Henri Junghanel and No. 2 UK rifle travel to face No. 1 TCU on Saturday. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For the majority of his adult life, Harry Mullins had spent the offseason as head coach of Kentucky's rifle team trying to figure how to get the team over the hump.
The Wildcats were clearly one of the elite programs in the nation, stacking successful season on top of successful season, but they had always fallen short of winning a national title. It was a particularly helpless feeling for Mullins because of his belief that he and his team had done everything in their power to accomplish their ultimate goal.
In 2011, Mullins was finally able to fill that empty spot on his top shelf with a national championship trophy. The celebration that came on the heels of the title was long and gratifying, but when he finally sat down to prepare for his 27th season as UK's head coach, the question he was faced with was oddly similar to the one he asked himself the 26 years prior.
"In years past when we didn't win, we've had great seasons so we didn't make a lot of changes but there was always that little bit where we fell short," Mullins said. "It kind of gave you that feeling of, 'What do we change?' After winning, you say, 'Do you change anything?' "
The answer, in short, was "no."
Through all the disappointing near misses, Mullins stayed true to his belief that the ultimate prize would come with patience and persistence. Once he was finally proven right, there was certainly no reason to change.
At the core of his philosophy is a singular focus on self-improvement.
"What we try to do is get better every day," Mullins said. "That's been our motto last year and even more so this year. Some days, your scores are going to increase. Other days, your score may stay the same or even decrease a little bit, but we expect you to be better as far as knowledge goes or physical condition. Something's got to be better today than it was yesterday."
That goal, in and of itself, is difficult enough for a team that returns most of the pieces from last year's team that won a national championship and set an NCAA record with a score of 4700 in the finals. Logan Fox and Sarah Broeker graduated, but top shooters like Henri Junghanel, Katie Fretts, Emily Holsopple, Stacy Wheatley, Ethan Settlemires and Heather Greathouse are back and have anchored the No. 2 Wildcats in an 8-0 start to the 2011-12 season.
"The type of team we have, they constantly strive to get better," Mullins said "It's tough to come off of winning it and having the same group. Sometimes, when you bring in a new group, you teach the same things in the same way. This year, we're re-teaching the same things in a different way and getting them to consistently stay focused on the task at-hand of executing their shot plans."
The only things his athletes have complete control over are their preparations and emotions. On any given day, an opponent could turn in a record score or conditions in the shooting range could make scoring well much more difficult, but Mullins constantly demands his athletes rise above those external factors.
The message must be sinking in, because Mullins actually found himself taking a lesson from his team during a recent road trip. The Wildcats were delayed in an airport for seven hours waiting for a flight when their destination was just a three-hour drive away. Taking a cue from their coach, the Cats took it in stride, while Mullins stewed in frustration.
"I was hot and livid the whole day and they were just laid back and relaxed," Mullins said. "I commended them for that. So far, they've been able to control the environment they've worked in as far as their emotions go. Sometimes it's a struggle because they're so good that they're striving for perfection. When they do make that mistake and you know perfection isn't going to come that day, you really have to stay within yourself."
As Mullins often points out, there is no defense in rifle, so the factor furthest removed from UK's control is the way the opponent shoots. In any given match, UK could put together its best performance of the season and have it fall short because an opponent executes just a bit better.
Traveling to face No. 1 TCU on Saturday, that's certainly in the realm of possibility. Along with UK, TCU is one of three unbeaten teams left in the NCAA. The Horned Frogs won the national championship in 2009-10 and have defeated UK two years in a row in regular season play.
Earning a win over the top-ranked team in the country and reclaiming the No. 1 ranking themselves is certainly UK's goal, but Mullins also views the match as an opportunity to prepare for Great American Rifle Conference play as well as the NCAA Championships in early March.
"We're all about winning and losing, that's why we compete," Mullins said. "But it's also about learning. That's going to be our main focus when we go to TCU is to learn about what we can do under duress. If we happen not to find that top gear, how do we find it?"
Mullins said as many as eight teams have a realistic shot at winning the national title this season, with UK obviously in the mix. Just like a year ago, Mullins is trying to help his team peak toward the end of the season and shoot best when it matters most. With the makeup of this year's Wildcats, he doesn't anticipate having any trouble.
