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Dennis Emery



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Senior Eric Quigley led UK to a 4-0 victory over Radford in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (Chet White, UK Athletics) Senior Eric Quigley led UK to a 4-0 victory over Radford in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
The sixth-ranked Kentucky men's tennis opened the NCAA Tournament with an impressive 4-0 sweep over Radford Friday afternoon. But even as heavy favorites, head coach Dennis Emery felt the match left something to be desired. 

"You know, I think we really have to pick it up tomorrow," said Emery, "if we're going to be the team in the postseason that we want to be. We've been the team that we wanted to be all year, but we didn't quite see that intensity today. That's a concern."

It could have been the fact that UK was the top team in the regional facing a less talented Radford team, or it could have been because Kentucky had not competed in nearly three weeks. But in order for the Wildcats to be that team they have been and get where they want to go, it's imperative that Emery's bunch tighten the screws heading into Saturday's match against Indiana.

The Hoosiers took care of the Louisville Cardinals in their first-round meeting, 4-2. They will take their chances against the host Wildcats, a familiar opponent that they faced early this season. Kentucky took the initial matchup 7-0, but in the indoor part of the complex in a match that was closer than the score indicates.

Emery said he plans to look back to their earlier meeting for scouting purposes, but that many things have changed since then.

"We played Indiana earlier. It's a completely different match," said Emery. "The thing about those early-season matchups are that you play them indoors, so you're playing on, now, different surfaces. And most of the time you have completely different matchups than in February. So, even though you win early on, there's certainly no guarantees later in the year."

Kentucky was carried by their SEC Player of the Year, Eric Quigley. Quigley and doubles teammate Panav Jha started things off with a win in doubles to help give UK the doubles point. The No. 3 player in the nation then breezed through his singles opponent Nick Sayer in straight sets (6-2, 6-1). 

The Wildcats also picked up an 8-3 win from the doubles duo Tom Jomby and Alejandro Gomez. Anthony Rossi (6-2, 6-0) and Gomez (6-2, 6-1) also notched wins after Quigley completed his match to finish off the 4-0 sweep. 

Despite the lack of team intensity, Quigley was proud of the way his team fought and took care of business in the first round despite a large break between matches.

"I wanted to get out to a good start knowing it's been a couple weeks since we played," said Quigley. "I thought both teams would a little rusty, not at the top of their game knowing there's been a big break. But I'm pretty pleased with the way I played, and overall I think we're pretty happy to get through and get on against Indiana."

Like Emery, Quigley also sensed a bit of a lack of team enthusiasm overall. After getting the first one under their belt, however, Quigley thinks they will get back to being that energetic bunch the Cats have been all year.

"I think we all do a good job when we're very vocal and loud and help each other out," said Quigley. "I think we could have done a better job of that today, but I think we'll do that pretty well tomorrow."

Regardless of how Kentucky played or carried themselves on the court Friday, Emery was pleased that they still managed to take care of business in a swift manner. That certainly bodes well for Kentucky, as the host team, who is forced by rule to play the second match of the day Friday. That extra rest accrued by making quick work of Radford could be the key to a victory over the Hoosiers Saturday at 2 p.m.

"It's certainly important," Emery said of putting Radford away early. "It's still kind of hot. It's not break-your-back hot or cramping hot, but it's hot. So you want to get out and get the notch under your belt and get off and get rested."


Dennis Emery



Eric Quigley





Cat Scratches caught up with head coach Dennis Emery and all-time singles wins leader Eric Quigley on the eve of men's tennis' run in the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats will play host to the Radford Highlanders at the Boone Tennis Complex on Friday at 3 p.m. as they look to begin their run toward what they hope will be the first Final Four in school history.

Emery and Quigley talked about the tournament, the weeks off preceding it, the advantage of hosting and Quigley's legacy in the two videos below. Stay tuned this weekend of coverage.

Emery



Quigley



Following UK Athletics, it's easy to get wrapped up in wins and losses, but every once in a while, you read something that puts sports back into perspective.

Jen Smith's story about former men's tennis player and current volunteer assistant coach Matt Emery is one of those, but it does so in a different way. Most such stories serve as a reminder of the insignificance of sports, but this one shows how powerful they can be.

Emery, when he was diagnosed with testicular cancer last year, returned to his alma mater with his wife, Sara, to get treatment at the Markey Cancer Center and coach under his father, Dennis. The two Emery's have helped lead UK to an historical season while Matt has battled his disease:

One thing that helps keep Matt going, helps sustain his smile, is seeing the success that Kentucky is having in men's tennis.

Dennis, the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year, is having his best season in the 30 years he's coached at UK.

