Gymnastics coach Tim Garrison finally took some time off this summer after a record-breaking season in 2013. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Usually vacation for UK gymnastics coach Tim Garrison and his family is just a recruiting visit masquerading around as a trip to a new and exciting location. The Garrisons have been to Florida, Virginia and even Hawaii among other places on trips that each was planned around something gymnastics-oriented.
This summer, the Garrisons were off to California, not to recruit, but to attend a wedding of one of Tim's former club gymnasts that had asked his children (Taige 12, Teagan 11 and Reece 3) to be a part of the ceremony. It was yet another gymnastics-centric trip, even though no actual work was scheduled.
So the Garrisons packed up, drove up I-71 to the Cincinnati Airport, and boarded the plane in late May on their way to the West Coast.
Garrison's wife Rachel - at the time six months pregnant - began to feel light headed once the cabin closed and the plane began to pressurize. So Garrison alerted the flight attendants and got Rachel some oxygen. All was well.
The plan began to approach the runway. The pilot took to the intercom system to address the passengers and alert them that they were next for takeoff. But then Rachel began feeling faint once again.
So for the second time, Garrison pressed the button to alert the flight attendants. It was becoming less and less likely that the Garrisons were going to make it to California. Garrison ultimately made the decision that that would be the case, and the plane turned around and was taxied back to the gate.
Flying was not an option, and the Garrison's weren't going west.
Unsatisfied with the thought of staying put, Garrison left traveling up to Rachel.
"I said, 'Well, forget that. You find a place we can drive to and we're going," Garrison said to his wife.
So Rachel settled on two destinations: Destin, Fla. and Hilton Head, S.C. With Memorial Day weekend on the horizon, Destin was out of the question, so they settled on Hilton Head, and it couldn't have worked out much better if they had planned that out from that start.
"I mean you talk about the best vacation ever," Garrison said. "We sat on the beach, the hotel was right on the water, had three or four different kinds of pools. They had a cafe right on the water and a wooden deck overlooking the beach."
The best part about all of it? No gymnastics. Well, for the most part, anyway.
"Rachel understood when I had to take a phone call because I was only gone for five minutes and then back to vacation again," said Garrison.
In the past, he was happy just to get away from the office and spend some time with his family, but with limited work obligations, Garrison never realized just how crucial it was to spend legitimate time to recharge the batteries.
"I don't think I knew how important it was until I did it," said Tim Garrison. "It was one of those deals where you go through it and you're like, 'Yeah, that was needed.' That kind of thing. Yeah, it was nice to not have anything to do with it for a week, even though I was still answering emails and calls.
"It was great because I got to connect again with my family and not go recruit and rush off from the hotel. I didn't have to leave at all."
As enjoyable and relaxing as Hilton Head was, that wasn't the only family time that he was able to spend so far this summer. Last Christmas, Garrison bought his daughters tickets to the One Direction concert in Louisville, Ky. The concert just happened to fall on a weekend: a Sunday.
One Direction, if you're not familiar, is a huge hit boy band with quite a following that is made up primarily of girls in the age range of 8-16 (roughly). The date of the concert was not only a Sunday, but it also happened to land, unbeknownst to Garrison, on June 16, otherwise known as Father's Day.
"I had no idea. Had no idea," said Garrison. "But really, it was a great Father's Day because they were so happy."
Taige and Teagan as sisters could not have much more different personalities. Garrison describes Taige as a "girly-girl" that can be shy until you get to know her. Tegan, on the other hand, is like, "Whatever, dude. That kind of girl."
So as One Direction was introduced to the stage -as the screams of tens of thousands of screaming girls pierced the eardrums of the patrons occupying the KFC Yum! Center - Garrison took video footage of his girls instead of watching the introduction itself. And those exact personalities manifested on camera.
"It was so funny to watch, if you didn't know them at all, their personalities were revealed as soon as One Direction was introduced," said Garrison. "It was cute. I'm filming them and not paying attention to what's going on the stage and Taige bawls. She is just bawling and crying. Real tears streaming down her face. And Tegan is just like, 'Yeah!' and jumping up and down. And that was perfect. That was them to a T."
