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."
Men's basketball - Kentucky earned the No. 1 seed in the National Invitation Tournament and will take on Robert Morris in the opening round on Tuesday. - The invitation to the NIT marks the 22nd-consecutive season UK will take part in postseason play. The Wildcats are 13-6 overall in the NIT and have twice won the title (1946, 1976). - UK fell 64-48 in the SEC Tournament to Vanderbilt, despite a 12-point effort from freshman Archie Goodwin. - Senior Julius Mays is six points shy of scoring 1,000 for his collegiate career. He current has 994 total points, with 301 of those tallies coming in a UK uniform. Gymnastics - Kentucky reached a new program best 196.775 on Saturday at Penn State. - The Wildcats extended their school-record streak of scores more than 196 to four. - Alexis Gross claimed event honors with collegiate-high scores on both uneven bars and balance beam. Gross notched a 9.9 on bars, and received a 9.95 on balance beam. Her 9.95 was third-highest on the event in school history. She received a 9.9 from judge one and a 10.0 from judge two as both averaged a 9.95. - Kentucky also smashed the program-record beam score with a 49.475.
Softball - The No. 17 Kentucky softball team earned an impressive midweek win against No. 24 North Carolina, taking down the Tar Heels 18-0 behind the ninth no-hitter in school history from freshman pitcher Katie Henderson. Henderson went all five innings in the win, striking out four with only one walk. The no-hitter was the first for UK since Chanda Bell threw a no-hitter against LSU in 2012. - The UK offense set many school records in the win as the 18 runs scored and four homers tied the most runs scored in a game in school annals, while UK's 18 runs batted in was the most ever in a single game in school history. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner was the leader of the pack offensively in the win, posting a 4-for-4 night with career highs in home runs with two, runs scored with four and runs batted in with six. - The Wildcats could not keep up the momentum going over the weekend, falling in all three games to No. 13 LSU. The Wildcats dropped the first game 7-1 before dropping the next two games in LSU's last at bat.
Baseball - Kentucky posted its first series win in Gainesville in 14 years over the weekend and just the fifth in the history of the series that dates back to 1953. - The Wildcats fell in the opener after a three-error seventh inning in a 1-1 game and rebounded with an 11-5 win over the Gators on Saturday. In the rubber match, UK turned to Corey Littrell, who pitched UK to the series win in a 6-2 result at McKethan Stadium. - The Wildcats have hit .297 as a team, belting 31 doubles, five triples and 14 homers, scoring 149 runs and stealing 29 bases. On the mound, UK has a 2.45 team ERA, allowing 164 hits in 169 innings, walking 41 and striking out 138.
Men's tennis - No. 10 Kentucky completed the Mississippi swing this weekend, coming out of the weekend 2-0 with a 4-1 win over No. 4 Ole Miss and a 4-2 win over No. 13 Mississippi State. - Kentucky now sits at 16-4 overall and stands tied atop the SEC standings with a 4-1 in-conference record. - No. 31 Anthony Rossi picked up the clinching match on Sunday over No. 18 Romain Bogearts 7-6 (3), 6-3 of MSU. Rossi's doubles partner, Grant Roberts went 4-0 on the weekend as well. In Friday's 4-1 win at Ole Miss, freshman Kevin Lai clinched the match as he moved to 9-0 on the year, picking up his first-career SEC win.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team went 1-1 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.
Track and field - Kentucky opened the outdoor season with seven event titles by either individual competitors or relay teams. - Andrew Evans won the discus behind a new personal record mark of 59.27m/194'05". - Kayla Parker won the 100-meter hurdles with a PR 13.51 performance. - Both the men's and women's teams won the 4x100-meter relays. - Keffri Neal won the 1,500 meters with a personal-record time of 3:51.60. Teammate Adam Kahleifeh also posted a PR time of 3:51.94 to finish in second-position. - Raymond Dykstra showed off his 2012 All-America credentials in the javelin with a meet-winning performance of 67.84m/222'07"
Men's golf - The Kentucky men's golf team wrapped up the week with two top-10 finishes, placing tied for fifth at the Tiger Invitational and tied for sixth at the Schenkel Invitational. - Junior Stephen Powers recorded his second straight top-10 finish at the Tiger Invite with a 6-over-par, 222, placing tied for sixth overall. Junior Ben Stow also was in the top-20, finishing tied for 14th at 8-over. - Stow continued his torrid play at the Schenkel Invite, posting his first career top-10 finish, placing tied for ninth at 1-under-par. The Salisbury, England native charted a career-low score of 215.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team competed in their second tournament of the spring, finishing tied for ninth in the 18-team field at the Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate. - Senior Betsie Johnson was the low scorer for the Wildcats, recording her first top-20 finish of the year, placing tied for 19th at 9-over-par.