His team is No. 6 in the nation and went 11-0 for the first time in school history in SEC regular-season play.

"I'm just so happy for him," Matt said of his father. "It's really cool to see him have this success. He deserves it so much."

It hasn't been the easiest of years for Dennis or his wife, Brenda. While one son battles cancer, another son, Andrew, is overseas as a Marine (special operations) in Afghanistan. Andrew left for his second tour in January.

When asked if this season's success was somehow lessened because of the stressful things happening to those he loves most, Dennis quickly shakes his head side to side.

"It hasn't been bittersweet," Dennis said with a smile that looks a lot like his son's. "It's been really, really sweet."

Kentucky earned an at-large bid into this year's NCAA Tournament and will host the first two rounds starting Friday at the Boone Tennis Center.

Matt will be courtside with his father and assistant coach Cedric Kauffmann trying to help UK advance.

As a volunteer assistant coach, Matt has been invaluable, Dennis said.

"He's really good on the court and during the matches," Dennis said. "He's very perceptive. He played at this level. He played here in the SEC. He's young enough to understand the emotions of what's going on."

UK will open play in the NCAA Tournament on Friday at 3 p.m., but more importantly, Matt's prognosis for a full recovery is good.

LINK: TENNIS, OPTIMISM HELPING FORMER UK PLAYER EMERY FIGHT OFF CANCER

Postseason at hand for spring sports

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The clock is ticking down on this year in UK Athletics.

Baseball is the only team still in regular season play, while men's tennis, softball, track and field, women's golf and men's golf are all preparing for postseason play. You can find more information on each one at the individual sport pages, but I figured I would compiled and summarize information on how to follow all of your Wildcat teams in the postseason.

Men's tennis - Hosting NCAA Tournament beginning Friday


For the fourth consecutive season, UK was chosen to host first and second round matches. Kentucky, the No. 6 overall seed in the tournament, will open their NCAA run against No. 75 Radford (20-5) 3 p.m. Friday at the Boone Tennis Complex. Should the Cats win, they will advance to meet the victor between Indiana (21-8) and Louisville (18-9), a match that will be played on Saturday at 2 p.m. at the Boone Tennis Complex.

Tickets are still available and you can visit Tourney Central http://www.ukathletics.com/ncaatennis/ for more information. For those unable to attend, there are plenty of ways to keep up with the action:


If UK advances past the second round, it will travel to Athens, Ga., for the Sweet 16.

Softball - Opens SEC Tournament on Thursday

With a late-season surge, UK earned the fifth seed in the SEC Tournament and the right to face fourth-seeded Georgia at 5 p.m. ET on Thursday in Tuscaloosa, Ala. All tournament games will be carried live on the ESPN family of networks with UK's first round game on ESPNU and ESPN3.

Just a couple weeks ago, it appeared the SEC Tournament may be UK's last chance to qualify for NCAAs, but the Wildcats are now two games over .500 and likely to reach the NCAA Tournament even with a first-round loss in the SEC. Stay tuned to the blog this evening, because we will have a feature on senior Rachel Riley to preview the tournament.

Track and field - Preparing for SEC Championships

The track and field team is already in Baton Rouge, La., where the Wildcats will participate in the SEC Outdoor Championships. The event begins on Thursday and lasts through Sunday. Metz Camfield is traveling with the team and will have updates on UKathletics.com. Also, follow @KentuckyTrack on Twitter as the Cats look to improve on an eighth-place finish at SEC Indoors.

Women's golf - NCAA bound

Last week, the women's golf team learned its NCAA Tournament path, and the Wildcats will be heading to Columbus, Ohio for the Central Regional of the NCAA Women's Golf Championship, which begins on Thursday and lasts through Saturday. The Cats will be part of a 24-team field that includes six other SEC teams as they look to finish a strong 2012 during which they've bested the school record for team scoring average by nearly two strokes.

Men's golf - Awaiting NCAA fate

The Wildcats, after a seventh-place finish in the SEC Championships, are hoping to earn their first NCAA Regional berth since 2009. If UK does hear its name called, Regionals will take place May 17-19.