Garrison also said that after that experience that it might be his first and last One Direction concert.
"I think I'd rather stick my head into a jet engine rather than do that again," Garrison said. "I actually really enjoyed the show, but once that Harry (Styles) would start talking it was like someone had an ice pick drilling into my ears."
The fun and games are for all intents and purposes over for the summer, however, as Garrison and his staff make their final preparations for camp, which is up to 145 campers, and the third straight season in which the camps have grown. The growth is no surprise, however, after Garrison has made great strides in just two seasons at UK as his Wildcats have rewritten the record books.
With their success and a more visual presence on television and other media outlets, the word is spreading about Garrison's program. As soon as camp is finished, it will be time to get back in the gym and continue to build on the foundation that's been laid in the past couple of seasons.
"All of these things that point to us being better this year, we've got to avoid thinking like that," Garrison said. "Other than gaining confidence from it, but thinking you're good to the point that you're inactive, that's what we need to avoid."
If Garrison's team can remain as active and enjoy their time in the gym as much as he has this summer, Kentucky will be in for a banner year in 2014.
The University of Kentucky celebrated its 146th May Commencement on Sunday. (photo by Mark Cornelison)
During the University of Kentucky's 146 May Commencement on Sunday, 49 UK student-athletes received degrees. Forty-seven earned undergraduate diplomas and two received graduate degrees.
(Note: Includes student-athletes who received degrees after their completing eligibility.)
Baseball Thomas McCarthy Zac Zellers (Will complete coursework this summer)
Football Aaron Boyd La'Rod King Quentin McCord Craig McIntosh Kevin Mitchell Matt Smith Taylor Wyndham (Note: 2012 seniors Mikie Benton, Gabe Correll, Gene McCaskill, Morgan Newton, Cartier Rice, Collins Ukwu, Steven Duff and Sam Simpson graduated previously.)
Gymnastics Caitlyn Ciokajlo Storey Morris Whitney Rose
Men's basketball Twany Beckham Marquis Estill Jon Hood Jarrod Polson (Graduated in three years) (Note: Jamal Mashburn also received an honorary doctorate of humanities.)
Men's golf Joseph Barr
Men's soccer Pedro Andreoni Gabriel Conelian Barry Rice
Men's swimming and diving Jon Bullock Jon Keltner Ben Russell
Rifle Heather Greathouse
Softball Chanda Bell Kara Dill (Graduate degree in exercise science) Alice O'Brien Erika Silence
Track and field Katy Achtien Keith Hayes Ben Mason (Will complete coursework this summer) Chelsea Oswald Shiara Robinson Josh Nadzam (Masters of social work) Danielle Sampley Rashaud Scott Samantha Stenzel Hiruni Wijayaratne Megan Wright
Volleyball No graduates this weekend, but seniors Ashley Frazier and Christine Hartmann had already graduated.
Women's basketball - The 2012-13 season was the most successful in program history with school records of 30 wins and eight victories over top-25 opponents. The Wildcats tied a school-record with 13 Southeastern Conference wins and advanced to their school-record fourth Elite Eight in the last four years, including second straight. - UK has charted 25 or more wins in a school-record four straight seasons. - Seniors A'dia Mathies and Brittany Henderson leave as the winningest class in UK Hoops history with a 111-30 record (.787). - Mathies ends her career as UK's all-time leader in steals (320), games played (140) and started (139), while ranking second in scoring (2,014), 3-point field goals made (177) and field goals attempted (1,687), third in field goals made (712), free throws made (413) and attempted (590) and ninth in assists (349).