"In years past, we've always had those couple super athletes, but they always tried so hard to make up what other shooters lost and put so much pressure on themselves," Mullins said. "This group here, when it comes pressure time, they do a good job performing at their elite level."
- The Wildcats return home for a pair
of league games this week beginning with Arkansas on Tuesday night. UK just
completed a two-game road stretch where they posted a 2-0 record, including a
65-62 win over Tennessee in Knoxville on Saturday.
- Kentucky had to come from behind,
trailing the Volunteers by as many as eight in the second half, but the
Wildcats were up to the challenge, including freshman Michael Kidd-Gilchrist,
who led UK with his third double-double this season. He finished with 17 points
and a game-high 12 rebounds.
- Fellow freshman Anthony Davis was
named the SEC Freshman of the Week after he finished with a game-high 18 points
and added eight rebounds and four blocks, while Terrence Jones was the only
other Wildcat in double-figures with 10 points.
- Kentucky remains the only undefeated
team in the SEC at 5-0 after two hard-fought wins over No. 6/7 Tennessee and
No. 24/RV South Carolina last week. The Wildcats captured a one-point 61-60
victory over the Lady Vols on Thursday in Memorial Coliseum, snapping the Lady
Vols' 36-game SEC winning streak.
- Junior guard A'dia Mathies turned in
one of the most impressive individual performances in UK Hoops history in the
win by netting a career-best 34 points to go along with nine rebounds, two
assists, two blocks and two steals. She hit the game winner with 4.2 seconds remaining
to give UK its third win over top-10 team this season and first win over
Tennessee in five tries. For her efforts she was tabbed the SEC Player of the
- The Cats then defeated South
Carolina on the road, 66-58, marking their first win in Columbia, S.C. since 2009.
The balanced scoring effort was led by Keyla Snowden who came off the bench for
15 points and three steals. Ten of the 11 players who saw action scored at
least two points.
- Kentucky got strong outings from
Emily Holsopple and Ethan Settlemires to lead the defending national champion Kentucky
rifle team improved to 8-0 win a win at Army, 4693-4646, on Saturday at the
Tronsure Rifle Range.
- Kentucky opened its spring portion
of the schedule with the win at West Point, totaling a 2325 total smallbore
score and a 2368 total air rifle team tally.
- Holsopple and Settlemires led UK in
both guns, with the duo each charting a 585 in smallbore. Settlemires led UK in
air rifle with a 594, with Holsopple adding a 593. Also in air rifle, Henri
Junghänel finished with a 592, with Heather Greathouse recording a 592 and Stacy
Wheatley posting a 589. Katie Fretts finished with a 585 in air rifle.
Holsopple and Settlemires led UK with 585's, with Junghänel charting a 576, Greathouse
a 579, Wheatley a 572 and Fretts a 569.
- The No. 23 University of Kentucky
gymnastics team concluded its first Southeastern Conference meet of the season
by falling 196.650-191.975 to No. 11 Arkansas at Barnhill Arena in
- In all, Kentucky had 19 of 24
routines performed by freshmen and sophomores in the meet, while five Wildcats
made their collegiate debuts on an event in the meet.
- Kentucky's youth shined on vault
with freshman Kenzie Hedges leading the way with a 9.775, while sophomore Holly
Cunningham was second on the team and tied a career high with a 9.75. Freshman Sara
Shipley went second in the lineup and scored a 9.725, while sophomore Audrey
Harrison went 9.7. Senior Storey Morris posted a 9.65 followed by freshman Shelby
Hilton, who was making her collegiate debut, earning a 9.475. Kentucky scored a
48.6 as a team on the event.
- The Kentucky men's tennis team
completed a successful four-day run in the Southeastern Conference Coaches'
Indoor Championships with junior Anthony Rossi claiming the singles title at
the event. Rossi used a very workmanlike performance Monday to win the final
over the No. 10 Sadio Doumbia.
- Rossi becomes the first Kentucky
player to win the singles title in the annual event since Adam Malik did it back
in 1989. The UK star is only the second player in school history to win the
- Kentucky had a good showing at the
event overall with three singles players making the quarterfinals in Rossi, Eric
Quigley and Tom Jomby. UK also had two doubles tandems in the quarterfinals,
while sophomore Panav Jha and Quigley advanced to the doubles semifinals.
