On Monday, Eric Quigley went toe-to-toe with the nation's top-ranked player before falling 6-4, 6-4 to Steve Johnson of Southern Cal. Quigley ends his career as the most decorated player in school history, with his runner-up finish in the NCAA Singles Championship serving as a final addition to his long list of accomplishments.
In the video below, you can view highlights of the match and listen as Quigley talks about the match and his Kentucky career. Congratulations and thanks go to Eric for a memorable four years:
We're ticking down to the end of the 2011-12 UK Athletics season, but that's not stopping Memorial Day from being a busy one for the Big Blue Nation. Here are a few notes to help you keep up:
Eric Quigley wanted to help carry men's tennis to a team national championship, but the Wildcats fell in the Sweet 16. Instead, he's going for the next best thing. At noon on Monday, UK's all-time winningest player will take on top-ranked Steve Johnson of Southern Cal with the singles national championship on the line. Quigley has done just about everything a college tennis player can in his four years at Kentucky, but his resume lacks a national title. NCAA.com will be live streaming Quigley's final collegiate match here.
Speaking of Quigley, Kyle Tucker of the Louisville Courier-Journal on his bid to become UK's first men's tennis national champion. Check it out.
The baseball team received the disappointing - and surprising - news on Sunday that Cliff Hagan Stadium would not be playing host to an NCAA regional. Nonetheless, the Wildcats will have a chance to prove themselves in the NCAA Tournament and they will learn where they'll path will start and what it will look like in the Selection Show at noon on ESPNU.
He will face off against top-ranked Steven Johnson of Southern Cal in the finals and will look to end Johnson's 71-match winning streak. Stay tuned for coverage tomorrow, but in the mean time, here are video highlights of Quigley's semfinal win.
With four different teams adding to Kentucky's tally, UK Athletics is fast closing in on Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart's benchmark of 15 conference or national championships by the year 2015.
With the work of all UK's varsity teams, the Wildcats are also on the cusp of Barnhart's goals in the classroom.
For the second consecutive semester, UK student-athletes narrowly fell short of the 3.0 department-wide grade point average set forth by Barnhart. All UK student-athletes combined for 2.97 GPA and the GPA for scholarship athletes was a slightly higher 2.98 GPA. The average team GPA for the spring semester was 3.07.
"I am very proud of the effort our student-athletes logged in the classroom this semester," Barnhart said. "We fell just shy of our GPA goal and will work tirelessly to reach it, but I am happy with the academic culture we have fostered at UK. I appreciate everything our student-athletes, coaches and support staff have done to make that happen."
Among all teams, women's tennis had the highest GPA at 3.55, while men's cross country had the highest GPA among men's teams at 3.29. Of UK's 20 Division I teams, 12 had a GPA of over 3.0, including the championship-winning men's basketball, rifle and men's tennis teams. ***See below for complete grade information for each sport***
The work of the men's basketball team was particularly impressive. The Wildcats brought home the program's eighth national championship, spending essentially the entire month of March away from campus for tournament play, yet still excelling academically.
Five players off this year's championship team opted to turn professional early - all projected first-round picks and three in the lottery - but also demonstrated their commitment to both UK and eventually graduating by finishing the semester strong as full-time students. Anthony Davis, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Marquis Teague - three so-called "one and dones" - combined for a spring GPA well above 3.0. Additionally, the lone seniors on the team, Darius Miller and Eloy Vargas, each received their diplomas at May commencement.
"All these kids are good kids," John Calipari said. "We had a (3.12) GPA as a team for this term with five players who are leaving early, so all this stuff bitter old men say that they don't go to class, it's not true."
The men's basketball team is just the most high-profile example in a department full of student-athletes committed to excelling both on and off the field. With spring sports yet to be recognized, 90 Wildcats have already been named to the Southeastern Conference Fall and Winter Honor Rolls. UK student-athletes have also volunteered over 4,000 total hours to various charitable causes.
"I am excited about all the great things our student-athletes are doing," Barnhart said. "They do so much to enrich our athletic department, our University and the Lexington community. We are blessed to be a part of their development and take that responsibility seriously."