Swimming and diving - Greg Ferrucci, John Fox and Christa Cabot each earned berths to the 2013 NCAA Swimming and Diving Championships with their performances at the Zone C Diving Championships in West Lafayette, Ind., this past weekend. - Ferrucci won both the 3-meter (888.05) and 1-meter (825.75) springboard events to advance to his third straight NCAA Championships, and broke the program record on the 3-meter for a six-dive score with a 434.85. Fox earned fourth place on the 3-meter (761.95) to advance to his first NCAA Championships. - Cabot earned her spot on the first day of competition on the 3-meter board, scoring 623.10 to earn a fourth place finish. It will be the sophomore's first career appearance at the NCAA Championships.
Tuesday, March 19 Softball hosts Western Kentucky - 6:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Western Kentucky - 6:30 p.m. Men's basketball at Robert Morris - 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday, March 20 Softball hosts Iowa - 4:30 p.m.
Thursday, March 21 Swimming and diving at Women's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Florida State Relays (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Friday, March 22 Track and field at Alabama Relays - 12:00 p.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Men's tennis hosts Tennessee - 2:00 p.m. Women's tennis at Tennessee - 5:00 p.m. Softball hosts Mississippi State - 6:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Mississippi State - 6:30 p.m. Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic (Baton Rouge, La.) Swimming and diving at Women's NCAA Championships (Indianapolis, Ind.) Track and field at Florida State Relays (Tallahassee, Fla.)
Saturday, March 23 Baseball hosts Mississippi State - 12:00 p.m. Softball hosts Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Track and field at Alabama Relays - 3:00 p.m. Tuscaloosa, Ala.) Gymnastics at SEC Championships (North Little Rock, Ark.) Track and field at Florida State Relays (Tallahassee, Fla.) Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic (Baton Rouge, La.) Swimming and diving at Women's NCAA Championships (Statesboro, Ga.)
Sunday, March 24 Women's tennis at Georgia - 1:00 p.m. Softball hosts Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Georgia - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball at SEC Finals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C.) Women's golf at LSU Golf Classic (Baton, Rouge, La.)
Head coach Tim Garrison has turned the UK gymnastics program into an up-and coming-force in the SEC in just two seasons. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There's something to be said for consistency. Well, there's a lot to be said for consistency. It's a desirable attribute in just about every facet of life. Knowing what to expect on a daily basis - whether it's at work, in relationships or a performance - is paramount to the success.
A strong leader is often defined by his/her message. And that message is often one that is heard repeatedly by those being led as they look to achieve a collective mentality to drive toward a common end. Consistency with that message, both verbally and by example, is the most effective way in ensuring that message is received and absorbed.
Consistency is at the root of the turnaround of the Kentucky gymnastics program.
If you haven't been paying attention, UK is having its best season in school history. Currently, the Wildcats are rolling on their hottest streak the program has ever seen with three consecutive performances of 196.
UK has reached its highest regional qualifying score, currently sitting at 195.86. They Cats have also moved into the top 20 in the country according to the Gyminfo national poll at No. 19. UK has won the most Southeastern Conference meets (three) in program history, including its first SEC road win since 1999. And the Cats broke the school record against Ball State with a team-high score of 196.5.
After that record performance in Muncie, Ind., Kentucky head coach Tim Garrison was happy, yet still not satisfied.
"We had a good day," said Garrison. "As I have said all year, this team still has more to offer. Stay tuned."
That's been Garrison's feeling all season long. He's seen his program start as an also-ran in the SEC., and now it's on a rapid rise. Still, what the Cats have done last year in his first year and this year, the most successful season the program has seen as a team, isn't the vision that Garrison had when he first took over the program in May of 2011.
His vision is much greater. Why? He's confident in this program and his athletes.
"He's always been intense, but in a good way," said junior Audrey Harrison. "He pushes us and believes in us, and that's why he pushes us so hard because he knows how good we can be. I think he's always been like that."
Harrison has been the prototypical athlete and performer that Garrison has in mind. She's the lone gymnast for Kentucky that competes in every single event. She leads the SEC - which is as dominant in gymnastics as it is in football - with seven all-around titles this season. She's also earned 15 individual event titles this season.