Track and field
- The Kentucky men's and women's track
and field programs began their seasons Friday and Saturday by hosting the
Kentucky Invitational at Nutter Field House.
- The Wildcats got strong performances
from its men's one-milers, as junior Luis Orta ran a personal-best and SEC-leading
time of 4:09.59 to finish in second. Sophomore Adam Kahleifeh finished fourth
with a time of 4:12.20.
- Freshman Bradley Szypka finished
second in the men's shot put with a throw of 16.28m/53-05.00, while junior Darryl
Bradshaw finished third in the 60-meter hurdles finals with a time of 8.18.
- The Wildcats placed in the top three
in six different events Saturday.
Swimming and diving
- The UK swimming and diving teams
combined to go 2-2 over the weekend, with both teams dropping an SEC dual meet
to Alabama on Saturday, but quickly rebounding to sweep Emory University on
- On Sunday in the women's
100-butterfly, UK had a dominating performance taking first through fifth.
Julia Gerotto led the way, recording a
time of 57.49, while Anna Mattox followed up with a 58.47 for second place.
Lindsay Lash, Abby Myers, and Diana Norkus rounded out the top-five for
- Overall on the weekend, Kentucky won
seven of the contested eight diving events. Sophomore Greg Ferrucci claimed
first place in three of the four events he was entered in.
- Women's tennis traveled to Honolulu,
Hawaii, for the Rainbow Wahine Spring Invitational.
- The team swept Kansas in doubles
play. The 34th-ranked duo of Khristina Blajkevitch and Jessica
Stiles took on the Kansas' 42nd-ranked doubles team of Monica Pezzotti and
Paulina Los, defeating them 8-4.
- Freshman Stephanie Fox faced
Washington State's 123rd-ranked Elizaveta Luzina and beat her in straight sets
with a score of 6-1, 6-3.
Tuesday, Jan. 17
Men's basketball hosts Arkansas - 9:00
Thursday, Jan. 19
Women's basketball at Georgia - 7:00
Friday, Jan. 20
Women's tennis hosts Marshall - Noon
Gymnastics hosts Florida - 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 21
Men's basketball hosts Alabama - Noon
Rifle at TCU
Sunday, Jan. 22
Women's tennis hosts Belmont - 11:00
Men's tennis vs. Michigan State - 2:00
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Nov. 13:
Volleyball: Whitney Billings
Sophomore Whitney Billings had another electrifying weekend for the Wildcats as she guided UK to a pair of tough road victories this week. Billings totaled back-to-back double-double efforts for just the second time this season. She led the squad with 28 kills on the week and an astounding .377 hitting percentage. Her 17 kills in the victory over Ole Miss marked a season-high. With two matches with an above .300 hitting clip, Billings has now notched eight matches this season against league foes with an above .300 percentage. Her all-around performance continues to be UK's "X-factor" as it peaks towards the end of the season. The sophomore averaged 3.25 digs per set and had nearly a block per frame as well. Her 4.12 points per stanza paced the squad, well above her 2.97 season average.
Men's basketball: Anthony Davis
Anthony Davis tallied a double-double in his first career outing He tallied 23 points on 10-of-13 shooting from the field, of which eight of those field goals were dunks ... Davis because the second UK freshman (Terrence Jones) in as many years to post a double-double in his first career outing ... He also added five blocks and three assists to his stat line.
Women's basketball: Kastine Evans
Sophomore Kastine Evans came off the bench to crush her previous career high (11 points) with a game-best 23 points in 25 minutes during UK's season-opening win at Morehead State
Hit 8-of-12 from the field, including a career-high tying two 3-point field goals
Found a way to get to the free-throw line a team-high six times, make five free throws
Also charted two steals, three rebounds and an assist in the balanced effort
Rifle: Henri Junghänel
Henri Junghänel led UK to wins over Ohio State and Murray State in a dual-match on Saturday, leading the team in both guns.
Junghänel posted a 593 in air rifle and a 585 in smallbore to pace the Wildcats. A redshirt junior, he entered the match leading the team in smallbore average and ranking third in air rifle average.
Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot
Junior Stephanie Klefot provides the Wildcat defensive unit with a consistency that is unmatched in the league. Klefot registered 17 digs in a three-set victory over Alabama and also provided the UK offensive effort with a career-high seven assists. She then turned around and matched a season-high with 28 assists in the victory at Ole Miss. She also added her first kill of the season and recorded a pair of aces to open up the scoring in the decisive fifth frame. With 45 digs this weekend, Klefot has now accumulated 494 for the season which is the eighth most in a single-season in UK history. Her 28-dig performance against the Rebels marked the 20th time in her career she had topped 20 or more scoops in a match. She has recorded 10 or more digs in all but one match this season, including a span of 18 consecutive which she is currently holding.
Football: Nick Melillo
Had a career game against Vanderbilt, earning his first career touchdown reception and posting a career high in receptions and receiving yards.
Finished the game with four catches for 59 yards, including two reception of 20-yards or more. Melillo's touchdown catch was a 22-yarder, while his longest of the game was a 25-yard reception.
UK fan Andy Burklow sends this picture of a Wildcat-inspired pumpkin he and his two children carved for Halloween.
Happy Halloween everybody! I hope everyone enjoys the festivities tonight on this last day of October (that's hard to believe, isn't it?), but I feel more like talking about a big 5-1 weekend in UK Athletics.
If you missed it Sunday afternoon, the Kentucky volleyball team picked up a huge upset win over No. 13 Florida in an exciting five-set match. I wrote a column yesterday evening about the victory, which keeps UK right in the thick of a close Southeastern Conference race, and below is a video with highlights from the match and some comments from Craig Skinner.
Volleyball wasn't the only UK team to pick up a win over a top-15 opponent on Sunday. On Senior Day, men's soccer got two goals in the first eight minutes from seniors C.J. Tappel and Josh Mulvany en route to a 2-0 victory in the Cats' last home match of the season. UK had to play the final 62 minutes of the game a man down, but the UK defense withstood No. 15 SMU. Here is what Ian Collins had to say about his team's effort.
If you were worried about UK rifle resting on their laurels after a national championship last season, you can forget about that. The Cats are off to a perfect 3-0 start to the season, with each win coming against foes from the Great American Rifle Conference. Their latest victory was at home over Memphis on Sunday, with UK posting a new school and NCAA-record team score of 4711. UK's previous record of 4700 was set during the NCAA Tournament run a season ago. Sophomore Emily Holsopple also set a school record with a nearly perfect score of 597 in air rifle. The Wildcats were ranked No. 2 in the nation coming into the weekend, but Sunday's performance vaulted them ahead of West Virginia and into the top spot in the latest rankings released on Monday.
Men's basketball is preparing for the first of two exhibition games on Wednesday against Transylvania and John Calipari is having his team scrimmage more and more. Calipari has seven players he views as capable of starting (Darius Miller, Terrence Jones, Doron Lamb, Marquis Teague, Kyle Wiltjer, Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Anthony Davis) and has taken to putting two of those seven on a team together against the other five as a means to challenge them. That's what he did on Sunday with Jones and Kidd-Gilchrist. The pair responded and actually won. Eric Lindsey of CoachCal.com has a report from the practice I encourage you to check out if you haven't already.
Media day for UK Hoops is nearly upon us. Matthew Mitchell and members of the UK women's basketball team will be available for interviews on Tuesday. We'll have features, video and notes beginning tomorrow afternoon.
Rifle head coach Harry Mullins talks to Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart. (UK Athletics)
Sean Cartell of the SEC Digital Network, a University of Kentucky alumnus, was in Lexington last week to take in Big Blue Madness. While he was here, he spent some time around Harry Mullins, the head coach of UK rifle, the reigning NCAA championship program. Cartell interviewed Mullins and spent some time on the range learning how to shoot.
At this link, Cartell has a first person account of experience on the range and a question and answer with Mullins that addresses winning the school's first national title, some of the basics of rifle and how the sport has developed at UK over the years.
It's back to business for Mullins as his team begins pursuit of its second consecutive national title. His teams have always been in relentless pursuit of improvement and, just because the Wildcats now have an NCAA Title to their credit, this year will be no different.
