First-year head coach Cedric Kauffmann is leading the men's tennis team into its first team matches of the season on Sunday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Cedric Kauffmann has been here before. The Kentucky men's tennis team is mere days away from opening its 2013 season, something Kauffmann has been though many times.
As UK prepares to start its season on Sunday, Kauffmann is in a different position. No longer is he a player getting ready for one singles and one doubles match or an assistant coach working behind the scenes to prepare his team.
This time, it's Kauffmann coming up with practice plans. It's Kauffmann making the final decisions on the lineup. For the first time, it's Kauffmann serving as head coach.
He conceded that it does feel different, but he isn't allowing the scope of his task to get the better of him. Kauffmann knows that the only way to replace a legend like Dennis Emery is by focusing on the present.
"My only concern right now is Northern Kentucky and after the match is over I'll take the next match," Kauffmann said. "I think I would feel a little bit more pressure if I looked at it as the whole season, but I can only take it one day at a time."
UK, ranked No. 9 in the preseason, will welcome Northern Kentucky at 11 a.m. ET on Sunday and Morehead State at 5 p.m. The doubleheader is the start of an indoor season that will call on the Wildcats to play five matches in less than a week, the team's first action in more than two months since the fall season ended. With matches against top-25 opponents looming, Kauffmann will be looking for focus above all else as it begins the season at the Boone Tennis Center.
"I know they always come out for big matches, if we're playing a top-five team, a top-10 team. What we've done well in the past is keep that intensity whether we're playing a top-five, top-10, top-50, top-80 team," Kauffmann said. "What I'm looking for in the guys that play this weekend is their intensity and the level of play they're going to be at no matter what's across the net."
If practice is any indication, that shouldn't be a problem.
"We're working hard. We just had three great days of practice on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday," Kauffmann said. "We did some boring stuff, we call it 'meat and potatoes,' and they just responded really well and they're helping each other go through the tough practices."
Even so, it's impossible to guarantee anything having lost Eric Quigley and Alex Musialek off last year's Southeastern Conference championship team. The two departed players are among the most decorated in school history and served as the emotional center of the team.
Now, the only senior on the roster is Anthony Rossi, ranked 94th nationally in singles. Like his coach, he is stepping into a new role. He'll be called on to lead more than in the past, something that shouldn't be too much to ask considering his relationship with the coach who recruited him and with whom he shares a French background.
"We talk a lot and we get along pretty well," Rossi said. "We share the same values and we have pretty much the same vision on the court and off the court."
In fact, Kauffmann is so sure of how much the senior captain cares about the success of his team that he is cautioning Rossi against shouldering too much of a burden.
"I think sometimes he maybe puts too much pressure on himself to carry the load of the team and take care of everybody," Kauffmann said. "I told him, 'Listen, you've got one doubles, one singles. That's one-and-a-half points, take care of those.' "
The good news for Rossi is that he knows he doesn't have to do it alone.
"I'm not the only leader on the team. I think we have some great leaders and I'm not the only one," Rossi said, citing juniors Tom Jomby, Alejandro Gomez, Panav Jha and Maks Gold.
Rossi was limited at times during the fall due to injury, but is now healthy. Kauffmann knows it will take some time to get in the swing of things, but he couldn't be more confident about how good Rossi will be when he does.
"I know he's going to put pressure on himself through the beginning of the season, but once he gets his groove I think he'll be just fine," Kauffmann said. "He's one of the best players in the country. I know it. He knows it. He just has to feel it on the court and it's coming."
Even when Rossi does reach that point and is winning his one-and-a-half points a match regularly, the rest of the team will be responsible for the other two-and-a-half needed to win. This weekend's doubleheader will be a chance for some trial and error when it comes to the UK lineup, but no matter how it shakes out, the newcomers are going to be called on.
Five of the 12 players on the roster are in their first college season: freshmen Kevin Lai, Juan Pablo Murra, Beck Pennington and Michael Binder and sophomore Brett Johnson. It remains to be seen just how much of a role they play, but they will need to produce for the Cats to fulfill their expectations.
During the fall, the newest Cats flashed plenty of potential. More importantly, they demonstrated humility and the ability to listen.
"Whatever the upperclassmen told them to do, they did. Whatever the coaching staff told them to do, they did," Kauffmann said. "I'm as proud with this freshman class as any since I've been here. They do whatever they can to get better, so I'm expecting some big things."