Kentucky Sports Report (week of May 7)

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Baseball
- The No. 3 Kentucky baseball team broke for finals and returned to action with a stiff test, hosting two-time defending Southeastern Conference Champion and College World Series participant No. 5 Florida in a three-game set. UK suffered losses in the first two games, before riding the dominating arms of Corey Littrell and Trevor Gott to a 2-1 win in the finale.
- Kentucky returns to action on Wednesday, traveling to Bloomington, Ind., to face Indiana before returning home to host the final SEC series of the year at Cliff Hagan Stadium, welcoming Alabama Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET. UK will wrap up the regular season at Mississippi State the following weekend, before traveling to the SEC Tournament in Hoover, Ala., May 22-27.
- The Wildcats have amassed the fifth-most wins in program history, with their 15 SEC wins checking in third-most in program annals. UK lost its lead in the SEC for the first time in a span of eight weeks during the weekend loss to the Gators, as UK had led the conference standings for seven-consecutive weeks. UK sits a game back of the league lead, behind South Carolina (16-8) and LSU (16-8), a pair of team UK owns series wins against, with the Wildcats sweeping the Gamecocks.
- UK has improved to 13-4 in one-run games, owning a 12-8 record against top-25 opponents and a 10-5 mark against top-10 foes. The Wildcats boast a 30-3 record in day games after posting the 2-1 win on Sunday vs. Florida, riding Littrell and Gott's pitching efforts.

Softball

- The Kentucky softball team concluded regular-season action with a sweep of No. 22 LSU this weekend to clinch the No. 5 seed in the SEC Tournament and become NCAA Tournament eligible. The Wildcats entered the weekend with a 4-13 record in one-run games and a 0-5 mark in league play. All three victories against the Tigers came with UK winning by just one tally. Furthermore, LSU had never lost a game in Lexington and had never dropped a series to the Wildcats in program history.
- The Wildcats needed the senior trio of Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes and Rachel Riley to lead them to victory yet again. In the opening game of the series, Cervantes carved up the NCAA leader in ERA (0.90) in Rachele Fico for three earned runs including a two-run double and a two-out, two-strike solo homer in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings.
- Bell worked the complete-game effort and struck out 10 in the win. On Saturday, Riley was the winning pitcher with Bell earning the save and Cervantes going yard in her second consecutive at-bat against the Tigers with a solo homer in the first frame. In the final game of the series, Bell notched the fifth no-hitter of her career while striking out six in the win. Cervantes was 1-for-2 with a double to mark all four of her hits in the series coming in extra-base fashion.
- With the series win the Wildcats earn the fifth-seed in the tournament, marking their highest finish in the league under Rachel Lawson and the highest since winning the East in 2000. The 15-13 record in league play is the second-straight winning record against league foes and just the third in program history. Kentucky, with an RPI of 39 entering the weekend, became NCAA Tournament eligible by ensuring a regular-season record of above .500 (29-27) to mark the fourth straight season the Wildcats will cap the regular season with a winning record - a program record.

Men's tennis
- The UK men's tennis team received an at-large selection into the 2012 NCAA Men's Tennis Tournament. Kentucky was selected as one of 16 host sites for the event, marking the fourth consecutive season the Wildcats will host the first and second rounds of the tournament.
- UK, which is the top seed in the Lexington Regional and the sixth overall seed in the tournament, will be joined in Lexington by No. 27 Indiana (21-8), No. 37 Louisville (18-9) and No. 75 Radford (20-5).
- The Wildcats are making their 23rd showing in the NCAA Tournament, including 18 of the last 19 years. This is the ninth time since 2000 that UK has hosted the first and second rounds, including four consecutive years. All of UK's NCAA appearances have come under Emery's direction.

Track and field
- Seven UK student-athletes competed Friday at the Billy Hayes Invitational in Bloomington, Ind.
- Freshman Keffri Neal ran a season-best 800m time of 1:50.67 to finish third overall.
- Sophomore Matt Hillenbrand ran the second-best 800m by a UK runner all season, finishing fourth in the race with a time of 1:51.07.
- The Billy Hayes Invitational is UK's final regular-season race of the year. The Wildcats will compete next in the SEC Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Baton Rouge, La., beginning Thursday.

Upcoming schedule

Wednesday, May 9
Baseball at Indiana - 3:00 p.m.

Thursday, May 10
Softball vs. Georgia - 5:00 p.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Track and field at SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.)

Friday, May 11

Men's tennis hosts Radford - 3:00 p.m. (NCAA Tournament)
Softball vs. Alabama/Mississippi State - 5:30 p.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Baseball hosts Alabama - 7:00 p.m.
Track and field at SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.)

Saturday, May 12
Baseball hosts Alabama - 2:00 p.m.
Men's tennis hosts Indiana/Louisville - 2:00 p.m. (NCAA Tournament)
Softball SEC Championship - 8:00 p.m. (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Track and field at SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.)

Sunday, May 13

Baseball hosts Alabama - 1:00 p.m.
Track and field at SEC Championships (Baton Rouge, La.)

Each Wednesday here at Cat Scratches, we're going to take a look back at the latest week's news in UK Athletics from around the web.

