. - Wildcat Refuge opens (Gate 9 of Commonwealth Stadium) 5 p.m. - Men's soccer spring game vs. Lipscomb (UK Soccer Complex) 5 p.m. - Alumni Association tailgate (Commonwealth Stadium Red Lot, near Gate 4) 5:15 p.m. - Cat Walk (Gate 1 of Commonwealth Stadium) 7 p.m. - Blue/White Spring Game (Commonwealth Stadium)
Does that give you enough to do on a Saturday?
No matter what, start your day at the grand opening of the UK Softball Complex at 11:30 a.m. Refreshments will be available and Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart and head coach Rachel Lawson will speak at the ceremony. From there, you can either stick around for the softball game, head to baseball or some combination of the two.
The baseball game still figures to be going on when pre-spring game festivities begin, but you should have plenty of time to tailgate and maybe even make it to the Cat Walk if you stick around for the end of the game at Cliff Hagan. Gates open at Commonwealth at 6 p.m.
All parking for the spring game is free. A portion of the Green Lot will be reserved, but the remainder is available on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, a shuttle will be available for those wishing to park at Commonwealth and receive transportation to Keeneland and back to the stadium. For complete information on the spring game, visit our Gameday Central page.
Ginny Carroll's walk-off bases loaded single in the bottom of the seventh, led the Cats to a 4-3 victory over Marshall on Tuesday. (Brittany McIntosh, UK Athletics)
It's been a characteristic of the University of Kentucky softball team's 2013 success. And the Wildcats showed off just how tough they are once again Tuesday evening with a bases-loaded walk-off single from junior outfielder Ginny Carroll to earn a 4-3 victory over a pesky Marshall team at the UK Softball Complex.
"It was awesome," Carroll said. "That's one thing Coach (Rachel Lawson) has been getting
on us about is being tough. I think we really showed it tonight and
didn't give up."
UK came back twice in the game, scoring a run in the bottom of the fourth to tie the contest at 1-all and plating three in the bottom of the seventh to win after the Thundering Herd took a 3-1 advantage in the top of the final frame.
The game looked as though it may have been decided after Marshall took a two-run lead heading into the bottom of the seventh and senior hurler Andi Williamson dealing a gem. However, the Cats used a never-say-die mentality with the help of a couple Marshall errors and key hits, including the game-winner from Carroll to come out on top.
Carroll struggled in her first three at-bats but saved her best for last. The Hendersonville, Tenn., native says Lawson tells the Cats in practice that she doesn't care if they only get one hit, so long as they contribute and are doing their jobs.
She certainly did her job on Tuesday and with the pressure on. The Wildcats had one out in the inning with the bags packed, a full count on Carroll and the score tied at three.
Carroll's plan at the plate on the last pitch was simple.
"Since it was a full count I was just looking to protect," Carroll said. "Go after anything I could drive and then let it go if it was a ball. She was a great pitcher and we did a good job of hanging tough with her."
Marshall came into the evening sporting a 25-13 record and having won 15 of its last 16 contests. The Herd featured Williamson in the circle, who leads the country in strike outs and innings pitched and an offense that leads the Conference USA.
Head coach Rachel Lawson was pleased overall with her team's performance. She knows they didn't play their best game of the year but saw something out of her Wildcats that she has seen all season.
That word again. Tough.
"Obviously, the seventh inning we showed how tough we were and that has been a theme for us throughout the entire year," Lawson said. "I thought (Kelsey) Nunley had a good performance on the mound again. I think there were some things we could have done better but Marshall is a really good team. They are one of the best teams in the Conference USA and the best offensive team and for Nunley to keep them down was big for us."
With the victory, head coach Rachel Lawson tied the UK record with her 181st win at Kentucky. In just her sixth season, Lawson has taken the program to new heights and has the 28-10 Wildcats off to one of the best starts in history.
Kentucky travels to Frankfort, Ky., on Wednesday for a twin bill against in state foe Eastern Kentucky. Tomorrow will be a golden opportunity for Lawson to break the school's wins record, but the sixth-year head coach has bigger goals on her mind for this year and the future of the softball program.
"My goal is always to win softball games," Lawson said. "I don't really know that much about the records and such here. Our goal is to get to the (Women's College) World Series so that means we have to continue to win to do it and hopefully my teams will break a lot of records here over the years."
Megan Moir was named the Brad Davis SEC Female Community Service Leader of the Year this week. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Megan Moir and Chelsea Oswald have come to know each other well over the last four years.