Gymnastics - The Kentucky gymnastics team posted the program's highest-ever NCAA Regional team score with a 195.575 on Saturday. - Kentucky finished in fourth-place overall just .45 outside of second position. - Audrey Harrison finished in a tie for third for the individual all-around title with a score of 39.2, but tied for the highest AA score among competitors not on a team advancing to regionals. - Alexis Gross earned a career-high all-around score 39.05, in her first meet competing in all four events during a single meet this season. Softball - The Kentucky softball team finished a 3-1 week with a sweep over Southeastern Conference foe South Carolina over the weekend, moving its SEC winning streak to a school-record tying six games. The streak began with a sweep of Mississippi State a few weeks ago. - True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley led Kentucky over the weekend with a 2-0 record and a 2.50 ERA. Nunley is an impressive 17-4 on the year with a 2.09 ERA with her 17 wins moving her into a tie for fourth on UK's single-season wins list with Morgan Marr, who had 17 in 2001. Nunley is the first UK pitcher to post 17 or more wins in a season since Chanda Bell had 18 in 2010. Junior Lauren Cumbess went 1-0 on the weekend, clinching the sweep with a strong seven-inning performance on Sunday, allowing three runs on seven hits with four strikeouts. Cumbess led UK at the dish over the weekend by going 5-for-10 with a double, two home runs and four RBI. - Cumbess tied the game Saturday with a two-run homer and tied Sunday's game with an RBI single. Freshman Nikki Sagermann also went 5-for-10 with a double and home run, while junior Ginny Carroll, senior Alice O'Brien and freshman Christian Stokes also hit home runs. Sophomore Griffin Joiner had three hits and three RBI.
Baseball - Kentucky suffered its first series loss of the year at the blistering-hot Tigers, previously owning series wins over Florida, No. 14 Mississippi State and Georgia. - UK earned a thrilling 5-4 win over No. 9 Louisville in 10 innings in front of a UL school-record crowd, with freshman Kyle Cody turning in a quality start and freshman Kyle Barrett driving in the go-ahead run in the top of the 10th. - Freshman Kyle Barrett drove in the game-winning RBI against Louisville in the top of the 10th inning, completing the dramatic late inning comeback. - UK has been led offensively by junior J.T. Riddle, who has hit .322 with six doubles, one triple, one homer and 17 RBI, stealing five bases. Sophomore A.J. Reed has belted eight homers and has 33 RBI, batting .319.
Men's tennis - Kentucky dropped the first match of its three-match road trip to conclude the regular season at No. 14 Vanderbilt, 4-2. - Kentucky won the doubles point with wins on courts one and three to get the early 1-0 lead, but were unable to hold on in singles play. - Beck Pennington gave UK the early 2-0 lead as he won on court six. The Bowling Green, Ky., native is undefeated in singles play this season, with an 8-0 record, and is 2-0 in SEC play. - The Wildcats finish the regular season at Florida and South Carolina this weekend before traveling to Oxford, Miss., for the SEC Tournament. The Wildcats defeated both UF and SC in 2011.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team fell 5-1 at home on Friday to No. 19 Vanderbilt. - Freshman Nadia Ravita improved on her already impressive freshman season, defeating No. 61 Lauren Mira in straight sets. The 24th-ranked individual won the match on court one 7-5, 6-3. - Kentucky will host No. 2 Florida on Friday and No. 29 South Carolina on Sunday to round out the regular season.
Track and field - A small contingent of Wildcats competed at the Bellarmine Invitational on Saturday. - Joanne Imbert placed second in the high jump with an outdoor season-high clearance of 1.72 meters/5'07.75". - Michelle Canterna finished as the runner-up in the pole vault, with a top clearance of 3.80 meters/12'05.5" - Shelby Kennard cleared 3.5 meters/ 11'05.75m, tying her outdoor season-high pole vault, before being unable to get over the bar at 3.65 meters /11'11.75".
