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Kentucky Sports Report (week of Sept. 24)

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- 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.


- 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.

Friday, Sept. 28
Women's soccer hosts Texas A&M - 7:00 p.m.

Saturday, Sept. 29
Football hosts South Carolina - 7:00 p.m.   
Cross Country at Greater Louisville Classic - 9:30 a.m.
Men's Tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.)

Sunday, Sept. 30
Women's soccer hosts Alabama - 12:00 p.m.
Volleyball hosts Auburn - 1:30 p.m.
Men's Tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.)
Men's soccer hosts Memphis - 2:30 p.m.

Senior Anthony Rossi has been named captain for the 2012-13 season. (Chet White, UK Athletics) 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) 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."

Notes for a Wednesday evening

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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.
  • Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart is continuing his climb to the top of Mount Kilimanjaro. Here's an update from his group leader.

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.


Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as UK's head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as UK's head coach. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For longtime head coaches, stepping aside can be the hardest thing to do. Oftentimes, the job becomes such an interwoven part of their identity that retirement almost becomes an impossibility.

Even though he had been at the helm for three decades, Dennis Emery was never going to be the coach who held on too long. Emery wanted to leave the position he had held for so long of his own accord. He wanted to leave the position he had held for so long at the peak of his powers.

"I always wanted to go out on top," Emery said. "I never wanted to feel like there was any slippage in my performance."

In announcing his retirement as head coach of Kentucky men's tennis on Tuesday, Emery did just that.

In his 30 years as a Wildcat, Emery redefined the program he so capably led. He left Austin Peay in 1983 to take the job at UK, one that paid $13,100 per year without benefits, a dollar amount Emery says is "burned into my mind." Since then, UK has been transformed into a team to be reckoned with on a conference and national level.

Emery finished his last season with 655 career wins - 568 of which came at Kentucky - ranking him sixth nationally among all coaches. He coached his Wildcats to 23 NCAA Tournaments and won three Southeastern Conference coach of the year awards, the last of which came this past season, fulfilling Emery's goal of finishing strong.

Throughout the 2012 season, it was clear whenever Emery spoke that he felt he had a special group. With a pair of seniors in Eric Quigley and Alex Musialek leading a team Emery called the most talented he'd ever coached, UK completed a perfect SEC regular season, a feat unmatched in Emery's first 29 seasons. Postseason play would lead to a disappointing Sweet 16 loss, Quigley would help ease the pain by advancing all the way to the finals of the NCAA Singles Championships, cementing his legacy as Emery's - and therefore UK's - most decorated player.

Like his coach, Quigley, along with Musialek, is off to the next phase of his life. The departure of the senior duo leaves a void that will not be easily filled, but Emery isn't leaving because of the program's uncertain future. In fact, it's quite the opposite.

"I know we're losing (Eric) Quigley and we're losing (Alex) Musialek, who were two great players, two top-10 all-time winners here, but we've got a really good, solid foundation and a good class coming in," Emery said. "I feel great about the direction we're going. In fact, I'm stepping away now because I feel so good about the direction we're going."

The search for Emery's successor will begin immediately, a process Barnhart expects to move "fairly quickly."

Listening to and reading Emery's comments, it's hard to miss his use of the word "we" when referring to UK. Of course, it would be hard to blame him for reflexively calling himself a part of the school he came to call home, but in this case, the term still applies.

The retirement announcement was accompanied by the news that Emery will remain on staff as special assistant to the athletics director. Emery will of course maintain close ties to the men's tennis program, but his new role is based on the countless relationships he has built in the community during his time as head coach.

"If you talk to Dennis at any point in time and you say, 'I met this guy' and you give him a name he will say, 'Oh, I coached his son, or I coached his daughter. Or, I saw his child play,' " Barnhart said. "Sure enough, he has."

Barnhart will look to Emery to assume immediate responsibility in fundraising - an area in which Emery has already shown an aptitude - and in serving as a representative for UK.

"I think that there are a variety of things that I would hope and I think that he would absolutely thrive on," Barnhart said. "It's the ability to be an incredible ambassador for things that I can't get to all of the time, places we can't go and places we need representation. Really, really important. Two, fostering relationships with people that we have not been able to, at times, do as good a job as we need to do."

Barnhart was the one who first conceived of Emery's new position, but Emery didn't need much convincing.

"Going forward, when Mitch came to me, it's something I've always wanted to do, what he proposed to me, it seemed like what he was saying fit perfectly with the skill set I have," Emery said.