Baseball - After falling just a win shy of claiming the second Southeastern Conference Championship in program history on the final day of the regular season, Kentucky will kick off postseason play by opening the SEC Tournament on Tuesday as the fourth seed against the ninth-seeded Ole Miss Rebels, with first pitch set for 10:30 a.m. ET at Regions Park. - UK will be making its 14th all-time appearance in the SEC Tournament, owning a 16-28 overall record, with its fifth-place finish in 2000 and 2008 marking a program best. - UK completed its regular season with the most wins in a regular season in the history of the program, equaling the 41 from the school-record 44-win season in 2008. UK also tied the school record set in 2006 by winning seven of its 10 SEC series matchups in 2012. The Wildcats led the SEC in eight of 10 weeks and boasted home series wins over No. 2 South Carolina, No. 10 Ole Miss and No. 1 LSU, and road series wins at Tennessee, No. 18 Georgia and No. 9 Arkansas.
Men's tennis - The sixth-ranked University of Kentucky men's tennis team won the doubles point, but could not continue its momentum in singles action, dropping a 4-1 decision to No. 11 Stanford in the NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament Round of 16. - The loss concludes Kentucky's season with an overall record of 28-6, the second-most wins in the history of the program. Last year's team set the school record for wins in a year with a 29-9 mark. UK ends the season with a .778 winning percentage, which is the third highest in the history of the program behind the 1988 and 1992 teams. - Kentucky ends the season with a 23-6 record against currently ranked teams. More specifically, UK was 11-6 against teams currently ranked in the top 25, including three wins over teams in the top 10. Since the start of the 2009 season, Kentucky has won an impressive total of 31 matches against top-25 foes.
Softball - The Wildcats made their fourth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament on Friday in Louisville, and dropped a heart-wrenching 3-2 walk-off loss to No. 22 Michigan in the opening round. UK then defeated Valpo in an elimination game by a 5-4 margin before falling to the No. 7 Louisville Cardinals 3-2 in the Saturday elimination game. - UK ends its season at 30-30, marking the fourth-straight season the Wildcats have posted a .500 or better record. It is the best run in school history. Sophomore Ginny Carroll led the offense with a .444 average in the tournament, which included a double and pair of runs scored. Freshman Griffin Joiner connected for a two-run homer in the Louisville contest for UK's lone long ball. - The 2012 senior class comprised of Macy Allen, Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes, Ashleigh Gustafson, Rachel Riley and Erika Silence are credited with changing the culture of UK softball forever. The six-member class is the lone group of letter-winners to appear in postseason action in each season of its careers. They own the school-record for most wins in a career (136). Bell and Riley rank among the top-five in every pitching category in school history. Cervantes steps away as one of UK's most prolific offensive performers owning school records for homers and RBI. Track and field - Four Wildcats were named to the Track & Field All-SEC teams. Andrew Evans was a first-team selection in the discus, Raymond Dykstra and Luis Orta were second-team selections in the javelin and 3,000m steeplechase, respectively, and Keilah Tyson was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in the 100m and 200m. Dykstra was also named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in the javelin. - Thirteen Kentucky student-athletes have qualified for the NCAA East Preliminary, which takes place from May 24-26 in Jacksonville, Fla. Representing Kentucky will be Terence Boyd (long jump, triple jump), Raymond Dykstra (javelin), Andrew Evans (discus), Terri-Ann Grant (high jump), Isiah Kent (discus), Josh Nadzam (1,500m), Luis Orta (3,000m steeplechase), Kayla Parker (100m hurdles), Allison Peare (800m), Jennifer Svoboda (shot put), Keilah Tyson (100m, 200m), and the 4x100m relay team, which will consist of Tamyah Pipkin, Tyson, Julie Nunn and Parker.
Tuesday, May 22 Baseball vs. Ole Miss - 9:30 a.m. (Hoover, Ala.) Wednesday, May 23 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Baseball vs. LSU/Arkansas/Mississippi State (Hoover, Ala.)