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team finished fifth at the M&F Bank Rebel Invitational last week in Oxford, Miss., shooting 22-over for the tournament. The Cats recorded the third lowest round on the final day to propel them into fifth place of the 18-team field. - Junior Liz Breed, who competed as an individual for the Wildcats, charted one of her best performances of her career, tying her career-low with a 54-hole score of 2-over-par, 218 and equaled her best finish, tying for eighth place overall. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht tallied her third-lowest score of the season, finishing tied for 12th at 1-over-par. Freshman Sarah Harris also had an impressive tournament, posting a career-low 7-over-par, 223, including a personal-best 1-under-par, 71 on the final day. She finished tied for 24th.
Monday, April 8 Men's golf at Gary Koch Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)
Tuesday, April 9 Men's golf at Gary Koch Invitational (Tampa, Fla.) Softball hosts Marshall - 5:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Austin Peay - 6:30 p.m.
Wednesday, April 10 Softball at Eastern Kentucky - 2:00 p.m. Softball at Eastern Kentucky - 4:30 p.m.
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."
Women's basketball - The Wildcats earned their second straight and third trip to the Elite Eight in the last four years after an impressive team effort over one of the nation's best players in senior Elena Delle Donne and the No. 15/16 Blue Hens. - Ten players scored at least two points, led by redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill with 19 points and senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies with 16 points and season-high tying nine rebounds. - The Wildcats have won a school-record 30 games and have advanced to the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive season. - For the second straight season, the second-seeded Wildcats will meet the top-seeded Huskies with a trip to the Final Four on the line. - Mathies charted her 2,000th-career point against the Blue Hens, becoming just the fifth men's or women's basketball player at Kentucky to reach the accomplishment.
Gymnastics - No. 19 UK earned a NCAA Gymnastics Championship bid last Monday. - The Wildcats will compete at the Morgantown, W.Va. regional on Saturday, April 6. - Kentucky is making its ninth consecutive and 25th overall NCAA Regional appearance. - UK will join top-seeded Michigan, No. 2-seed Nebraska, No. 3-seed Illinois, as well as host West Virginia and North Carolina seeded fifth and sixth respectively.
Softball - The Kentucky softball team posted a road win over Lipscomb last week before falling in a non-conference tilt to No. 5 Tennessee last Friday. The game against Tennessee did not count towards Southeastern Conference team standings. UK took down Lipscomb 8-1 before falling to UT 6-0. - UK got a strong performance offensively against Lipscomb. Griffin Joiner led Kentucky, going 2-for-3 with a solo home run and a RBI double. The homer was Joiner's team-leading eighth home run of the season. Ginny Carroll and Lauren Cumbess also had strong nights at the dish with Carroll posting a 3-for-4 night with two RBI and Cumbess blasting her fourth roundtripper of the season. Cumbess ended the game 2-for-4 with two RBI, while Christian Stokes also had two hits. - Ellen Weaver and Kelsey Nunley combined for a strong effort in the circle against Lipscomb. Weaver threw the first two innings of the game, allowing one unearned run on one hit with two strikeouts. Nunley came in to start the third inning, keeping the Bisons scoreless the rest of the game on just two hits with five strikeouts.
Baseball - Kentucky posted a midweek 8-2 win over Marshall, before opening the series with Georgia in a 10-inning thriller. UK got a rally in the bottom of the 10th inning that resulted in a two-out walk from Max Kuhn with the bases loaded to give UK a 3-2 win. - On Saturday, Georgia took a 7-3 lead before UK mounted a furious rally that fell short in a 7-6 loss. UK rebounded on Sunday in its third straight rubber-match win in 2013, 5-0, behind a dominating clutch performance from Corey Littrell. - During the four-game week, UK had a 2.19 ERA in its 37 innings, with Austin Cousino pacing the club with a .500 average (7-for-14), with four doubles, a triple and four RBI. - Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett leads the team with a .364 average, owning three doubles and four RBI. Junior J.T. Riddle has a .359 mark with six doubles, one triple, one homer and 17 RBI, with a 14-4 walk-strikeout ratio and four steals. A.J. Reed has hit .340 with four doubles, two triples, six homers and 28 RBI, with Cousino batting .315 with eight doubles, one triple, four homers and 20 RBI, stealing four bases.