Demanding big things might be more like it.
"I tell my freshmen the fall for them was their freshman year," Kauffmann said. "Now they should be acting like sophomores. I don't want to talk about freshman mistakes again."
Kauffmann is asking his newcomers to go from willing listeners to active participants. Rossi and his fellow upperclassmen might have been part of it for longer, but Kauffmann is telling the youngest Cats that they must take ownership of their program too. Within a couple years, it will be those players responsible for leading and sustaining the momentum of a very successful past for the men's tennis program, with Kauffmann's guidance of course.
"We've created, Coach Emery and I, in the last couple years a good culture," Kauffmann said. "We still have that. The only way that goes away is if I don't do a good job recruiting or if I don't do a good job with my practices and my guys."
Football - Linebacker Avery Williamson, who entered the game leading the league in total tackles, had a career-high 20 tackles. He is the first UK player with 20 or more tackles since Chad Anderson made 21 tackles against Georgia in 2003. - Kentucky has an open date Nov. 10 before returning to action Sat. Nov. 17 at home vs. Samford. Kentucky entered the weekend having played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to Anderson and Hester computer ratings used in the official BCS rankings.
Men's basketball - Kentucky was paced by a team-high 22 points from freshman Archie Goodwin in the win over, NAIA's No. 1 ranked team, Northwood. - Fellow freshman Nerlens Noel added a double-double effort with 17 points and 11 rebounds. - The meeting with Transylvania will mark the final preseason competition for the Cats, before UK travels to Brooklyn, N.Y., to open the Barclays Center with a season-opening contest against Maryland on Friday.
Volleyball - The 17 victories guarantees UK a winning season for an unprecedented eighth-consecutive season under UK coach Craig Skinner. - The Wildcats were paced by senior Ashley Frazier as she averaged 4.29 kills per set on an impressive .362 hitting percentage. Frazier had a career-high 20 kills against the Rebels to couple with a career-high eight digs in the win. - Senior setter Christine Hartmann directed the offense to the tune of 15.80 kills per set on a .372 hitting percentage. - Senior libero Stephanie Klefot continues to be an anchor for the Wildcats from the back line. She was perfect on her serve-receive attempts and averaged a squad-best 4.14 digs per set. With 29 scoops on the weekend, she became just the fourth player in SEC history to tally 1,800 or more digs in a career.
Women's soccer - Kentucky bowed out of the SEC Tournament to Missouri in the quarterfinals 2-1 in Orange Beach, Ala., on Wednesday. - Caitlin Landis scored UK's lone goal on Wednesday. Landis has scored three goals in the last two games.
Men's soccer - The Wildcats have been led offensively by Tyler Riggs and Matt Lodge, who have accounted for 14 goals (Riggs-7, Lodge-7) combined through 18 games .The duo has also connected for six assists (Riggs-4, Lodge-2) during the regular season. - UK will travel to Hoover, Ala. for the C-USA tournament game at 6:00 p.m. ET vs. Memphis.
Rifle - The University of Kentucky rifle team defeated No. 15 North Carolina State and The Citadel on Saturday, shooting a 4686 in the triangular match in Charleston, S.C. - Junior Emily Holsopple shot a personal-best 590 in smallbore. - Sophomore Jonathan Pinkel and freshman Luke South recorded personal bests in air rifle, Pinkel shooting a 591 and South a 590.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team finished in sixth place at the Alamo Invitational with a score of 11-over-par, 875. - The squad set a program record with a final round of 6-under-par, 282. The Cats broke the previous school record of 284 for a round, which was set during the 2009-10 season. - Kentucky had two top-25 finishers as Ashleigh Albrecht placed tied for 22nd at 2-over, while Cylia Damerau was tied for 25th at 3-over.
Cross country - Cally Macumber was named Southeastern Conference Cross Country Runner of the Year on Friday. - The Rochester Hills, Mich., native won the SEC Championship Race on Oct. 26 and owns the SEC-best times at both 5,000 meters and 6K. She was also named a First Team All-SEC runner. - Macumber was the first Wildcat to win the women's SEC Title since Valarie McGovern won the conference meet in 1989. - The Kentucky cross country teams return to action on Nov. 9 for the NCAA Southeast Regional in Charlotte, N.C.