Thursday, May 24 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Friday, May 25 Baseball vs. TBA (Hoover, Ala.) Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Saturday, May 26 Baseball vs. TBA (Hoover, Ala.) Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.) Track and field at NCAA East Preliminary Round (Jacksonville, Fla.)
Sunday, May 27 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.)
Monday, May, 28 Men's tennis in singles and doubles draw (Athens, Ga.)
Alex Musialek and the men's tennis team advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 4-0 win over Indiana on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Dennis Emery knows these types of opportunities are rare.
It's not often that a coach has the best player in the history of his program playing the best tennis of his career in the middle of his final postseason run. It's less often still that that player is surrounded by the arguably the best assemblage of talent in school history. Having those things converge with an uncommon sense of togetherness among the team, that might happen once in a career.
Beyond this season, the future remains bright for Kentucky men's tennis, and Emery will field contenders again, just as he has throughout his tenure. But this time it feels a little different. This time Emery has no intention of letting this chance get away from his Wildcats.
"When you're here, when you're at Kentucky in the SEC, the one thing I've learned over 30 years is when you have a good team, you better win," Emery said.
For the third year in a row, UK will play in the Sweet 16. There, the No. 6 Cats (28-5) will face No. 11 Stanford (19-8) on Friday at 4 p.m. in Athens, Ga. A victory would send Kentucky to the Elite Eight for the second straight season, but UK has never advanced past the national quarterfinals. In the minds of players and coaches, this is the year to break through that glass ceiling.
"It's important when you're good to seal the deal and put the nail of the coffin and that's what we have to do this week coming up," Emery said. "We graduate our No. 1 (Quigley) and 2 (Alex Musialek) and though we feel like we're going to be good next year, this our time."
Emery has no trouble identifying what makes this team different. Assistant coaches Cedric Kauffmann and Matt Emery have made a difference in developing and mentoring players, but even more importantly, the young Wildcats they get to coach are pretty good too.
"We're just better than we have been in terms of our talent. We have the ability to make mistakes and outrun them, out-jump them, out-serve them sort of," Emery said. "Our talent level is significantly better this year. We're more athletic. I've been around long enough, I had forgotten how important it was to have the best players."
Mix in the fire inside of every member of this team and you have something special.
"We've got a lot of character," Emery said. "These guys really want to win. It's the most competitive team I have ever been around and it's hard to describe. They're very, very competitive, both individually and as a team. They take a lot of pride in what they're doing."
In case advancing in the NCAA Tournament wasn't enough motivation, the Cats will have the extra edge of a rematch with the Cardinal, one of just four teams to defeat them all season. Back in February, UK was just a day removed from its first defeat of the season, a heartbreaking 4-3 decision at the hands of Ohio State, when then-No. 9 Stanford came calling. In a rare occurrence, it was the Cats' depth at the bottom half of the singles lineup that felled them.
"It was a match I felt like we definitely should have won the first time around," Emery said of the 4-1 loss. "I felt like I necessarily didn't do a very good job preparing our team. We played great at one, two and three. We played probably our worst match of the year at four, five, six and in the doubles."
Though it has been nearly three months, the loss is fresh in the Wildcats' minds, a stinging reminder an eight-day stretch that saw them drop three straight matches, or 60 percent of their total on the season.
"You definitely want to get some revenge," Quigley said. "They're definitely a good team, but I think we can play a little better."
The rematch as well the rest of the NCAA Tournament will be played on Georgia's home courts at the Dan McGill Tennis Complex, a venue that calls to mind much more pleasant memories than UK's first opponent there. On March 30, the Wildcats beat the Bulldogs 4-3 in a match that ended up being the difference in UK's first SEC championship in two decades.
"It's a great place to play," Emery said. "It's a venue that our players love to play in. If you could have seen us play Georgia earlier this year, they were just thriving on that situation."
Two seasons ago, the Cats' Sweet 16 run ended in Georgia, a run they built on last year in advancing to the Elite Eight. The Wildcats want to take another step forward into the Final Four, but make no mistake about it, it's not their ultimate goal.