Garrison has praised his junior all season long for her "steadiness" and "reliability," all attributes that align with how he operates. It's been that way for Garrison since day one, and the athletes have taken notice.
"I feel like he's still pretty much the same guy," said junior Kayla Hartley. "He still has what he wants to do and how he wants to do it. He's never changed that."
That's not to say Garrison is afraid to make adjustments. He's not. In actuality, that's what's led to a great deal of UK's success this season.
Garrison has changed up the lineup in each event this season multiple times, tweaking here and there based on performance, not personnel. He's been fair to each and every athlete on his roster, whether she is on scholarship or a walk-on. There are spots to be earned each week, and those who deserve it earn it.
He hasn't only made changes in his lineups, but he's resigned from a position as well.
When Garrison was first entertaining the idea of the UK job while serving as an assistant at Nebraska, he already had a dear friend with close knowledge of the position. A 20-year relationship with assistant Kentucky gymnastics coach Chuck Dickerson, which started back in Texas when they worked together in Houston, gave Garrison plenty of insight to the job and the department. Dickerson had also served as an assistant on the previous staff, so his job security was in question.
"We were actually out at Nebraska at a meet," said Dickerson. "He pulled me aside and said, 'I've got a question for you. I'm thinking about applying for that job. I'd really love you to stay if I take it.' And I said, 'Well I'm not going anywhere unless you don't want me here.' And he goes, 'Absolutely, I want you here.' "
So when Garrison got the job, Dickerson stayed. They then added Mary McDaniel after she spent 20 years as a club coach in Kansas to help coach beam and coordinate dance routines for floor exercise. The combination has been a near-perfect match.
Garrison had been working with both uneven bars and vault performers since he arrived to UK. The Wildcats were finding some success this season on vault, but not nearly to the level that Garrison expected after what he had seen in practice. Just a few weeks ago, realizing that the vaulters maybe needed a new voice and perspective, Garrison removed himself from vault and inserted Dickerson. Since the move, UK has stuck more dismounts than they have all season long. It was a win-win situation in every aspect.
"It made me feel good that he trusted me," said Dickerson of Garrison. "I think he's always trusted me, but it's a matter of he's always done vault at Nebraska and here, so he said to take it over and let's see what happens, and the kids have responded.
"That's how good of a head coach he is. He realized that it wasn't clicking, and not many head coaches would do that. Pride. But we've got to win."
After all, that's what Garrison is all about: results. And now Kentucky is producing them with three straight scores of 196-plus.
Now that Kentucky is showing consistency, the staff is hoping that 196 is no longer an achievement, but a standard they set heading into the future.
"That's what Tim and I talked about," Dickerson said. "We wanted to take our bad days and make them not so bad. And make our good days great days.
"We want an OK day to be a 196.5. On great days, we want a 197.5. And I think we can do that."
Kentucky has no active seniors on the roster, meaning UK will return every single athlete for the 2013-14 season. With additions coming in next season, Kentucky could completely break through to the top of the SEC and make some waves at the national level.
Though the Cats are still completely focused on finishing off their record-breaking season, the staff and athletes alike are already looking forward to next season. But the only way next season reaches the potential they believe it holds is if they finish strong this season to build a strong foundation for the next.
"It's been super exciting," said Harrison, "And I think next year will be even better because we're just gaining people; we're not losing people. I'm already really excited for next year too.
"We have talked about it before. It's just in the back of our minds because we have to focus on right now and this year."
The finish this year will determine how next year begins. If the Wildcats continue to climb, it will give them plenty of momentum going into the beginning of the season next year. In a sport like gymnastics where performances are judged, changing perception is very important, and setting the bar high from outset can change the complexion of an entire season the rest of the way.
The Wildcats started 2013 with their best opening weekend in school history, but even still, UK is looking for a better start to set the tone going forward.
"We talk about it because how you start the season is a little bit how you're judged the rest of the year," said Dickerson. "We started OK, great for us, but not great. We're hitting on all cylinders now, but next year, we need to start how we finish this year with 196-plus on the first day. Then, you're in that top 10 and you stay in that top 10 all year long. Then you're seeded and you've got a wonderful shot."
Garrison wants a shot at the top of the SEC and to make a strong showing at nationals. It's just going to take time. But even Dickerson's not surprised with how quickly his friend has turned things around. It was just a matter of changing the culture, and that change was evident since Garrison stepped on campus for his first day of work.
"I'm not surprised at how quick," said Dickerson. "It was just a matter of getting their mindset correct, and he brought a good, disciplined mindset."