Swimming and diving - Kentucky divers junior Greg Ferrucci and freshman Rebecca Hamperian each picked up wins in the 1-meter and 3-meter events Friday against Auburn. - For the third consecutive Friday, sophomore Lucas Gerotto won the 100-butterfly (49.25) and has bested his time each meet. His sister, sophomore Julia Gerotto, earned her first win of the season with a victory in the 200-butterfly (2:02.44) while also picking up a second place finish in the 1000-freestyle (10:15.39).
Football - UK's rushing attack was solid against a tough UGA defense, posting a season-best 206 rushing yards on 43 carries. Jonathan George led the way with a career-high 87 yards on 12 carries, while Morgan Newton and Raymond Sanders had rushing touchdowns. Newton also threw a touchdown pass to Aaron Boyd, while starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw for 86 yards, rushed for 31 yards and caught a 33-yard pass. - Kentucky entered the game having played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to three of the computer rating used in the official BCS rankings. Georgia was Kentucky's fifth top-25 opponent this season. The Wildcats are using a young squad against the best teams in the nation, ranking top-five nationally in true freshmen played, and frosh (true freshmen and redshirt freshmen) played this season. Volleyball - Junior Whitney Billings led the way for the Wildcats with an average of 4.17 kills, 3.67 digs and 1.33 blocks per set for the week. She logged her 23rd career double-double with 16 kills and 14 digs against the Tigers. - Senior Ashley Frazier was named a Senior CLASS award finalist during the week. She is the first player in school history to advance to the final 10 seniors for the prestigious award. Women's soccer - Sophomore Arin Gilliland has scored a point in five of the last six games for UK, including scoring a goal in each of the last three games, with two game-winners. - Goalkeeper Kayla King recorded her third-straight shutout Friday night in a 1-0 win before allowing her only goal of the weekend to Auburn, snapping her 322-minute scoreless streak in net. King now stands at 11-2-0 in the net. - The win Sunday over AU was UK's fourth-straight SEC win. It is the first time since 2006 that UK has won four-straight SEC games. Men's soccer - Kentucky (8-6-1, Conference USA 3-1-1) posted a 6-1 goal margin in its two games, as the Wildcats got the first career goal from veteran Dylan Asher against Marshall, as well as Asher's hat-trick, and Kentucky's eighth all-time, vs. FIU. Senior midfielder Charley Pettys netted a goal vs. FIU off of a handball in the box allowed him to take the penalty kick.
Rifle - Kentucky set numerous program records in Sunday's win over Army, including total aggregate score (4716), total smallbore score (2348), individual aggregate score and individual smallbore score. - Senior Henri Junghanel recorded a historic Sunday as an individual, posting a program-best 1186 total score and another program-record 592 in smallbore.
Women's tennis - Freshmen Nadia Ravita and Kirsten Lewis had impressive outings in West Lafayette, Ind. The duo went 2-1 in doubles competition. Lewis advanced to the round of 32 while Ravita won two matches to make it to the quarterfinals of singles play.
Men's tennis - The men's tennis team was in Memphis, Tenn., this weekend competing in the ITA Ohio Valley Regional Indoor Championships. - Jomby and freshman Kevin Lai have earned a spot in the doubles championship match on Monday at 10:00 a.m. ET. Lai and Jomby are the No. 2 seed in the draw, and will face No. 1 overall seeded John Collins and Mikelis Lieibtis of Tennessee. Men's golf - The UK men's golf team finished tied for second at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate, shooting 11-under-par. - Sophomore Will Bishop was the individual champion, carding a 2-under-par, 70 for the tournament.
Cross country - Cally Macumber was named SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Week for the second time in a row on Tuesday. - The Rochester Hills, Mich., native's 6K time of 20:09.0 at Pre-Nationals currently ranks as the best time in the conference this season at that distance. - Macumber and Oswald led Kentucky to 12th-place overall in Louisville.
Swimming and diving - Kentucky's lone victory of the swimming meet came from sophomore Lucas Gerotto who took home first in the 100-butterfly (49.70). - The diving team had a strong opening meet with multiple victories. Junior Greg Ferrucci won the three-meter event with a score of 423.5 while senior John Fox placed fourth 332.50. Ferrucci also claimed second in the one-meter dive (361.95). For the women, in the one meter diving event Rebecca Hamperian took first for the Cats with a score of 298.35, while Sarah Chewning followed her in second scoring 282.20. Christa Cabot took first place with a final score of 308.05 in three meter diving.