Men's tennis - Kentucky went 2-0 on the weekend, collecting wins in its final SEC home matches of the season over No. 31 Alabama (7-0) and No. 32 Auburn (4-1). - Senior Anthony Rossi became just the 15th player in Kentucky tennis history to collect 100-career wins as he won both of his weekend matches in straight sets. - Tom Jomby and Kevin Lai knocked off the fifth-ranked doubles team in the nation 8-6, on Sunday as the Wildcats improved to 18-6 overall, and 6-3 in SEC play. - UK welcomes No. 7 Ohio State to Lexington on Wednesday afternoon for another top-10 match at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center, the third top-10 showdown this season in Lexington.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team lost 6-1 at No. 8 Alabama on Friday and 4-0 on Sunday at No. 22 Auburn. - On Friday, 24th-ranked Nadia Ravita defeated No. 26 Mary Anne Macfarlane of Alabama in straight sets, 6-4, 7-5. - Kentucky will return home on Friday to host No. 19 Vanderbilt.
Swimming and diving - Kentucky junior diver Greg Ferrucci earned three top-five finishes at the 2013 NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships last weekend, accounting for all 45 points scored by Kentucky to pace UK to a 22nd place finish. - Ferrucci earned career-best finishes at the NCAA in all three diving events, finishing fourth place on the 1-meter springboard (403.05), 3-meter springboard (423.15) and platform (418.30). - John Fox made his NCAA debut this weekend, finishing 22nd, 23rd and 27th in those same events respectively.
Men's golf - The UK men's golf team placed tied for 10th in the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate in Awendaw, S.C., shooting 44-over-par for the tournament. - Junior Stephen Powers led the way for the Wildcats, fining 2-over-par for the invitational and recording his highest finish of the year, tying for fifth. The top-10 finish marked the fourth of the year for the Naperville, Ill., native and the third of the spring. - Kentucky returns to the links April 8-9 at the Gary Koch Invitational in Tampa, Fla.
Track and field - Rebecca Famurewa set the UK freshman record with a mark of 53.22 meters/ 174 feet 7 inches to win the Texas Relays. Famurewa's mark was also fourth best in school history. - Hiruni Wijayaratne won the women's 1500 meters with a PR 4:34.94 at the Oliver Nikoloff Invitational. - Sean Keane won the Nikoloff 800 meters with a time of 1:51.52. - Michelle Canterna missed the school record pole vault by half an inch as she cleared 3.85 meters/ 12'07.50" to take fourth at the Nikoloff. - Kayla Parker's PR 110H time of 13.20 was good for fifth place at the Texas Relays, and was the second fastest time in UK history. - Keith Hayes claimed fifth in the 110H with a time of 13.66, which was also good for No 2 in the school record book. - Chelsea Oswald and Cally Macumber ran two of the four fastest 5,000-meter times in Kentucky history on Friday at the Stanford Invitational.
Monday, April 1 Women's basketball vs. Connecticut - 7:30 p.m. (Bridgeport, Connecticut)
Tuesday, April 2 Baseball at Louisville - 6:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 3 Men's tennis hosts Ohio State - 2:00 p.m. Softball at Louisville - 6:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Murray State - 7:00 p.m. Friday, April 5 Track and field at Florida Relays - 10:00 a.m. (Gainesville, Fla.) Women's tennis hosts Vanderbilt - 12:00 p.m. Softball at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m. Baseball at LSU - 8:00 p.m. Track and field at Bellarmine Invitational (Louisville, Ky.) Women's golf at Rebel Intercollegiate (Oxford, Miss.) Saturday, April 6 Track and field at Florida Relays - 10:00 a.m. (Gainesville, Fla.) Track and field at Crimson Tide Invite - 11:30 a.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Men's tennis at Vanderbilt - 12:00 p.m. Softball at South Carolina - 4:00 p.m. Gymnastics at NCAA Regional - 6:00 p.m. (Morgantown, W. Va.) Baseball at LSU - 7:30 p.m. Volleyball at KIVA Collegiate Tournament (Louisville, Ky.) Track and field at Bellarmine Invitational (Louisville, Ky.) Women's golf at Rebel Intercollegiate (Oxford, Miss.)