Best on the Net


University of Kentucky sophomore Trevor Gott and junior Luke Maile were named to the USA Baseball Golden Spikes Award Watch List Tuesday.

Making the 60-man watch list puts the Wildcat duo in contention for the most prestigious award in college baseball. USA Baseball has honored the top amateur baseball player in the country with the Golden Spikes Award since 1978.

Football - Seahawks draft Guy; Broncos take Trevathan (Lexington Herald-Leader, Jennifer Smith)

He had started to drift off during the sixth round of the draft. He was nearing a dream-like state when his dream finally came true and his phone rang with a team official on the other end.

"Want to be a Seahawk?" the man on the phone asked.

"Yes, sir," was all Guy could reply.

Football - Five UK players sign NFL free-agent contracts (The Courier-Journal, Kyle Tucker)

The NFL draft is hardly the last chance college football players have to make their professional dreams come true. In the 24 hours that follow every draft, a frenzy of rookie free-agent signings happen - and several Kentucky players were part of that mad dash to snatch up less-heralded talent this year.

Along with the Wildcats' two draft picks - safety Winston Guy to the Seattle Seahawks with the 181st pick and linebacker Danny Trevathan to the Denver Broncos with the 188th pick, both in the sixth round - five former UK players have signed rookie free-agent contracts.


University of Kentucky's Eric Quigley, who has set the school record for most wins in a season (47 and counting), has been named the Southeastern Conference Tennis Player of the Year by league coaches.

Quigley is the second player in UK history to earn the title, joining former UK All-American Jesse Witten (2005).


The sixth-ranked University of Kentucky men's tennis team, which won the Southeastern Conference regular-season title with an undefeated record in league play, has received an at-large selection into the NCAA Tennis Tournament, the NCAA announced Tuesday.

Men's Basketball - Kentucky basketball team invited to White House on Friday (The Courier-Journal, Kyle Tucker)

The University of Kentucky basketball team is headed to the White House, by invitation of President Obama, and the Wildcats had better hurry up and pack. Word of the invitation came Tuesday -- with the visit scheduled for Friday.

UK's players and coach John Calipari will be honored by the president at 4:50 p.m. Friday for winning this year's NCAA championship, the program's eighth.


University of Kentucky senior and National Champion Eloy Vargas will conduct five area youth basketball camps during the month of May.

Vargas, who helped the University of Kentucky men's basketball program capture its eighth national championship earlier in the month, will hold five camps in as many days May 14-18. The Nation of Blue Championship Camp featuring Eloy Vargas will tip off on Monday, May 14 at Belfry High School. Each camp will be held from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Women's basketball - UK's Mitchell, Winburn principal among teachers honored (Lexington Herald-Leader, Valarie Honeycutt Spears)

UK women's basketball coach Matthew Mitchell said he was the program's spokesman this year because he sees himself as a teacher first and a coach second. But Mitchell didn't know that he would be among those honored as a teacher who made a difference.

Mitchell was presiding over the recognition ceremony at the UK Student Center when one of his players, senior guard Keyla Snowden, walked in to surprise him, representing the team.

Former Wildcats making Headlines


It was somewhat easy to forget amidst the controlled chaos that was the Clippers' 28-3 run to close Game 1 in FedEx Forum. But Bledsoe's hustle play along with several other moments from the second-year guard playing his first career playoff game, were essential to the 99-98 victory.

Or as Paul said about Bledsoe and the rest of his teammates efforts prior to Monday's practice at the arena, "Each one of those plays had to be made in order for us to have a chance to win."

Former UK standout Roger Harden to coach Williamstown High (Lexington Herald-Leader, Mike Fields)

Harden met with the Williamstown players on Monday and "was very impressed with their enthusiasm."

The Demons, who play in the 8th Region, haven't had a winning season since 2004-05, so Harden realizes the challenges ahead.

"It's going to be a building process, for sure," he said. "They've never had a strength or conditioning program, so we're going to introduce the players to that."


Chris Rusin walked from the Iowa Cubs' bullpen to the pitcher's mound Sunday, knowing the best thing he could do for his team was to work deep into the game.

But going deep as a batter?

"That one surprised me a little, too," the lefty said after a 2-1 Pacific Coast League victory against Cardinals affiliate Memphis at Principal Park

Johnson Tweet: Surgery a Success (WGRZ.com, Ben Hayes)

Bills receiver Stevie Johnson says the the groin surgery he underwent Tuesday in Philadelphia was a success.

Johnson tweeted the above picture he says after surgery, and the tweet read as follows:

"Thank Yall! Successful Op.  Still Pretty as Ever maybe a bit more from after the Surgery... Ha What?  RecoveryMode now."

News from UKAthletics.com






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