Football - The game with Mississippi State marked UK's third-consecutive game against an undefeated, top-20 opponent. Previous times in school history UK has played three straight ranked opponents include 1958, 1968, 1970, 1976, 1988, 2007, 2009 and 2011. - The UK defense limited Mississippi State to seven points in the second half. That ties the lowest scoring output by an opponent vs. UK this season. Kent State also had just seven points in the second half. - Freshmen quarterbacks Jalen Whitlow and Patrick Towles led the UK offense. Whitlow scored UK's second touchdown of the game on a three-yard rush, while Towles marched UK down the field for its first score when he connected with La'Rod King for a 32-yard touchdown. Demarco Robinson led UK in receiving with six catches for 43 yards.
Volleyball - Sophomore Lauren O'Conner tallied 11 kills on a career-high .556 percentage to lead the way in a win over Ole Miss. Freshman Kayla Tronick made her first career start and totaled 10 kills for a staggering .833 clip as she led a middle blocking unit that was flawless on the night. - Against the Gators, the Wildcats earned a 2-0 lead into the locker room, before succumbing to a gut-wrenching comeback by the Gators. UK limited the high octane offensive attack of Florida to just .197 for the match. O'Conner again led the way for UK with a career-high 18 kills on a sizzling .421 percentage. - Senior Stephanie Klefot had a match-high 22 digs to lead the back line defense. With 37 digs on the weekendshe has totaled 1,708 for her career and moves into seventh place all-time in the SEC career record books. Women's soccer - Arin Gilliland scored her fourth goal of the season against Missouri, which now sits in second on the team for most goals scored. The assist on the Wildcat's lone weekend goal went to senior captain Alyssa Telang, who tallied her second point on the season. - The overtime game Friday night was UK's fourth straight, which now stands as a new program record. - The loss Friday was UK's first to a top-25 team all season long, as the Wildcats were 2-0-1 previously against ranked teams. Men's soccer - Kentucky played its fifth and sixth ranked opponents of the year during the week, as the high-powered Hoosiers came to Lexington on Wednesday and secured a 4-1 win at the UK Soccer Complex. The loss to the tradition-laden Hoosiers snapped a five-match unbeaten streak for the Wildcats, the longest streak for UK since the 2009 season. - UK then ventured to Dallas to face league-leader SMU on a bitterly cold night at Westcott Field, with the Mustangs riding a penalty kick in the 65th minute and a late open-goal tally to a 2-0 win to stretch their unbeaten streak to nine games and improve to 4-0 in conference play.
Women's tennis - Sophomore Stephanie Fox led Kentucky at the Roberta Alison Fall Classic, winning the Green Draw after defeating Linn Timmermann of Georgia State 6-2, 6-2 in the championship match. - Nadia Ravita and Edmee Morin-Kougoucheff both finished second in their respective draws with Revita falling in three sets. Morin-Kougoucheff fell in the championship of the Pink Draw to Nayara Moraes of Middle Tennessee. - The tandem of Kirsten Lewis and Ravita fell short of winning the Teal Draw. The duo lost in the championship match 8-5 following an 8-2 win in the first round and an 8-6 semifinal win over Northwestern. Men's tennis - Tom Jomby defeated No. 14 Ben McLachlan of California 7-6, 6-3 to earn the upset. In the second round, the Nates, France, native earned a straight-set 6-2, 7-6 victory over Nathan Pascha of Ole Miss. His run came to an end Saturday to No. 7 Raymond Sarmiento of USC (California) in three sets. - Anthony Rossi came in as the No. 10 overall seed, but fell in the opening round in a three-set match.
Cross country - Luis Orta and Cally Macumber were named SEC cross Country Athletes of the Week after stellar performances at the Greater Louisville Classic. - Macumber finished second individually with a 5,000 meter time of 16:55.14, a mark, which currently stands as the best 5K time in the SEC so far this season. She now finished inside the top two in all three meets the Wildcats have competed in this campaign. - The senior came in ahead of Washington's Katie Flood, the defending Pac-12 cross country champion and a top-10 finisher at the 2011 NCAA Championships. - Orta earned the award for his 12th-place time of 24:06.96 over 8K. - He earned the same award three times last season. It was the third-consecutive top-20 performance for Orta this year and his ninth-consecutive top-25 finish.