Sunday, April 7 Softball at South Carolina - 1:00 p.m. Baseball at LSU - 2:00 p.m. Women's golf at Rebel Intercollegiate (Oxford, Miss.)
Men's basketball - Kentucky fell 59-57 at Robert Morris in the opening round of the NIT, after advancing to postseason -play for the 22nd-consecutive year. - Freshman Archie Goodwin led the team in scoring with 18 points, while junior Jarrod Polson logged 10. - Goodwin went 8-of-8 at the free throw line, which was the second-most made free throws in an NIT game in UK history.
Women's basketball - DeNesha Stallworth scored 18 points and Jennifer O'Neill added nine of her 12 points in the second half to lead the second-seeded Wildcats to a 61-41 win over 15th-seeded Navy on Sunday in the opening round of the NCAA women's tournament. - After trailing by a point at halftime, UK outscored Navy 35-16 in the second half to move onto the second round of the NCAA women's tournament. - The 20-point win is the largest margin of victory for Kentucky in a NCAA Tournament game. - The 41 points surrendered by UK is the lowest total for an NCAA Tournament game in school history.
Gymnastics - The No. 19 Kentucky gymnastics team placed eighth with a 194.6 team score at the SEC Championship. - Kentucky finishes the regular season with a school-record regional qualifying score of 196.06. - The Wildcats now await their NCAA regional fate, which will be revealed on the NCAA Gymnastics Championship Selection Show on Monday, March 25 at 3 p.m. - UK tied its season-high floor score with a 49.125, a total which also tied for highest at session I. - Kayla Hartley's floor routine turned plenty of heads as she produced a career-high tying score of 9.9.
Softball - The No. 21 Kentucky softball team got back to its winning ways over the weekend with a three-game sweep of Mississippi State at home. The series win was the second of the season for UK, who is now 5-4 in Southeastern Conference play heading into its bye weekend. UK also earned a 7-1 midweek win over WKU on Tuesday. - The Wildcat offense was the difference in the weekend series, scoring 15 runs on 24 hits with two doubles and seven home runs against a MSU pitching staff that entered the weekend ranked 22nd nationally in earned-run average. Senior Alice O'Brien paced the Wildcats with a .500 average with one double, two home runs - one a walkoff, 10th-inning home run - and three RBI. Freshman Nikki Sagermann also hit .500 in the series with a home run and two runs scored. The other four home runs came from sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner, junior outfielder Emily Jolly and two from freshman Maisie Steed. - In Tuesday's 7-1 victory over Western Kentucky, Nikki Sagermann was the offensive star in the game for Kentucky, going 2-for-3 with two runs batted in, including her first collegiate home run. - True freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley was impressive in the series, going 2-0 and not allowing a run the entire weekend. Nunley pitched nine innings in relief Friday night to get the win before throwing a complete-game shutout in game two Saturday. Junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess went 1-0 on the weekend with a 2.62 ERA after earning a no-decision Friday night and a win in game one Saturday, allowing two runs on five hits over seven innings.
Baseball - The eighth-ranked Kentucky baseball team completed a four-game week with a series win over No. 14 Mississippi State, spurred by a doubleheader sweep on Saturday. - Kentucky won its second consecutive series to open league play, also claiming the conference lidlifter at Florida last weekend. - Freshman outfielder Kyle Barrett hit .385 (5-for-13) with a pair of doubles and RBI, drawing two walks and stealing a base, starting all four games of the week. He contributed to UK's walk-off win in the rubber match vs. the Bulldogs, starting the bottom of the ninth inning with a double and scoring the game-winning and series-clinching win. - Jerad Grundy worked eight strong innings to lead UK to a series-evening win over No. 14 Mississippi State, in the front end of a doubleheader on Saturday. The senior worked into the ninth inning of UK's 3-2 win, allowing five singles and a solo homer, with two runs scoring - On the mound, UK has a 2.55 ERA, walking just 55 and striking out 176 in 205 innings.