Moir is on the Kentucky women's golf team and Oswald is a distance runner on the track and field and cross country teams. They aren't teammates, but their paths have crossed often since Oswald arrived in Lexington a year after Moir in 2009, most frequently as representatives on UK's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, where Moir is president and Oswald the historian.
So when Oswald learned on Thursday that Moir had been named the Brad Davis Southeastern Conference Female Community Service Leader of the Year, Oswald naturally reached out. What Oswald didn't know at the time was congratulations would soon be in order for her as well.
"She actually sent me a text message to congratulate me about my award," Moir said. "And then it was cool because she won the next day."
On Friday, Oswald was named the SEC's H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year, marking the first time since 1999 that UK student-athletes had won both the prestigious Davis and McWhorter awards.
Wildcat teams and athletes have had more than their share of moments of excellence in competition. Competing at the Division I level, of course, is what all of UK's 22 teams have in common. But perhaps more than anything else, the achievements of Moir and Oswald reflect what it means to be a Wildcat off the field.
"To have two people win in the same year, it definitely says something about the department," Moir said.
It says plenty about Moir and Oswald as individuals too.
During her time at UK, Moir has spent an astounding 700 hours serving the community, from inside the borders of Fayette County to across the Atlantic Ocean in Ethiopia with a group of fellow student-athletes. Moir, a native of Louisville, Ky., cites her Christian faith as the inspiration for her commitment to volunteering.
"I've been blessed with so many opportunities and so many privileges just because of the family and the life I was born into," Moir said. "I'm constantly looking at myself seeing how I can use what I've been given to give back and bless other people."
True to her words, Moir plans to use the $10,000 post-graduate scholarship that comes with the Davis award to do just that.
Last May, she received a B.S. degree in accounting and marketing and will complete her master's in sports leadership in a month. She is then planning to spend seven months in Uganda to do ministry and mission work. After that, she'll decide how best to put the scholarship money to use.
"Ideally long term, I want to do financial planning for people living on the margins of society, so I'll probably go back to school to get a master's in family or financial planning or something of that sort," Moir said.
Chelsea Oswald (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Oswald has more definitive plans for how she'll use her $15,000 scholarship. She expects to complete B.S. degrees in biology and psychology in May 2013 and June 2014, respectively. Once she finishes her undergraduate studies, she plans to attend physical therapy school.
If her college career to this point is any indication, you can expect her to fulfill those plans.
With her 4.0 grade-point average, Oswald has received almost every conceivable academic award, including the 2013 NCAA Elite 89 award. She did, however, admit to one close call that nearly blemished her perfect GPA. It was in a course called animal physiology and she was pleasantly surprised to look up her final grade when she returned to her home in Medina, Ohio for the summer and see an "A."
"I wouldn't have been upset if I had gotten a 'B' because I try my hardest with every class," Oswald said. "If I would have gotten a 'B,' I would have known I put all my effort into it. I think that's what success is: just knowing you've applied yourself as best as you can to the task at hand."
Oswald has certainly done that in competition throughout her career and has the results to prove it in 2012-13. She has had her best season under the leadership of first-year head coach Edrick Floreal, earning All-America honors in both cross country and indoor track and field.
"This whole last year has made a complete turnaround," Oswald said. "With the new coaching staff and everything, I think it's a blessing. I'm extremely thankful that they've helped turn my running career around and kind of everything in my life. I'm more positive about everything because I have more confidence."
That confidence translates to all facets, including service. Oswald is active in the track and field team's Soles4Souls shoe drive, mentors a young Lexington-area girl and volunteers with a number of other organizations, following the service-oriented lead of her friend Moir.
"I think it's good to get UK Athletics out there in the community," Oswald said.
And just as Oswald makes an impact in the area for which Moir was honored by the SEC, Moir stands out in the classroom. She is a two-time Academic All-American and graduated summa cum laude a year ago.
Moir and Oswald are two student-athletes who have made the most of every opportunity afforded to them at UK, from the classroom to the community to competition. And even as they received the most individual of awards this week, their reactions show why they are such excellent of examples of what it means to be a Wildcat.
"This award recognizes not only my achievements, but also all the great people who have helped me along the way," Oswald said. "I truly would not have been able to do this without the help of the whole University of Kentucky including my coaches, teammates and family."
"I am so very proud to be a Wildcat and it feels good to be able to represent the university that means so much to me," Moir said.