Monday, Oct. 8 Men's golf at Jack Nicklaus Invitational (Dublin, Ohio)
Tuesday, Oct. 9 Men's golf at Jack Nicklaus Invitational (Dublin, Ohio)
Friday, Oct. 12 Women's soccer at Tennessee - 7:00 p.m. Volleyball hosts Mississippi State - 5:00 p.m. Women's golf at Tar Heel Invitational (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Saturday, Oct. 13 Football at Arkansas - 7:00 p.m. Men's soccer at UAB - 8:00 p.m. Women's golf at Tar Heel Invitational (Chapel Hill, N.C.) Cross Country at Pre-Nationals (Louisville, Ky.) Rifle at Nebraska
Sunday, Oct. 14 Women's soccer at Georgia - 2:00 p.m. Volleyball hosts Texas A&M - 1:30 p.m. Men's golf at Querencia Cabo Collegiate (San Jose del Cabo, Mexico) Women's golf at Tar Heel Invitational (Chapel Hill, N.C.)
Football - The football team dropped its Southeastern Conference opener Saturday to No. 14 Florida 38-0 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium. - Junior tailback Jonathan George led the team in rushing for the second-consecutive game, posting 52 yards on 13 carries. Overall, UK had 159 rushing yards against the Gators, which was the most a UK team has posted vs. UF since gaining 175 in 2003. - Sophomore linebacker Bud Dupree paced the UK defense with eight tackles and a sack. Junior Avery Williamson also gathered eight tackles in the game, while senior Martavius Neloms had an interception and Collins Ukwu blocked a field goal. Volleyball - UK dropped a heartbreaking five-set loss at LSU, before rallying for a five-set win that snapped a nine-match winning streak at Texas A&M. UK was led by senior Stephanie Klefot who put together back-to-back 20-dig matches for just the sixth time in her career. The 49 digs allowed her to chart 1,641 for her career and officially moved her into second place on the UK all-time career digs list passing BriAnne Sauer (1,634). That mark also ranks 10th all-time in the SEC. - Junior Whitney Billings also provided a spark for UK in the win in College Station. She had season-high numbers in kills (16), digs (16) and blocks (6), while also charting a career-high five aces. It marked the 18th double-double effort of her career. Senior Ashley Frazier launched 17 kills at LSU and followed that with 16 at A&M to lead the way offensively for UK.
Women's soccer - The UK women's soccer team split its first SEC weekend series, winning the Sunday game in overtime with LSU 2-1. - Freshman Courtney Raetzman scored one goal Friday night and two goals Sunday, including the golden goal in the 106th minute of the game to top LSU 2-1. The Elk Grove, Ill., native has tallied 10 points in the last four games. - The one goal allowed Sunday in the win over LSU was the eighth time in 10 games that the UK back line has allowed one or fewer goals in a game. Men's soccer - Kentucky won its third consecutive game with a victory at Evansville on Saturday to pull up to a .500 record after starting the campaign 1-4-0. The Wildcats used an explosive offensive attack and sterling defense during their three-game winning streak. - The Wildcats have been led offensively by Tyler Riggs in 2012, who has three goals and three assists in UK's first eight games of the year. - A native of Richmond, Ky., Jack Van Arsdale has allowed only one goal in his last three games, coming on a penalty attempt. He now owns a 0.90 goals-against average in six games and 500 minutes, saving 18 shots with two shutouts. UK freshman goalkeeper Callum Irving has also started three games, with seven saves and a 2.00 goals against average. - As a team, UK has averaged 1.62 goals a game and 11.8 shots a contest and a 53-43 advantage in corner kicks. Defensively, UK owns a 1.24 goals-against average.
Cross country - The women's cross country team finished second with 47 points at the Virginia/Panorama Farms Invitational, its second runner-up finish of the year. The men's team finished seventh with 200 points. - Junior Cally Macumber led the women's cross country team at the Virginia/Panorma Farms Invitational, winning the 5K event with a time of 17:29.13. - Senior Chelsea Oswald and junior Allison Peare earned their second top-10 finishes of the year, with Oswald finishing sixth with a time of 17:53.34 and Peare finishing ninth with a time of 18:28.84. - Senior Luis Orta led the men's team in the 8K event, finishing 16th after completing the event in 24:37.73.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team placed eighth at the Mason Rudolph Invitational. Ashleigh Albrecht finished with the lowest score for the Wildcats at 12-over par and was tied for 23rd individually. - Next up for the Wildcats is the Tar Heel Invitational, Oct. 12-14 in Chapel Hill, N.C. Men's tennis - The UK men's tennis team competed in its third tournament of the fall, as the Cats traveled to Louisville to take part in the Louisville Invitational. - Brett Johnson, Maks Gold, Beck Pennington and Michael Binder made the trip to Louisville for UK as both Johnson and Gold recorded wins in the singles draw. Upcoming schedule
Monday, Sept. 24 Men's golf at Saint Mary's College Invitational (Monterey, Calif.)