Men's tennis - No. 31 Anthony Rossi picked up one of the biggest wins of his career on Sunday as he collected a 6-3, 6-3 win over No. 7 KU Singh as UK fell 4-2 to Georgia. The win for Rossi was his 98th-career win and he now is just two wins shy of becoming the 15th player in UK tennis history to eclipse the 100-win mark. - UK returns to action on Friday as the Wildcats take on No. 29 Alabama at 2:00 p.m. ET at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Center. The weekend will continue on Sunday as Kentucky faces off against Auburn.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team went 0-2 over the weekend, falling to Ole Miss 4-3 on Friday before defeating Mississippi State 7-0 on Sunday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita won two singles matches in the No. 1 singles slot, improving her record to 15-2. - Sophomore Stephanie Fox and freshman Kirsten Lewis both went 2-0 in singles over the weekend.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team competed in their third tournament of the spring, finishing eighth in the 14-team field at the 2013 LSU Tiger Golf Classic. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht recorded her second top-10 finish of the year, placing tied for seventh at 9-overpar. She was 7-over after the first round before firing team-lows and back-to-back rounds of 1-over-par to climb the leaderboard - Kentucky returns to the links April 5-7 at the Rebel Intercollegiate in Oxford, Miss.
Swimming and diving - Sophomores Christa Cabot and Christina Bechtel each made their NCAA Championships debut over the weekend in Indianapolis, Ind. Cabot competed in all three diving events while Bechtel swam in the 100-butterfly. - Bechtel was unable to qualify for the finals in the 100-butterfly, but finished in 25th overall with a preliminary time of 53.06, her best prelim time of her career. - Cabot's best finish came in the 3-meter springboard where she finished in 18th place with a six-dive score of 307.60.
Monday, March 25 Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C)
Tuesday, March 26 Women's basketball vs. Dayton - 7:00 p.m. (Queens, N.Y.) Softball at Western Kentucky - 8:00 p.m. Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C)
Wednesday, March 27 Baseball hosts Marshall - 3:00 p.m. Softball at Lipscomb - 7:00 p.m. Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)
Thursday, March 28 Swimming and diving at Men's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)
Friday, March 29 Men's tennis hosts Alabama - 2:00 p.m. Women's tennis at Alabama - 4:00 p.m. Softball hosts Tennessee - 5:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Georgia - 6:30 p.m. Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas) Swimming and diving at Men's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Oliver Nikoloff Invite (Cincinnati, Ohio) Track and field at Stanford Invitational (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Saturday, March 30 Baseball hosts Georgia - 2:00 p.m. Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas) Swimming and diving at Men's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Oliver Nikoloff Invite (Cincinnati, Ohio) Track and field at Stanford Invitational (Palo Alto, Calif.)
Sophomore Alexis Gross says team confidence is high heading into this weekend's SEC Championships. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Over the last four meets, the Kentucky gymnastics team has seen a gradual increase in its meet scores as they Wildcats have reeled off an unprecedented four straight meets scoring 196-plus for the first time in the history of the program while setting the program record of 196.775 at Penn State.
As the scores have risen, so too has the team's confidence heading into the Southeastern Conference Championships this Saturday in Little Rock, Ark.
While the season started with "I hope we can," the season is ending with an I-know-we-will attitude leading into the postseason.
The confidence hasn't magically appeared out of thin air this season. It actually goes back all the way to last year, head coach Tim Garrison's first year on the job. After a slow start, the Wildcats caught fire near the end of the season to give Garrison and his athletes promise heading into 2013. That promise led to a greater focus and desire in the offseason to improve and prepare for the upcoming campaign.
"I think this all started way back last year when the team started to come together. They started rolling a little bit at the end of the season," Garrison said. "They trained hard all the way through the summer. Then, in the preseason we started rolling. I think it developed over time, but I think when it clicked in competition was when they had more experience in competition because they were still new with some of these skills."