UK held its third scrimmage of the spring on Saturday at Commonwealth Stadium. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Throughout three practices this week and really most of the spring, the Kentucky defense had its way.
After a particularly lackluster effort from the offense on Friday, Neal Brown threw down the gauntlet to his offensive troops heading into a Saturday scrimmage.
"We challenged them this morning because I didn't think they competed at all yesterday," Brown said. "I thought they turned it down and that wasn't good enough. We're not going to accept not playing hard, not playing physical."
The message was received and the result encouraging.
"We were just trying to respond," sophomore running back Josh Clemons said. "Yesterday the defense got after us a little bit and Coach got onto us and motivated us to come out here and get the job done today."
Mark Stoops said UK's third scrimmage was the offense's best day of the spring. Some of that can be chalked up to the natural "ebb and flow" of spring football - borrowing Brown's words - but Saturday marked a significant step forward as the Wildcats install a new offensive system.
"Today was really the first day that I thought we looked like an SEC offense," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "I thought our guys competed hard today, they had good energy, we finished plays, and they had fun."
Many of the mistakes that have plagued UK throughout the spring - turnovers, penalties, dropped passes, missed assignments - disappeared for a day. As a result, the offense was able to both sustain long drives and hit big plays as the Cats worked for the first time in Commonwealth Stadium, the site of next week's Blue/White Spring Game.
"I think for the first time since I've been here I had one side really take over and make some plays and dominate a practice or a scrimmage," Stoops said.
Fans hearing about the offense's good day will likely picture the ball flying all over the field in Brown's Air Raid attack, and quarterbacks Maxwell Smith, Patrick Towles and Jalen Whitlow did have their best day as a group. The importance of the run, however, should not be dismissed.
"We ran the ball better, which if you run the ball, you can have some opportunities to hit some big play-action passes," Brown said.
The perception that UK's new system is about throwing the ball is wrong to begin with, but considering running back is arguably the deepest and most talented position on the offense, the ground game could become ever more vital.
Jonathan George and especially Raymond Sanders - the two seniors at the position - have consistently impressed throughout the spring and they did so again on Saturday. But it was another player - one who didn't dress once last season - who ripped off the biggest run of the scrimmage on a long touchdown that sounds vaguely similar to an 87-yard run he had back in 2011, at least based on the description of those who saw it.
"I thought Josh Clemons really stood out today," Brown said. "He had a couple of nice runs. That was encouraging. He hit one big run up the side."
The redshirt sophomore is still practicing only every other day as he tries to round back into form after missing a season and a half with a knee injury, but Clemons' confidence is growing by the carry.
"I'm feeling great," Clemons said. "I'm not really thinking about it anymore, just going out there and trying to get better and shake off those cobwebs from however long I was out."
Brown wasn't willing to say Clemons is back to 100 percent just yet, but it means something that he is beginning to feel like he is.
"That's the hardest thing with knees, is mentally," Brown said. "... And if he mentally is there, that's a huge, huge breaking point really. There's probably some things he can get better at, but I was big-time encouraged with him today."
Sanders and George, at least right now, might be better-suited for catching the ball - something backs will be consistently asked to do - but there's plenty of room for a bruising back like Clemons.
"Ray's shifty and probably a little bit better out of the backfield and motion-wise and some things, but Josh is a one-cut, downhill (runner)," Brown said. "He's a load to tackle, and (Dyshawn) Mobley is the same way. Those guys are hard, physical runners."
There was plenty to be positive about in the passing game as well.
Demarco Robinson overcame a stomach virus to give UK a consistent threat at wide receiver, while A.J. Legree came up with some important third-down catches and Rashad Cunningham made progress. Junior-college transfer Steven Borden had his best day of the spring at tight end, while Jordan Aumiller and Tyler Robinson made a couple plays of their own.
But a good day for the offense means the opposite for the defense. UK's line - the defense's most consistent unit this spring - had its moments, but the defense as a whole will need to respond just as the offense did on Saturday.
"The defense came hard last scrimmage, but I guess we held back and let the offense come back and put pressure on us," defensive end Za'Darius Smith said. "But we just gotta keep working, that's the main thing."
The good news is the Cats still have three practices and the spring game to do just that.
"We'll put the best product we can out there next Saturday," Stoops said. "We'll prepare hard this week. We've got a lot to get better at. We've got to make each practice count and each rep count to get better today, this week. And we'll do that."
Demarco Robinson - 28 catches for 297 yards in 2012 - is UK's leading returning receiver. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
Competition, according to every coach in America, is a good thing on the practice field.