The best quality that Garrison has contributed to that mindset? There's no question about it.
"More than anything, he's greatest quality is consistency; very direct and to the point," said Dickerson. "And that's where he's so good. He doesn't allow us to step back, and we needed that. Consistency, yeah, he's consistent. What you see is what you get, every single step of the way."
Men's basketball - Kentucky went 1-1 on the week which included a critical upset of No. 9/11 Florida on Saturday. - Freshman Archie Goodwin was sensational in leading the Cats with an average of 18.0 points, five rebounds and three steals in two games this week. Goodwin snatched a career-high four steals in the upset of the Gators and had a team-high 16 points. - With the win over Florida, UK improves to 10-0 at home in Rupp Arena against ranked foes in the John Calipari era. - The win also helped seal the No. 2 overall seed in the SEC Tournament. UK has won the tournament twice in Calipari's tenure.
Women's basketball - Kentucky advanced to the SEC Championship game for the third time in four seasons before falling to Texas A&M. - UK logged wins against Vanderbilt and No. 12 Georgia en route to making its title game appearance. - UK outscored the Lady Dawgs 41-14 in the second half, holding them scoreless for the final 6:08 of the game, and 22.2 percent (14-of-63) shooting for the game. - Senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies (Louisville, Ky.) added 11 points and grabbed two steals which set a new UK career steals record with 310. The previous record was 309 set by Stacey Reed from 1991-95.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team placed second at the NCAA Championships, shooting a 4670 to place runner-up for a second consecutive year. - Senior Henri Junghänel placed second in individual smallbore, falling by .5 points to claim the silver medal. - Freshman Connor Davis finished fourth individually in air rifle. - Kentucky had six members named All-America, including Connor Davis, Heather Greathouse, Emily Holsopple, Ed Ryznar, Elijah Ellis and Stacy Wheatley. Henri Junghanel would have been selected but was not eligible because he is currently in graduate school.
Gymnastics - The 20th-ranked Kentucky Gymnastics team topped 196 for the third consecutive meet in a 196.375-192.7 win over Bowling Green on Friday. - Kayla Hartley clinched the second-highest team score in school history with a 9.9 floor exercise routine. The performance gave Hartley the event title for the second week in a row. It was also her first 9.9 since the season-opener. The junior has three event crowns from the past two meets. - The Wildcats scored 49.125 on floor, which tied the season high. - Kenzie Hedges took the event honors on vault as she stuck her landing for a career-best 9.875.
Softball - The No. 15 UK softball team started its Southeastern Conference schedule in style by winning its series with the Ole Miss Rebels. UK dropped the first game of the series 3-1, before winning the final two games 5-2. The series win is the sixth consecutive over Ole Miss and marks the second time in three years UK has won the opening series of conference play. The series vs. Ole Miss was the first ever games played in the new UK Softball Complex. - Freshman infielder Christian Stokes led the way for Kentucky, hitting .833 (5-for-6) for the weekend with three RBI and her first collegiate home run. Junior Lauren Cumbess went 3-for-9 over the weekend with a double, while junior Emily Gaines was 2-for-6 with two RBI. - Freshman pitcher Kelsey Nunley suffered her first loss of the season in game one before earning wins Saturday and Sunday in a relief effort. Nunley is 12-1 on the year with a 2.02 ERA, striking out a team-best 67 batters. Baseball - Seventh-ranked Kentucky completed a 3-1 week with a series win over Michigan State during the weekend, also picking up a midweek win over Xavier on Wednesday. - UK opened the series with the Spartans with a 2-1 win on Friday night. Sophomore left-hander A.J. Reed worked seven shutout innings, allowing only five hits and two walks. All-American centerfielder Austin Cousino got UK on the board with a first-inning homer, before Max Kuhn slugged his first career homer in the bottom of the eighth as the game-winning bomb. - Kentucky won the series on Sunday in another rubber-match win from junior southpaw Corey Littrell, making his eighth series-deciding start in the last two years. The All-America starter worked seven innings and allowed just one run, striking out a career-high nine.
Men's tennis - The UK men's tennis team fell twice this weekend, to No. 38 Baylor and No. 14 Texas A&M. - Kentucky's road trip continues next weekend traveling to Ole Miss for a Friday showdown in Oxford before continuing the weekend in Starkville against the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Women's tennis - No. 44 Kentucky went 1-1 over the weekend, defeating No. 57 Missouri 5-2 on Friday, before falling to No. 4 Texas A&M 5-2 on Sunday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita knocked off sixth-ranked Cristina Sanchez-Quintanar on Sunday 2-6, 6-4, 6-2. The win was Ravita's 13th singles win and fourth win over a ranked opponent this year. - In Kentucky's win over Missouri, the Wildcats received singles wins in slots one through four, with Nadia Ravita, Jessica Stiles, Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff and Caitlin McGraw winning in straight sets.