Tuesday, Sept. 25 Men's soccer at IPFW - 7:00 p.m. Men's golf at Saint Mary's College Invitational (Monterey, Calif.) Wednesday, Sept. 26 Volleyball hosts Tennessee - 8:00 p.m.
Senior Anthony Rossi has been named captain for the 2012-13 season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The 2012 Southeastern Conference champions are in a transitional state.
Former Kentucky men's tennis head coach Dennis Emery stepped down from the position earlier this year to take on the role of assistant to the athletic director. After serving 30 seasons as the head coach at Kentucky, after building the entire men's program from the ground up to Southeastern Conference champions in his final season, and everything else in between, it was time for Emery to move on.
Emery wasn't the only piece of the 2012 team to depart. After numerous contributions to the program throughout their careers, SEC Player of the Year Eric Quigley and Alex Musialek graduated in May. Those men represented the top two spots in UK's rotation last season. They were also key parts of the top two doubles teams that Kentucky had to offer.
Kentucky has giant-like shoes to fill for the 2012-13 season.
Though the true NCAA competition doesn't start until next spring, the tennis team will be competing in two invitational tournaments over the upcoming weekend in efforts to begin life without Emery, Quigley and Musialek. Kauffmann will send a group of four players including Jomby to the Illinois Invitational Tournament, while Rossi and the rest of the team will travel east to Durham, N.C. to participate in the Duke Invitational.
For any team in any sport the adjustments in store for the UK tennis team would be tough to immediately overcome. But they do have a slight advantage.
Emery's right-hand man since 2005 and former Kentucky tennis player Cedric Kauffmann seemed to be a logical fit as Emery's successor. He had pre-existing relationships with the players on the roster and had been instrumental in reshaping the mentality and attitude of the UK tennis program. While Kauffmann made all the sense in the world on paper, he knew the decision was ultimately not his to make.
"When Coach (Emery) got that job, it was within a week; (the players) were like, 'Oh, are you going to be the new coach?'" said Kauffmann. "And I told them that it was not my decision. But I think they were very excited that it was me."
Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart made the decision with Emery's input to hire Emery's longtime assistant. With the hire, Kauffmann became the 12th men's tennis head coach in University of Kentucky history, but the first new hire in over 30 years. The hire, however, was not to find the next Dennis Emery, but rather to find the first Cedric Kauffmann.
Kauffmann understands the legacy that Emery has left behind. After all, he had been a part of it not only as a coach, but also as a player under Emery for four seasons in the last 1990s, earning multiple All-America and All-SEC honors. He understands the history and the tradition that have been built and that replacing an icon is not something that happens overnight. Instead, Kauffmann is concerned about just what he has been hired to do: focus on the task at hand and carry on the tradition.
"I don't look at Coach (Emery)'s 30 years and say what am I going to do against that?" said Kauffmann. "I don't even know if I'm going to coach 30 years. My job is to take care of this year. And when I'm done with this year, I'm going to take care of next year. I don't look too far ahead. I'm just going to get better today, get better tomorrow, and if I do a good job then my record will be pretty good."
The hire has gone over very well with the returning athletes. UK did all it could to make sure to maintain a stable environment for the UK men's tennis team. In fact, other than the loss of Emery from the staff, the change is barely noticeable.
"It looks like nothing has changed," said senior captain Anthony Rossi. "We're just missing Coach Emery, but it doesn't really look like much has changed. It's pretty much the same."
Rossi, who has soared to No. 12 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association preseason singles rankings, has been saddled with the unenviable role of trying to fill the void left by Quigley and Musialek. The lone senior on this season's roster will be responsible for much more than either of those two had to shoulder. But that's why he was chosen. That's exactly why Kauffmann named Rossi his team captain for the upcoming season.
"I love my captain," said Kauffmann. "Anthony Rossi has sacrificed a lot. What I mean by this is that he was always a good player, and he's gotten better every year. He's been a very good listener since he came in and just waited for his time."