It brings the best out of everyone involved and, when game day comes, assures that everyone will have worked for their spots.
For Kentucky's wide receivers at spring practice, competition is no issue. On any given day, there's no guessing which of the targets on the outside will look the best.
UK's coaches don't want to see the competition stop, but they'd like to see that latter trend end soon.
"We have a lot of guys kind of clumped together right now," wide receivers coach Tommy Mainord said. "I'm still looking for that guy to sort of take ownership of the position and say, 'Hey, this is mine.' "
Through 10 practices of spring ball, the player who has come the closest to grabbing hold of a starting position and not letting go is Demarco Robinson. The junior is UK's leading returning receiver with 28 catches for 297 yards in 2012 and has drawn the most consistent praise from Mark Stoops and the rest of the UK coaching staff. But even he is being asked to raise his game.
"Demarco, he needs to be a big-time player for us," offensive coordinator Neal Brown said. "This football team needs him to be a playmaker. And he's never been asked to be in that role, so it's a little bit different."
Robinson has never produced at the college level in that way, but Brown wouldn't be asking if he didn't believe Robinson could do it.
"He's a talented guy," Brown said. "He can run. He can stick his foot in the ground. He can get open. He understands the passing game."
For the rest of the receiving corps, understanding remains an obstacle.
In discussing the installation of Brown's fast-paced attack, the quarterbacks are the ones most often referred to as facing a significant learning curve. But as the weeks of spring practice wear on, it's becoming clear just how much is required of the wide outs.
In his post-practice comments, Stoops has singled out dropped passes as an issue among the wide receivers. As physical a problem as that may seem, its root is very much mental in the estimation of Mainord.
"A lot of it is head-spinning," Mainord said. "That's a lot of our guys. They're heads are spinning still. Maybe they're not grasping the offense as well; maybe they're not playing as fast as they need to play."
The coaches are doing everything they can on the practice field to address that, but they are very much limited by the NCAA rulebook. As much as Mainord and Brown would like to be on the practice field and in the film room with their players for hours on end, they are only allotted limited time. For that reason, it's on a young group of receivers that lacks a single senior to make up for that.
"You can't do it in the time we're allotted by the NCAA," Mainord said. "A lot of these guys gotta get in here and put some time into it on their own, get in there and study on their own on the computer. Everybody's a little bit independent, everybody's got different issues."
Mainord and Brown - who coached together at Texas Tech for the last three seasons - are giving their pupils the tools they need, starting with software that allows for detailed viewing of film of the Red Raider attack, one of the nation's most prolific over the last three years.
"They've got to be mature enough to get up there and do it," Mainord said. "They've got to get up there and do it on their own and say, 'Hey this is what I want to do and I want to be this great.' And some of them are doing that. Some of those guys are doing that; it just hasn't clicked yet. They'll get there."
In five starts last season, Daryl Collins showed flashes of the kind of skillset needed to excel in this new offense. He admits it hasn't been an easy transition, but now has an idea of the level of detail Brown is asking Collins and his teammates to grasp.
"Learning frontside and backside (routes) what you gotta do," Collins said. "You can't just know the frontside and on the backside because you'll mess up and you'll hear it from Coach Brown."
Along with DeMarcus Sweat, A.J. Legree and Rashad Cunningham, Collins is one of four sophomores looking to emerge in the new offense. The youth of the unit makes the growing pains understandable, but it hasn't diminished excitement over what they group will be able to do on opening day.
"We're very eager to get started," Collins said. "I can't wait for the first game to show out the new offense. They say it's the Air Raid, so that's pretty much what we're going to do: put the ball in the air."
True as that sentiment may be, it also ignores an aspect of Brown's offense that often goes unrecognized. Playing wide receiver at UK these days is about a lot more than running and catching and running some more.
"We ask them to block," Brown said. "We're asking these guys to be physical blockers. That's the thing that I was probably most proud of our guys last year at Texas Tech: Our wide outs, they punished people. If you watched us play or you talked to the people we played against, that's one of the first things they're going to talk about, how physical our receivers (were)."
According to Brown, UK's wide receivers and tight ends are "not even close" to where they need to be in terms of physical play. The coaches are demanding the Wildcats be much more willing to embrace the yeoman's work when it comes to blocking, and the same goes for pass catching.
"We need steady. ... We need guys to make routine plays," Brown said. "If they make a great one every once and awhile, that's fine, but I want guys that when the ball is thrown to them they catch it."