The fit may have been perfect and the timing just right, but the decision to move on was not taken lightly and it certainly wasn't made without emotion. In spite of his best efforts to avoid displaying that emotion in announcing the decision, a tearful Emery couldn't hide his feelings.

"I just feel like God has really blessed me over these 30 years to do what I'm doing and I'm doing it here," Emery said. "It's a very special place."

Emery has come to be a big part of what makes it special and one that isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

"We are fortunate as an institution to have the Emery family and to have specifically this guy be a part of us for 30 years, and what I would hope is 10 to 15 more," Barnhart said. "Somewhere in that range, but I mean it is his call. We've got a spot for him to help us become the university that we want to be. We know how much it means to him and we want to make sure we honor that, but more importantly take advantage of all the skills that he has and the love he has for this university."

Video: Emery's retirement press conference

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Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as head coach of UK men's tennis. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) Dennis Emery announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years as head coach of UK men's tennis. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
For the second time this summer, a University of Kentucky coaching legend has stepped down.

On Tuesday morning, legendary men's tennis head coach announced his retirement after 30 years in the position. Longtime track and field coach Don Weber did the same last month. Emery will remain with the athletic department, as Mitch Barnhart named him Special Assistant to the Athletics Director, a role that will involve fundraising.

Emery is the most successful coach in UK men's tennis history, and it's not even close. After his arrival in 1983, he led UK to two Southeastern Conference championships, 23 NCAA Tournament appearances and helped 19 Wildcat men to 38 All-America honors. For more on his announcement and achievements, check out our release here.

We'll have complete coverage of the joint press conference Emery and Barnhart will hold at 11:30 a.m. on Tuesday to discuss the decision here on Cat Scratches and on Twitter @UKAthleticsNews.


Eric Quigley finishes his Kentucky career as the winningest player in program history. (Bill Kallenberg, UK Athletics) Eric Quigley finishes his Kentucky career as the winningest player in program history. (Bill Kallenberg, UK Athletics)
There are realistic goals that are reached through effort. Then there are dreams that are only attainable by motivated, tirelessly working people who never stop trying to make those dreams a reality.

A young man out of Pewee Valley, Ky., realized one of his dreams this week.

Senior Eric Quigley became just the third University of Kentucky men's tennis player to compete in the NCAA Singles Championship Final on Monday. He fell to Southern California's Steve Johnson, the nation's No. 1 player, in the title match, 6-4, 6-4. 

Upon returning to the Bluegrass, Quigley set off for home to rest and reflect on his tournament run, his career and everything along the path over his time at UK. And though he lost his final match, he's still proud of what he was able to accomplish over the last few weeks.

"Obviously I wanted to win that last match," said Quigley, "but looking back at it all, it was awesome making it that far. I think I did a good job of taking it one match at a time. I think that really helped."

In the past, that was a problem for Quigley. With his eyes set on larger goals in the distance, he would trip up on the smaller steps along the way. The "one match at a time" mantra that has been ingrained in each and every UK tennis player is something that head coach Dennis Emery has been preaching all season long to his team. 

Quigley obviously got the message. And he's quick to attribute his success to a man that he calls the best in the business.

"Coach Emery, I mean, enough said about him," said Quigley "He's one of the greatest coaches in all of college tennis. He's helped me so much, day in and day out, over the past four years, and they're a real big key to my success looking back. Over my four years, I've improved in every area of tennis, and it's all due to (the coaches)."

The "one match at a time" philosophy is a tried and true in the world of athletics. The teams and athletes that stick to it are usually the ones with the most success at the end of the day. And Quigley has had his share of success.

He finishes his career with an impressive 172-47 record, including a record mark of 54-8 his senior season. His 172 career victories are 27 more than the next player in school history. He became the SEC Player of the Year on his way to a perfect 11-0 record in No. 1 singles in conference play. He's a five-time All-American, including three singles and two doubles honors. Quigley is just one of two players ever to compete in two collegiate grand slam finals. And he received the ITA Rafael Osuna Sportsmanship Award this season, which honors sportsmanship and on-court accomplishments.

At a point, those dreams and accomplishments seemed out of the realm of possibility. Arriving at Kentucky, he was just looking for an opportunity to compete.

"Coming into school, I was just happy to play," Quigley said. "I definitely didn't have these goals in mind, and these great achievements that I set. I had no idea. But I was just hoping to improve and help the program become better. I hope that in my four years, and my team, we were able to help make this an even better program and I just hope they continue to win championships and put themselves in a position to win a national title."

But eventually, Quigley realized he had something special. And it didn't take long. 