Rossi's time has come, and his role will be as crucial as any captain in recent UK history. Luckily, he won't have to do it all on his own.
"We have a big junior class that I expect to push a little bit to get the freshmen coming along because Anthony, the lone senior, can't do it alone," said Kauffmann.
That junior class is highlighted by Tom Jomby (No. 45) and Panav Jha (No. 64), who played major roles in the 2012 SEC Championship campaign. But they, along with the four other juniors, will have to take the next leap as upperclassmen in their play and as leaders to assist Rossi with those duties.
The goal for Kentucky is to build on last season's success, even with the exodus of their top two players. Last season, despite the SEC regular season championship, UK fell in the SEC Tournament and experienced an early exit in the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16.
But how do they replace those kinds of talents? How do they take the next step with that many holes?
"I don't think I can replace Eric," said Kauffmann. "Nobody will replace Eric. But I think they need to come into their own a little bit. Rossi needs to become Anthony Rossi. Jomby can become Tom Jomby."
No one individual is expected to singlehandedly fill those voids. For the Wildcats to replace the missing pieces, each returner is just going to have to improve. If that happens, Kentucky could collectively be in a position to repeat as SEC Champions and perhaps beyond, even if no one outside the UK tennis offices believes that to be a possibility.
"I'm pretty sure no one believes we can do it, but I'm pretty sure we can," said Rossi. "We've had some talks with the team and how we can do it. It's going to be tough, it's not going to be easy, but I'm really sure we can do."
That's the exact type of mentality you want your brand new team captain to have. While Rossi isn't trying to be the next Quigley or Musialek, those guys certainly made their impact. That's what makes Rossi the prototypical leader.
Kauffmann says one of Rossi's strengths has been observation since he came to UK. He's learned from former captain Brad Cox for two seasons, and he's watched how last year's seniors handled themselves as players and leaders. After spending a great deal of time with Quigley and Musialek over the years, Rossi has become himself by adopting bits and pieces from each of them.
"He's a little bit in between both," said Kauffmann. "Eric was very consistent with his emotions. I think he became more outspoken a little bit towards the end of his career. (Musialek) was more of the voice in the locker room. He had some higher highs and maybe some smaller lows compared to Eric, but he was the voice. Rossi is a little bit of both. He's got the 'joie de vivre' from France, but he's got some toughness in him and attitude in matches."
That "joie de vivre" is a French term meaning "a cheerful enjoyment of life." But Rossi would enjoy nothing more than atoning for last season's anti-climactic finish in his last go-around as Wildcat. As the undoubted leader of this team, whether or not that happens is largely up to him to rally the troops and take one last shot at greatness.
"I think we had a good season last year, but ended pretty bad, we think," said Rossi. "We knew we could lose, but not that way. As a senior, especially, it's my last year and I'm just ready for everything. I hope we win the the SEC again, the tournament, and I really think we can do something in the NCAA Tournament."
Cedric Kauffmann was named head coach of UK men's tennis on Wednesday. (Chet White. UK Athletics)
Life changes. You get your first job. You work hard and pay your dues. If you're lucky enough, you get promoted. Eventually, if you've worked hard and long enough, you get the job you've always dreamed of.
For Cedric Kauffmann, life is changing rapidly.
On Wednesday, Kauffmann was named the successor to Dennis Emery and became the 12th head coach in Kentucky men's tennis program history. The fit could not be any more perfect.
"It's been a really good week," said Kauffmann. "It's been a bit of a honeymoon. I'll come back to earth. The baby just got home. I'm just lucky my wife is very supportive and she does a lot of the work. But yeah, it's been a very good week for the Kauffmann family."
Yeah, and the man just welcomed his fourth child into the world earlier in the week. Life is changing, alright.
Kauffmann, who served as Emery's right-hand man as an assistant for the tennis team since 2005, has been pretty lucky to find himself in favorable situations throughout his career. Initially, he was lightly recruited by Emery to come to Kentucky as a player. Shortly into his collegiate career, Kauffmann wondered if Lexington may not be the place for him.
In hindsight, he could not have been more wrong.
"At the beginning, we both got lucky for me to come and him to recruit me," said Kauffmann. "He was not recruiting me highly, but when I went to school, he and I had a tough first year. For me, I was used to a certain coach for about four years and he had a little bit of a different style. So we butted heads and I think with all of the players he's had, they butt heads, but they realize he really cares about them. It's not just the tennis aspect,
but in life."