Audrey Harrison and her teammates will look to advance to the NCAA Championships with a top-two finish at the Morgantown regional. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
After the Kentucky gymnastics team suffered a setback to its historical season with an eighth-place finish at the Southeastern Conference Championships, head coach Tim Garrison hasn't done very much coaching.
Yes, that sounds alarming. No, it's not as bad as it sounds. It, in all likelihood, is the best thing for UK gymnastics right now.
"I've done less coaching since that meet than I have at any point in the season prior to that, which is great," said Garrison of practice since SECs. "If I'm doing less coaching, that means they're doing more on their own. So I love that."
The Wildcats have responded, even if it's just in the practice gym. They've taken ownership of what happened in Little Rock, Ark., that day and have tried to get back to their old ways.
Confidence heading into the championships was at an all-time high for the Wildcat gymnasts, but the environment and the big stage may have been more of a factor than they had expected.
"I just think it just kind of fell apart a little bit," said junior Kayla Hartley. "I think nerves has a lot to do with is and going up on platform and not being used to it and not really knowing what to expect and how to adjust to being in that big of arena."
Kentucky wasn't sharp in warm-ups, and it showed in its first event. From there, it all kind of snowballed. A team that's been so used to getting off to solid starts for the majority of the season saw the opposite effect take place last weekend.
That led to Kentucky's second-lowest point total of the season as UK finished in eighth place with a 194.6, a surprising and disappointing performance.
"I was pretty surprised because we've been doing so awesome and going 196 four times in a row," said junior Audrey Harrison. "We were expecting to do it again, so it was surprising."
Kentucky would have loved to put up a huge score at SECs heading into the regional selections. It would have boosted its regional qualifying score as well as given Kentucky a full head of steam heading into NCAAs. Though the Wildcats couldn't accomplish those goals, there is still one big goal out there, one that they've had their sights set on from the beginning of the season: Nationals.
Kentucky was selected as the No. 4 seed for the Morgantown, W. Va., regional which is set for 6 p.m. ET Saturday on the campus of West Virginia. They will join top-seeded Michigan, No. 2 Nebraska, No. 3 Illinois, No. 5 West Virginia, and No. 6 North Carolina.
Saturday evening, Kentucky looks to be one of the top two teams in the regional advancing to Los Angeles, Calif., for the NCAA Championships, even if no one else does.
"We're not expected to make it. Other people aren't expecting us to make it," Garrison said. "But we're expecting to be the spoiler. That's what we're trying to do. That's kind of where we are."
The regional provides another chance, and UK's last chance, to prove to everyone how far this team has come. But the Wildcats have to get back to being themselves in order for that to take place.
"I feel like there is a chip on our shoulder," said Hartley. "We just really want to go out there. SECs was a mess-up. This is our do-over and this is what we're going to do, and we're just going to do what we do. We're not going to put on any extra pressure on ourselves because of that chip. We're just going to do what we do."
Garrison has noticed the chip as well.
"I think they have a bad taste in their mouth," said Garrison. "I feel like we went into SECs and they did not even close to what they are capable of or what they expected to do. They came out of it fired up and ready to go and I've noticed it in practice."
Harrison believes her team just had a really tough day at the championships. Hartley thought the environment and format of the event may have played a role. Garrison felt the slow start derailed the Wildcats for the rest of the day.
Whatever the cause, there's much to be learned from that experience going forward.
Garrison wasted no time in trying to figure out what happened that night, so he cancelled the team's dinner reservations, had the food ordered to go and held an impromptu team meeting in his hotel room. Just as shaken as the athletes were, Garrison asked the team what had happened.
"I just threw it to them and said, 'You guys tell me what happened. It was just as strange for me as it was for you. What happened?' " said Garrison. "There were a lot of good things that came out of it. One, they were upset. Not pouty upset, but mad upset, which is great. The leaders were especially upset.
"I think some good things came out of it. I don't want to dwell on this, but I don't want to forget about it either. If you want to use it as fire, great. If you want to use it as motivation, fine, that's awesome."
However the Cats have used the experience from the SECs, it appears to at least be working in practice, which is essential as UK looks to make one final run at nationals. But unlike the SECs, the Wildcats are looking to get back to who they are, not where or who they are doing it against.
"It means a lot because we all really want to make nationals really bad," said Harrison. "It does mean a lot to us, but I think we've just got to stay calm and confident going into it. Maybe not build it up as the most important thing, but just do what we do in practice and then we'll do great."