"We just don't want to improve on the previous year, we really want to go all the way," Quigley said.
Baseball - After completing a sweep of Alabama to remain in a tie for first atop the SEC standings, Kentucky concludes the regular-season with a four-game road trip during the week, visiting Murray State on Tuesday in a midweek matchup, before heading to Starkville, Miss., for its final SEC series of the year against Mississippi State. UK owns a one-game lead over Western Division leader LSU (17-10) and a half-game lead over South Carolina (17-9). LSU ends the season at South Carolina, starting Thursday at Carolina Stadium. - With the sweep and the 4-0 week, UK extended its winning streak to five games, becoming the first team in the nation to ascend to 40 wins and regained the NCAA lead in wins. The Wildcats have the second-most wins in program history and its 18 SEC wins ranks second-best in UK annals, behind only the 44-win seasons in 2006 and 2008 and the 20-win SEC Championship season in 2006. - UK owns a 16-4 record in one-run games and a 12-8 record in games against top-25 teams. The Wildcats have the ability to win the conference for the second time in program history entering the final weekend, which would also secure a bye for the SEC Tournament. - With the sweep, UK set a new wins record for Cliff Hagan Stadium, finishing 29-5 at home. UK also set a new school record for team saves (18). Men's tennis - Dominated both its first and second round matches in the NCAA Tournament against Radford and Indiana, taking down both opponents by the score of 4-0 to advance to its third consecutive Sweet 16 appearance. This is only the second time in school history that UK has advanced to three consecutive Sweet 16s after head coach Dennis Emery led UK to the event from 1987-89. - UK's win over Indiana is its 13th victory in its last 14 matches, and the eighth consecutive win at home. All told, Kentucky ends the season with an impressive 16-1 record at home and a 62-10 posting at Boone since the start of the 2009 season. The victory moves Kentucky's record to 23-5 this season against ranked foes, while UK's 28 wins in 2012 is one off its school record 29 wins set a season ago. - Eric Quigley was impressive in singles and doubles action over the weekend, winning both his doubles matches with Panav Jha and both of his singles matches in straight sets. Junior Anthony Rossi went 1-0 on the week in singles along with sophomores Tom Jomby, Alejandro Gomez and Grant Roberts. Rossi's win against Radford was the match clincher, while Roberts' win against IU was the clinching point. - Kentucky won the doubles point in both matches, moving to 21-0 this season when it wins the doubles point.
Softball - Kentucky earned a bid into the NCAA Tournament for a school-record fourth consecutive year. UK is one of just 27 teams in the country, including seven in the SEC, to achieve the feat. - UK's senior class is the only class in program history to advance to postseason play in each of its four seasons of action. The class has also compiled a school-record 135-94 overall record. - Kentucky dropped its quarterfinal game with No. 11 Georgia in the SEC Tournament on Thursday. Brittany Cervantes homered for the 11th time in UK's last 21 outings to lead the offense as UK rallied from a six-run deficit, but the rally fell short at 6-4. Cervantes along with junior Alice O'Brien both registered a pair of hits. Track and field - Andrew Evans threw a mark of 181-09/55.40m in the men's discus finals at the SEC Championships and took home the men's discus title. It is the fifth-straight men's discus title for Kentucky at the SEC Championships. - Evans led seven different Wildcat men to earn points at the conference meet, with a trio of women scoring points for UK. - Luis Orta charted 12 points combined with a second-place finish in the steeplechase and a fifth-place finish in the 5,000-meter run. - Raymond Dykstra (2nd - Javelin); Walter Luttrell (4th - 10,000-meter run); Matt Hillenbrand (5th - 1,500-meter run) and Jennifer Svoboda (5th - Shot put) rounded out the top-five finishes for the Wildcats, as the men finished in eighth overall and the women in 12th.