"One of the key moments for me was my sophomore year, in the fall, I beat the number one guy in the country," Quigley said. "I played a great match. And that was a big moment for me. I kind of followed it up with another great win after that, and it told me that it wasn't just a fluke."

In fact, Quigley has been anything but a fluke, as he's continued to prove the legitimacy of his talents to his opponents. 

Now Quigley will look forward to beating fellow professionals on the tour circuit as he begins his career post-UK. Though he has cemented himself as the greatest tennis player ever to wear the Blue and White, the dream to play professionally was one of the reasons he chose to play at Kentucky. By playing for Emery and his staff, he knew that he would have a chance to improve his game and take it to the next level. 

Training begins just three days removed from his last collegiate match for that next level. He says he'll be back on the court Thursday and by the middle of next week, he will be off for California to begin training at the USG Training Center to prepare for "Futures" and "Challengers." 

In fact, before his collegiate career was even finished, he accumulated some ATP points last summer, which will help him qualify for some professional tournaments in the near future. Quigley was also named to the United States Tennis Association collegiate team, which will help him earn wild cards that will help him enter into tournaments.

But there's no timetable for Quigley. He has no set number of matches he hopes to win this summer. He mentioned that some players take longer than others to make it to where he hopes to go. All he hopes to do is to improve and polish his game that he knows is good, but far from perfect.

"I try not to set a number," said Quigley. "I just want to keep improving right now, because I think that's the biggest thing I've got to work on, my serve and just improving my game."

But as he works towards his individual professional career, Quigley is quick to point out that the thing he will miss most is the team mentality and the camaraderie he's built with his teammates along the way. And even though he will no longer be on the team, it's going to be tough to keep him away from it.

"I'm going to miss all the guys on the team, and fighting for each other, working out together, and pushing each other to get better," said Quigley. "That's one of the many things I'm going to miss from Kentucky. I'm hoping I can come back in the fall and the spring the next couple years to practice and continue to learn from Coach Kauffmann and Coach Emery." 

Perhaps that affection for his teammates and coaches is why he was so disappointed by their finish this season in the NCAA Tournament. 

After reaching the Elite Eight last season, Kentucky, who returned quite a bit of talent including Quigley, had its sights set on loftier goals. Emery had talked all season about the possibility of this team reaching a Final Four and potentially a national championship. He felt as if he had the most athletic team in the nation, and he probably was not far off on that assessment. 

Kentucky was selected to host a regional in the 2012 NCAA Tournament, and they breezed past both Radford and Indiana on their way to the Sweet 16 in Athens, Ga., with their eyes on a Final Four appearance. It was not to be, however, as No. 11 Stanford caught the No. 6 Wildcats at the right time, leaving Kentucky a round short of another Elite Eight appearance. 

It was a tough pill to swallow for Quigley, who badly wanted to make a deep run in the tournament for he and his teammates.

"It was real tough," said Quigley. "Especially the year before when we had made the Elite Eight, and had a tough loss, and we thought we kind of had a chance there against USC even though they were a great team. But we really wanted to come back and improve on that good year that we had last year."

Luckily for Quigley, he had two shots at redemption for his team. He still had the singles and doubles tournament waiting in the wings. The Sweet 16 loss to Stanford was all the motivation he needed.

"I think one of the reasons I was able to do so well at individuals last week was because I had such a sour taste in my mouth after the team event," Quigley said. "I wanted to bounce back and do it for the team. I didn't want to have a disappointing end to my career, I wanted to go out on a good note, and I was definitely able to do that."

Quigley rode that wave of emotion and turned it into momentum that didn't stop until he reached his goal, his dream. 

He was faced with a tough task in the Final. Defending singles champion Steve Johnson from USC was all that stood in the way of a championship run for Quigley. However, Johnson was in a midst of a 71-match winning streak, and he would not be denied a second national championship. But the loss, although disappointing, did not ruin the experience and journey to the place that he had worked so hard to reach.

"It was kind of surreal," Quigley said. "I've been thinking about that since I was in high school when I was a little kid, making it to a Finals and the NCAAs. And for it to actually happen is like a dream come true.

"You know I was definitely happy to be there. I was happy making the Finals, but I wanted to bring home the title. But (USC's) Steve Johnson's quite an accomplished player, it's definitely not a bad loss by any means. It was a great run, and looking back, it was awesome."

It was awesome, and he Quigley has been awesome for the Kentucky tennis program and for his University. And for a Kentucky kid to reach his dreams and represent the University of Kentucky in the fashion that he has over the past four years, that is as awesome as it gets.