"I have tasked this team right out of the gates," Mullins said. "If they want to be the NCAA Champions, then they have to win in 2011-12."
Knowing what I know about Mullins, he will have his team ready. They will spend their afternoons perfecting their performances, but more than that, they will spend their college experiences learning how to be successful in life.
Having spent just an hour on the range last Friday, it will nonetheless go down as one of the most memorable experiences I have had during my time in college athletics. The fact that the coaching staff of the national champion Wildcats spent their time helping me understand their sport and letting me try it myself, speaks to the experience that Mullins has created for countless student athletes over the years.
Though Kentucky has just recently claimed the NCAA Championship, Mullins has been creating champions in life for more than 25 years. Sometimes people are lucky enough to find their true calling and where they can do the most good for others.
UK rifle head coach Harry Mullins has been busy this summer, preparing for the 2011-12 season. After claiming the program's first NCAA Title last season, Mullins and assistant coach Stacy Underwood have been working diligently to ensure that the program remains among the nation's elite. Cat Scratches visited with Mullins on Wednesday afternoon in his office.
Move over Tonys. Take a backseat Oscars. The Scratchies (again, not a skin disease) are back.
I know it's been an unbearably long and grueling six-month wait since we introduced the Scratchies, but fear no more, it's time to introduce the 2011 spring semester winners.
Not to be confused with ESPN's Herbie Awards or UK's end-of-the-year CATSPY Awards - although I must confess, many award winners will repeat the CATSPYs - the Scratchies offer no actual hardware or glitzy awards show. Instead, these honorees have earned the appreciation of a lowly blogger trying to pass the beginning weeks of a long offseason.
A couple of the award names have changed, but the objective is the same - to look back at another semester of UK Athletics. Remember, these award winners only constitute the spring semester of UK Athletics action. The fall winners can be found here.
Please feel free to disagree and comment on who you think should have won in the comments section below. Keep in mind, this is all for fun.
Without further ado, here are the semiannual Scratchies:
MVW (Most Valuable Wildcat) Brandon Knight, men's basketball - There were a lot of candidates for this semester's awards. There is Eric Quigley, who guided the men's tennis team to a national quarterfinals berth and finished the season ranked No. 7 in the nation. There is Megan Yocke, the heart and soul of the record-setting softball team. And let's not forget about Ethan Settlemires' clutch performance in the rifle national championship. But it's hard to ignore what Knight did in this year's NCAA Tournament. Knight's dramatic game winners against Princeton and Ohio State were the highlights of a Final Four run that fans will never forget. Stepping into the gargantuan shoes of John Wall and the sensational freshman class of 2009-10, Knight and the 2010-11 team proved it could play a little basketball as well. Next week, Knight is expected to be a top-five pick in the 2011 NBA Draft. Honorable mention: Megan Yocke (softball), Eric Quigley (men's tennis), Ethan Settlemires (rifle), Victoria Dunlap (women's basketball)
The Dream Team (team of the semester) Rifle - Much like the previous award, this could have gone to a number of squads, including the men's basketball, men's tennis and softball teams. But the rifle team won a national championship. You know, that ultimate goal that every team sets out for at the beginning of the year that only a select few ever win. Ethan Settlemires didn't know it at the time, but his last shot in air rifle - the final shot of the match - would determine the national championship. Settlemires needed at least an 8.0 to capture the elusive title. The junior came through in the clutch with a 10.7, winning the program's first national championship. Honorable mention: Men's basketball, men's tennis, softball
Harry Mullins has been the one constant staple in the success of the UK rifle program over the last three decades. (UK Athletics)
The Adolph Rupp Award (coach of the semester) Harry Mullins, rifle - As sweet as that rifle national championship was, it was even sweeter for Mullins, the longtime coach and most important figure in program history. Since 1982, Mullins and the UK rifle team have been one in the same. In his journey from a former student-athlete to a part-time coach to the symbol of the program, Mullins has taken the rifle team from its infant stages and built it into one of the nation's top programs. Year after year, Mullins and the rifle team came agonizingly close to winning the whole thing, only to fall short with seven top-three finishes. Whether it was by a string of fate or pure coincidence, Mullins finally won that coveted national title in the same town where his late father served as a sergeant in the military and raised his family. Honorable mention: Rachel Lawson (softball), John Calipari (men's basketball), Dennis Emery (men's tennis)