Track and field - The No. 20 Kentucky women's track and field team finished the NCAA Indoor Championships tied for 20th-place. The Wildcats earned the program's highest team finish since 1994 when they also finished tied for 20th. The Wildcats' 10 team points was the highest total at the National Championship Meet since 1990. - Cally Macumber won the bronze medal in the women's 3,000 meters final to add six points to the Kentucky cause. She also contributed four on Friday night as the anchor in the distance medley relay. - Morganne Phillips, Allison Peare and Chelsea Oswald were the other members of that squad. - Keith Hayes scored two points for the men with a seventh-place finish in the 60-meter hurdles. Hayes lowered his school-record time to 7.69 in the event prelims to reach the final.
Men's golf - The Kentucky men's golf team finished seventh out of the 17-team field at the USF Invitational, shooting 20 strokes over par for the tournament. - Junior Stephen Powers recorded his second top-10 finish of the year, placing tied for sixth at 2-under-par. The Naperville, Ill., native was tied for the lead after the first round, posting a 4-under-par day and concluded his impressive tournament with an even par round two and two-over-par round three. - Junior Ben Stow also finished in the top-20, tying for 14th overall at 1-over-par.
Monday, March 11 Men's golf at Tiger Invitational (Auburn, Ala.)
Tuesday, March 12 Baseball hosts Ohio - 4:00 p.m. Softball hosts North Carolina - 5:00 p.m. Men's golf at Tiger Invitational (Auburn, Ala.) Wednesday, March 13 Softball hosts Southern Illinois • 3:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Cincinnati • 4:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 14 Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Track and field at Bulls Invitational (Tampa, Fla.)
Friday, March 15 Men's tennis at Ole Miss - 2:00 p.m. Women's tennis hosts Ole Miss - 4:00 p.m. Softball at LSU - 7:00 p.m. Baseball at Florida - 7:30 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Arkansas/Vanderbilt - 7:30 p.m. (Nashville) Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Saturday, March 16 Baseball at Florida - Noon Softball at LSU - 5:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Penn State - 7:00 p.m. Men's basketball at SEC Semifinals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Swimming and diving at NCAA Zones - 10:00 a.m. (West Lafayette, Ind.) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Sunday, March 17 Women's tennis hosts Mississippi State - Noon Softball at LSU - 1:00 p.m. Baseball at Florida - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Mississippi State - 1:00 p.m. Men's basketball at SEC Finals - 3:30 p.m. (Nashville) Women's golf at Insperity Lady Jaguar Intercollegiate (Augusta, Ga.) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Holly Cunningham's 9.875 on beam against Ball State helped UK earn a program-record team score of 196.5 last weekend. (Aaron Borton, UK Athletics)
All eyes were on Holly Cunningham. Her teammate had just fallen on UK's fifth balance beam routine at Ball State as the Wildcats looked to put the finishing touches on a record performance.
Needing a 9.75 to break the Kentucky team score record and to cancel out the fall, Cunningham did not deliver said score. She shattered it with a 9.875 by sticking her beam routine, picking up her teammate and the rest of her squad all the while.
It was the perfect ending to the best day in Kentucky gymnastics history as the Wildcats finished with a 196.5. It also began with an inspirational team meeting called by Cunningham before the meet in Muncie, Ind.
"I feel like knowing that we don't have any seniors on this team, I try to step up a little bit," said Cunningham. "Before the meet this time, I pulled everyone together. I made everyone tell me exactly what they were going to do and exactly how they were going to do it and for them to tell me that they knew they could do every single skill."
It was the first time that Cunningham had ever done this before a meet.
Before Cunningham could find the confidence and security to step up in front of her team in such a manner, she first had to take care of herself.
The junior had struggled to find a level of consistency on balance beam early on the in the season. It got to the point where beam coach Mary McDaniel opted to hold Cunningham out of the lineup against Georgia and Missouri. Coincidentally (or maybe not), Kentucky posted its lowest team score of the season against Missouri, including a 47.150 on beam, also the Wildcats' lowest output in the event all year.
It was at that point when Cunningham knew a change was in order.