Now, Kauffmann couldn't imagine a better place for he and his family to be. His wife Caroline is a Lexington, Ky., native. Her family lives here, and since his time as a player and now into his coaching career, they have built several strong relationships in the community.
After his playing days at Kentucky, Kauffmann turned professional and played several years in the ATP. He played in two Grand Slam events in the 2000 United States Open and the 2001 French Open. In his 2001 French Open appearance, Kauffmann went toe-to-toe with Pete Sampras in a first-round five-set thriller. Kauffmann reached No. 170 in the ATP before ending his professional career.
Then it was time to figure out what he was going to do with the rest of his life. He found it in coaching, but it took him some time to realize it. The rest of it came together rather quickly.
Life was changing.
"When I stopped playing on the ATP tour, it was kind of a transition, I said I'll just go teach," said Kauffmann. "It was kind of easy money to go teach tennis lessons for six months, and I really enjoyed it more than I thought it would. I stayed in Cincinnati for about two and a half years. Then the same thing, the timing of Greg Van Emburgh getting the head coaching job at Wisconsin opened up the assistant job (at UK), and Coach Emery had a list of two or three people. He came and talked to me and I took the job."
The rest is history.
He's spent the last seven years as Emery's assistant, but the desire to be a head coach didn't take long to develop. Though his first few seasons at Kentucky were tough, it was clear that Kauffmann hoped to be a head coach someday.
"We struggled the first two or three years I was here," said Kauffmann. "They were a long two or three years. But I realized we were getting better and I was doing better on the recruiting trail and it was just exciting to go recruiting and try to get someone to play for you and connect with that player. So I feel like after two years I knew this is what I wanted to do for a while."
Now he has a chance to give back. After everything that Emery and his previous coaches had done for him, Kauffmann relishes in the opportunity to help out his players. It could have been anywhere, but once again, the perfect situation presented itself. When Emery stepped down at men's tennis coach to become Special Assistant to the Athletic Director, his dream position opened up. Kauffmann was the logical choice to succeed Emery, and it was an easy decision.
"I played my four years in Lexington," said Kauffmann. "I didn't know much about it. I took a recruiting visit, but I loved the city, I loved the people, even more than I thought I would. And playing four years, doing pretty well, and coming back to be an assistant. The timing of Coach (Emery) retiring and me coming in doesn't work out for a lot of people. It just did for me, and I really appreciate it."
He's right. That type of situation doesn't work out for everyone. But it's more than luck. Kauffmann has always been viewed as a valuable asset to the men's tennis program and keeping him in the fold was a priority. For now, the perfect situation continues for he and his family. They will be in Lexington for the foreseeable future and he'll be at the helm for as long as he can.
"I was thinking a little bit over the last year, how long (Emery) would stay as head coach," said Kauffmann. "So I've kind of had thoughts, should I just go and interview for other jobs so I can take care of my family. But like I said, it just worked out perfect. Right now I'm very eager, I'm very hungry still, so I'll try to stay here as long as I can and we'll see in a couple years. Life changes."
A few VERY quick notes to close out your Wednesday, and I'll spare you any preambles:
The big news around these parts is the naming of Cedric Kauffmann as Dennis Emery's replacement. Kauffmann will take over Kentucky men's tennis after eight seasons as an assistant to Emery, the last four as associate head coach. Kauffmann, who was a three-time All-American during his playing career at UK in the late-1990s, is regarded as one of the bright young minds in the college game. Congratulations to Cedric and look for a feature on him later this week.
Speaking of new head coaches, Sean Cartell of the SEC Digital Network posted a Q & A with Edrick Floreal of UK track and field. He talks about why he took the UK job, his illustrious college career and coaching in the upcoming Olympic games. Check it out.
It's almost time for some football. Thursday and Friday will feature plenty of gridiron-related content, as I'll be attending both the Governor's Cup and Kickoff Luncheons. In addition, we're starting a series of features spotlighting some of UK's incoming freshman on Thursday.
This week, the Fifth Third Bank Tennis Championships are being hosted at the Boone Tennis Center. In addition to seeing UK's all-time winningest tennis player - Eric Quigley - you also may notice a former Kentucky basketball player on the courts in an unexpected capacity.
WKYT has the story about Todd Svoboda - a member of the 1992-93 Wildcats - serving as a very tall ball boy.