The Josh Harrellson Award (most improved player) Josh Harrellson, men's basketball - Harrellson's turnaround his senior year was so significant and so inspiring that we've renamed the award after him. Before this year, Harrellson had played a total of 403 minutes and scored 151 points for Kentucky. By the end of his senior year, Harrellson had transformed himself into the nation's most improved player and one of the best big men in the NCAA Tournament. Transforming his body and work ethic after the legendary tweet about his head coach, Harrellson went on to average 7.6 points and 8.7 rebounds this year, including an 11.0 scoring average in the NCAA Tournament against some of the nation's top post players. Harrellson's spirit and leadership were just as valuable to the team's Final Four run as his presence in the paint and unpredictable production. Harrellson's storybook season will be remembered decades from now. Honorable mention: Alex Musialek (men's tennis), Meagan Aull (softball), Samantha DeMartine (softball)
The Butler-VCU Award (surprise team) Women's golf - In her first year as head coach, Golda Johansson Borst wasn't expected to do much with the Kentucky women's golf team. After all, the program had been to just one NCAA Tournament since 2000. But with just one senior on the team and a wealth of midseason injuries, including two to the top two players, Ashleigh Albrecht and Betsie Johnson, UK returned to the NCAA Tournament for the 16th time in school history. With most of the team returning next year, the future is bright for women's golf. Honorable mention: softball
One Shining Moment (best moment) Annie Rowlands and Meagan Aull's hits send softball to Supers - The Kentucky softball team went to its third straight regional appearance with bigger expectations and higher hopes. The coaches and players talked about making it to their first Super Regional in program history, but as the third-ranked team in the Ann Arbor Regional and with the second-ranked team in the nation in the same regional, the reality of advancing was pretty slim. And yet, on a sunny Sunday afternoon, with one win over No. 2 Michigan standing in the way of a historic march, Kentucky entered the bottom of the seventh trailing 1-0. With Big Ten Pitcher of the Year Jordan Taylor dealing a gem and the nation watching on ESPN, Meagan Aull belted a changeup over the fence in right field to tie the game. Five batters later, with one out and the bases loaded, senior Annie Rowlands, a sub-.150 hitter, came through with the biggest hit in program history, a game-winning single over the first baseman's head. The RBI bloop advanced UK to its first Super Regional, which the school would go on to host. Honorable mention: Brandon Knight's game-winning layup vs. Princeton; Knight's game-winning shot vs. Ohio State; Ethan Settlemires' winning shot to capture the national championship; Alex Musialek's match-clinching win vs. Louisville; gymnast Andre Mitchell's 39.550 score in the all-around, UK's highest score in 15 years
The "Band is Out On the Field" Award (best game/match) Men's tennis vs. Louisville in the NCAA Tournament - What happens when you combine your archrival with postseason play? You get some edge-of-your-seat theater. That's what the Kentucky-Louisville men's tennis match brought in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. After UK grabbed the doubles point, the singles matches went back and forth in front of a raucous crowd at the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex. Every 10 minutes it looked like the match was going to go a different way. With Kentucky holding a 3-2 lead and courts No. 1 and No. 2 split in a 1-1 tie, everyone raced to the center courts to watch the decisive matches. Eric Quigley, UK's top player, dropped his match in three thrilling sets to tie the match 3-3. Moments later, though, after dropping the first set 5-7, Alex Musialek won the third set in dominating fashion, 6-0, to clinch the match and send UK to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive year. Honorable mention: softball's win over Michigan in the regional finals; men's basketball's upset of No. 1 Ohio State