"I've had a couple of rough months throughout the beginning of the season just trying to get my confidence level back and maintain the pressure of being the anchor," said Cunningham. "Mary had pulled me out because I kept falling meet after meet and I couldn't handle it I guess.
"I just changed my attitude in practice and told myself that this routine is easy for me; I've been doing it for maybe 10 years now. Being able to get up there and hit it (at Ball State) was really just one of the best feelings."
It's not that Cunningham didn't want to step up earlier. She just knew that she couldn't if she continued to perform at the level that she was. As a junior, she knew it was time that she took things into her own hands. Not that the Cats was struggling - because they weren't - but each one of them knew that they were each individually and collectively capable of so much more.
That's why the previous meet against Florida, where UK scored a season-high 196.075 and notched its first score of 196-plus of the season, was such a big deal.
Head coach Tim Garrison has been pushing and pushing all season long for UK to reach its potential. The Cats aren't there yet, but they have come a long way and seem to be on their way into uncharted waters. Well, perhaps with their performance against Ball State, they are at least in the shallow end.
"I think at Florida, with getting our first 196 of the season, it helped us realize that we have potential," said Cunningham. "From Florida, the coaches just told us that we each need to focus on little, individual things. I told the team, 'If you just work on making yourself two percent better just think how much better the team will be.' "
Everyone is taking notice of the team's overall confidence boost, but Cunningham's recent surge has been especially crucial and recognizable. A pressure-packed situation like the one in which she produced at Ball State was indicative of that.
"When you can go out and do what she did, that speaks to confidence right there," said Garrison of Cunningham's beam routine. "If you're not confident, you'll find a way to mess it up. On four inches of beam, it's really easy to mess it up."
But she didn't. She nailed it. She came up with a clutch performance and showed the attitude and fight that Garrison has been searching for from the beginning.
"Finally they've gotten to the point where they're not giving into senseless mistakes and they're fighting and gritting through," said Garrison. "That's what I've wanted since day one. I wanted a team that was gritty and not willing to give up a mistake.
"Obviously we had a fall off the beam, but then right behind her Holly goes up and just nails a beam routine and sticks the landing for a 9.875. That is what I'm looking for, and they did it."
It wasn't just Cunningham though who has shown resilience though. Garrison rattled off multiple performances from the Ball State meet that illustrated examples of fight and attention to detail, whether it's Kayla Hartley's continued improvement on bars, Audrey Harrison's consistency and stability or Jill Chappel's focus on sticking her landings, slowly but surely, this team is developing a more coarse grade of grit.
It's clearly been a gradual process for UK to develop its rough and tough attitude, but the results are indicative that it's happening. For Cunningham, she had to do some major polishing of her skills and her attitude before that grit could develop. Only then did she feel she could be one of the leaders on this team.
"I feel like it's taken some time," said Cunningham. "I didn't want anyone to think that I was trying to overpower them because there are some sophomores that are really close to my age and I didn't want them to think that, 'Oh, she thinks that she's the old junior and is in charge.' But I just want them to know that I'm here to encourage and help them in any way possible."
Kentucky's success at Florida was a huge momentum builder, but the meet was a big first step for Cunningham to regain what she'd lost with her return to the beam lineup after a brief hiatus. It served as an opportunity to prove to herself what she is capable of. It also gave her teammates an opportunity to reestablish the confidence that she would come up in clutch situations as the anchor of the beam lineup.
In front of a huge crowd against No. 1 Florida, Cunningham did not disappoint. She propelled UK to a 49.050 with her vault of 9.875 and promptly keyed a 9.850 to finish with a season-high 49.150 on beam. If it weren't for that performance, Cunningham likely doesn't take that step forward as a leader and a clutch performer last week against Ball State.
Now she and the Wildcats will look to continue to pile on the momentum in their final home meet of the season Friday against Bowling Green at 7 p.m. ET.
"It's a whole different story when you're out there and doing well and trying to boost up the team," said Cunningham. "If you're going out there and falling every weekend and then telling the team that they need to step up, then they'll say, 'Well, you're not doing it.'
"I think after this weekend, that's why they came up and thanked me for (talking to the team before the meet). They appreciated it. Me stepping up on beam obviously is a big step and I think they all trust me now."
The Kentucky gymnastics team is having one of the best seasons in school history. Heading into a Senior Night meet against Bowling Green on Friday at 7 p.m. ET, the Wildcats are looking to build off of a 196.5 team score - the highest ever for the program. The video below gives you an idea of the kind of leadership Tim Garrison has brought to UK.