Kentucky Sports Report (week of May 29)

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- The Kentucky baseball team has been selected for its seventh all-time NCAA Tournament, traveling to the Gary, Ind., regional as the No. 2 seed, hosted by No. 1 seed Purdue. UK will face off with No. 3 seed and 25th-ranked Kent State in the opener on Friday, with No. 4 seeded Valparaiso taking on Purdue.
- The Wildcats have had the best season in the history of the program, winning the second-most games in school annals and finishing third overall in the Southeastern Conference. UK led the SEC in eight of 10 weeks and was just one win shy of winning the second league regular season title in UK history. UK is just one win shy of equaling the school record for wins, owning a 13-9 record against top-25 teams, a 10-5 mark against top-10 foes and setting a school record by winning seven of its 10 SEC weekends. Last week, UK advanced to the semifinals of the SEC Tournament, the highest UK finish in the modern-era history of the league tournament (1998-present).
- UK owns a 5-0 all-time record against Kent State, a 5-1 all-time mark against Purdue and have never played Valpo in school history. Overall against the field, UK owns a 14-13 mark against teams in the 2012 NCAA Tournament. UK ended the year with a No. 14 RPI.
- Kentucky will be making its seventh all-time appearance in the NCAA Tournament, owning a 10-12 overall record. UK's last appearance in the NCAA Tournament came in 2008, when the Wildcats tied the best finish in school history with a regional runner-up finish.

Men's tennis

- Eric Quigley's historic four-year career as a member of the University of Kentucky men's tennis team came to an end Monday in the NCAA Singles Final as he fell in a tight battle to No. 1 Steve Johnson of Southern California at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga. Johnson, who won the NCAA Singles title last season as well, earned late breaks in both the first and second sets to defeat the UK star 6-4, 6-4.
- The impressive tournament run by Quigley put him in exclusive company, becoming only the third player in school history to play in the NCAA Singles Final. The UK star joins fellow All-Americans Jesse Witten and Carlos Drada as the only players to advance to the finals of the singles event.
- Quigley had to defeat some of the best players in the nation to advance to the singles final, taking down five ranked players, including four that are ranked in the top 20 in the nation. The run to the finals began with a 7-5, 6-4 win over No. 41 Andre Dome of Cal Poly in the first round before Quigley defeated No. 18 Andreas Mies of Auburn 7-6 (4), 6-3 to advance to the round of 16. Quigley's Sweet 16 win came in thrilling action, taking down No. 13 Artem Ilyushin of Mississippi State 7-6 (5), 7-6 (4) before he earned a 6-4, 6-3 win over Henrique Cunha of Duke in the quarterfinals. Quigley faced No. 9 Blaz Rola of Ohio State in the semifinal Sunday, using a come-from-behind effort to grab the win 2-6, 6-1, 7-6 (1).
- The native of Pewee Valley, Ky., ends his senior season with a 54-8 record, which is the most wins in a single season in school history. The impressive mark this year took Quigley's career total to 172-47, which is the most wins in school history by a large amount, shattering the previous record by 27 wins.

Track and field
- Raymond Dykstra, Andrew Evans and Luis Orta will represent Kentucky track and field this year at the NCAA Outdoor National Championships in Des Moines, Iowa, from June 6-9. The trio each earned qualified marks/times at the NCAA East Preliminary Round last weekend.
- Dykstra, a freshman, earned a spot in the NCAA Outdoor National Championships with an eighth-place finish in the men's javelin, throwing 222-09/67.91m at Hodges Stadium in Jacksonville, Fla., on Thursday.
- Evans qualified for the national championships with a mark of 182-07-55.67m in the discus. Like Dykstra, Evans also finished eighth at the east prelims on Thursday.
- On Friday, Orta became the third Wildcat to qualify for the national championships, running a career-best time of 8:44.25 in the 3,000-meter steeplechase. Orta's time was the second-fastest 3,000m steeplechase in Kentucky history.

Upcoming schedule

Friday, June 1
Baseball vs. Kent State - 4:00 p.m. (Gary, Ind.)

Saturday, June 2

Baseball vs. Purdue/Valparaiso (Gary, Ind.)

Sunday, June 3
Baseball vs. TBA (Gary, Ind.)

Wednesday, June 6

Track and field at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)

Thursday, June 7
Track and field at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)

Friday, June 8
Track and field at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)

Saturday, June 9
Track and field at NCAA Championships (Des Moines, Iowa)

Recent Comments

  • Guy Ramsey: The song is "The Mighty Rio Grande" by the band This Will Destroy You. read more
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