Women's golf - The University of Kentucky women's golf team wrapped up its season following a 17th place finish at the Central Regional in Columbus, Ohio, shooting a 75-over-par 939. - Senior Ashlee Rose concluded her career as a Wildcat with a season-best, even-par 72 in the final round on Saturday, finishing in a tie for 50th at 18-over-par 234. In her career, Rose competed in 106 rounds, seventh most in school history. - Kentucky's 304.73 season scoring average breaks a school record previously held by the 2008-09 team that earned a 305.23 scoring average. Upcoming schedule
Tuesday, May 15 Baseball at Murray State - 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, May 17 Baseball at Mississippi State - 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 18 Softball vs. Michigan - 4:30 p.m. (Louisville, Ky.) Baseball at Mississippi State - 8:00 p.m. Men's tennis vs. Stanford - Round of 16 (Athens, Ga.)
Saturday, May 19 Baseball at Mississippi State - 3:00 p.m. Softball at NCAA Regionals (Louisville, Ky.)
Sunday, May 20 Softball at NCAA Regionals (Louisville, Ky.) Men's tennis NCAA Quarterfinals (Athens, Ga.)
Eric Quigley, with wins in singles and doubles, helped lead UK to a 4-0 victory in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
With his team's NCAA Tournament life on the line against Indiana, the last place Dennis Emery wanted Eric Quigley was on the sidelines.
Or so he thought.
Kentucky's all-time wins leader spent more time as a cheerleader than on the court, posting singles and doubles victories well before any of his teammates finished their own matches. After prevailing 8-3 alongside partner Panav Jha in doubles, he breezed through a never-in-doubt singles match, 6-1, 6-0, a score that somehow didn't even do his performance justice.
Quigley wasted no time moving to support his teammates, and he was greeted by a sight he could hardly believe.
"I walked off the court and I saw Anthony Rossi on court three was like two-all, two-one and I was like, 'That can't be right,' Quigley said. "But it was."
With Quigley anchoring the lineup, the No. 6 Wildcats (27-5) dispatched the visiting Hoosiers to advance to their third Sweet 16 in a row, an achievement not lost on anyone involved.
"He played fantastic in singles and doubles and I think it's a real credit for him," Emery said. "It's a huge match for us. This is the third straight year we've gone to the Sweet 16. They understand all that that means."
With each successive match potentially being the last of Quigley's decorated career, it would be understandable if he placed an inordinate amount of pressure on himself to play well. Instead, he summarily dismissed Isade Juneau, continuing his steak of singles matches without a loss that dates to March 19.
"You have a tendency to maybe think he's going to play a little tight," Emery said. "Just the opposite. He really turned it loose. Maybe not necessarily a great matchup for him at (court) one, but he really took care of business."
Afterwards Quigley, currently ranked third nationally as a singles player, confirmed what everyone who watched him play on Saturday already knew: that he played very well, even by his lofty standards.
"I'm pretty pleased with how I played in singles and doubles today," Quigley said. "It was a quick match, but there's just some days you feel like you can't do anything wrong. I feel like today is one of those days."
In two NCAA Tournament singles matches thus far, Quigley is yet to lose a set, dropping just four games in the process. That comes in stark contrast to last year's tournament run, when UK advanced to the Elite Eight in spite of Quigley losing three times in four singles matches.
Clearly, Quigley has improved his game since then, but he credits reaching a new level of play to his teammates as much anything else. With a deeper lineup and improvement in doubles, Quigley doesn't go into his matches thinking winning or losing will come down to how he fares.
"I really had a good season and it's also really good knowing we're so deep this year one through six," Quigley said. "It really doesn't matter if I win or lose, we can get four other points for sure. I think that's taken a lot off my shoulders this year."
Between the way Quigley and the rest of the Cats are playing, their goals are certainly within reach.
"We're not done," Quigley said. "We really want to keep going and improve on what we did last year and we don't want to end anytime soon. Our goal is to win it all, so anything less, we'll kind of be a little disappointed."
Even so, there are plenty of talented teams and players that could put a premature end to Quigley's career, but the fact that UK is now in position to contend on an annual basis will remain no matter what. Quigley has had a lot to do with that.
"There's almost no way you can describe what he's done for our program. I think he took it from, you know, we had a good culture, but now we have a championship culture."