Garrison has harped all season long that all the Wildcats needed was in fact more seasoning. More competitive experience would be the key to the progression of these athletes, because they'd consistently displayed their capabilities in the practice gym. The only question was whether or not they would be able to duplicate those performances on the big stage.
The Wildcats started out of the gate hotter than they ever had before to open the season, finishing second at Cal-Berkeley in a quad meet, posting a program-best opening score. They've won a program record three SEC meets, including their first SEC road win since 1989.
Kentucky was rolling - and tumbling, flipping and landing - at a very high level.
But Garrison wanted more, mainly because he saw more. He was confident in his athletes to finally break through and take the next step. While UK was racking up scores in the high 195s, Garrison saw potential for 197s, with 196 as the standard.
Over the last four meets, UK has set its new standard.
"When you can put four 196s in a row, you're obviously doing well in every event," said Garrison. "You haven't really had one event that's a downer or something, where for a long period this season, we always had one event that held us back. Then we'd fight our way back from that bad event."
And UK has certainly shown resilience all season long. It was never more evident than at Ball State when junior Holly Cunningham picked up sophomore Alexis Gross on the balance beam in the final event of the meet. Kentucky was on pace for a program-record score, and when Gross fell off the balance beam, it was Cunningham to the rescue.
"That just shows that we're trusting each other," said Gross. "I messed up at Ball State and Holly had my back. It's the same thing that we've been doing all year, and we've been trying to teach ourselves to trust in our teammates when you make mistakes, someone's always there to pick up the pieces."
That trust can easily be identified as confidence. Not just in themselves, but each athlete has come to be able to trust and be confident in one another to do her job, as well as be able to come to the rescue things go wrong. That trust and confidence has also permitted each athlete to focus on herself and each individual skill without having to worry about the pressure of picking up a struggling teammate.
"I definitely think that there's so much more trust between everyone because we're confident that our teammates are going to hit their routines and not scared that they're going to fall," said sophomore Sara Shipley. "I think that means a lot because that makes you more confident in yourself, too."
Each athlete saw the possibility of something special at the beginning of the season. It took the low point of their meet against Missouri in which UK scored its lowest team point total of the year, even though the Cats escaped with a victory.
Between the Missouri meet (a win) and the following Florida meet (a loss), Kentucky found its turning point. The attitude had changed and this team was different. The disappointment of the low score at Missouri served as a motivator and it led to its highest score of the season at No. 1 Florida the following week.
The end result of Florida launched UK into its current four-meet stretch of 196s, and that 196 at Florida has been the key to it all. But even that result felt somewhat empty.
"Coming off a hard meet, we go to Florida," said Gross. "That's the meet after and you have the fire in you.
"We knew we messed up and now we had to make up for it. Everyone did and we got that 196 and everyone was happy about it, but the fact that everyone walked away from the meet and felt that we were better than what we just did, all the little mistakes we made, I remember a bunch of us saying that we could have gone 197 if we had stuck dismounts."
Kentucky is still looking for that 197, and It's no pipe dream either. If the Cats continue to improve weekly as they have like the last four, why can't UK score a 197 at SECs this weekend?
One thing is for sure: Kentucky is riding a tidal wave of confidence heading into the SEC Championships and is looking to make a statement.
"I think everyone's feeling pretty relaxed. It's fun," said Shipley. "We know that we're good now, we just have to prove to everyone that we are good. It's actually a lot of fun right now. We're pushing hard, but we're also doing our stuff, and it's not taking as much work as it did at the beginning of the season."
Even though the SEC boasts multiple top-10 teams nationally, that won't matter when UK walks into the arena on Saturday.
"We're more prepared than ever before. It's more than that, but I just have so much faith in this team," said Gross. "This kind of confidence is something that we need to keep rolling. I think for once this year, we don't go into a meet and get intimidated by the other team. We look at them and think that we're just as good."