Brandon Knight hit a game-winning jumper over Ohio State's Aaron Craft with seconds remaining to send UK to the Elite Eight and eventually its first Final Four since 1998. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Doug Flutie Hail Mary Award (best play) Brandon Knight's game-winning jumper vs. Ohio State - Once again, there was plenty to choose from, but Knight gets the nod on this one given the magnitude of the situation. Against the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament and with the game tied 60-60, Knight pulled up from just inside the arc and drilled a jumper with five seconds left to send Kentucky to the Elite Eight and eventually the Final Four. For a team that failed to close during the regular season, it was an unforgettable moment in an unbelievable season. Honorable mention: Brandon Knight's game-winning layup vs. Princeton; Ethan Settlemires' winning shot to capture the national championship; Brittany Henderson's game-winning layup vs. LSU
The Jimmer Fredette Award (breakthrough player) Alex Meyer, baseball - Alex Meyer's first two years in the at UK were defined by potential and upside. In 2011, Meyer broke through with the type of year that everyone expected years earlier when Boston Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein showed up on his doorstep at the end of Meyer's high school career with a lucrative multi-million dollar contract. Meyer, with big-league stuff, finished the year as the Southeastern Conference leader in strikeouts, complete games and complete-game shutouts. Two weeks ago, Meyer was selected by the Washington Nationals with the 23rd overall pick in the 2011 MLB Draft, UK's highest draft pick since Joe Blanton went No. 24 in 2002. Honorable mention: Meagan Aull (softball), Greg Ferrucci (swimming and diving)
All-Calipari Team (all-freshman team) Greg Ferrucci, swimming and diving - Named SEC Male Freshman Diver of the Year and advanced to the NCAA Championships Terrence Jones, men's basketball - Tabbed SEC Freshmanof the Year after averaging 17.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in his first year Doron Lamb, men's basketball - Not to be overshadowed by Knight and Jones, Lamb averaged 12.3 points, hit a team-high 38 3-pointers and poured in a then-freshman record 32 points in December Emily Holsopple, rifle - Appeared on the fall semester's list, but she certainly qualifies again after earning first-team All-America accolades and winning a national championship Bernisha Pinkett, women's basketball - On a team with talented freshmen, averaged 7.0 points in just 18.7 minutes of action
All-Up-and-Comers (non-freshmen on the rise) Jessica Stiles, women's tennis - Led a rebuilding women's tennis program with 11 wins Darius Miller, men's basketball - Came on late in the season to win SEC Tournament MVP Chanda Bell, softball - UK's all-time strikeout leader will enter her senior season as one of the top pitchers in the nation Thomas McCarthy, baseball - Ranked third in the SEC with .371 batting average, including 19 doubles and 39 RBI Brittany Cervantes, softball - UK's career home-run leader will be the centerpiece of next year's offense
All-Wildcat Team (the Scratchies equivalent of the All-America Team) Brandon Knight, men's basketball - Replaced No. 1 overall pick John Wall by averaging 17.3 points and leading UK to the Final Four, plus first-team Freshman All-America honors Victoria Dunlap, women's basketball - Program's No. 2 all-time scorer led the team to its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance and became the highest WNBA draft pick in school history Eric Quigley, men's tennis - The nation's No. 7 player finished the year with a school-record-tying 45 wins Megan Yocke, softball - Heart and soul of record-setting softball team became just the second player in school history to earn All-SEC accolades all four years Colin Boevers, track and field - Won the SEC discus title and was one of nine student-athletes to advance to NCAA Outdoor Championships
All-Rex Ryan Team (when you need a sound bite, these are your go-to guys) Josh Harrellson, men's basketball John Calipari, men's basketball Matthew Mitchell, women's basketball Harry Mullins, rifle Amber Smith, women's basketball
Stacey Eden of the UK track and field team (second from the left) confessed that he's owned the jacket he wore to the 2011 CATSPY Awards since middle school. (photo by Chet White, UK Athletics)
The Craig Sager Award (best/worst dressed) Stacey Eden, track and field - Depending on your taste in style, Stacey Eden of the track and field team was either the best dressed of the year or the worst. One thing is for certain: he caught people's eyes at this year CATSPY Awards. Eden (pictured to the right) attended the annual end-of-the-year awards show with a shiny gold suit, a patterned button-up, blue bowtie and sunglasses. Top that, Craig Sager
The Streak (strangest stat or streak) Men's basketball in the clutch - Before the NCAA Tournament, the Cats couldn't hit a shot to save their lives. UK entered the tournament 1-6 in games decided by five points or less, which included missed last-second shots that could have won or tied the game against Florida, Arkansas and Ole Miss. But when the season was on the line and the stakes mattered most, Kentucky - particularly Knight - came through with game-winning shots against Princeton and Ohio State.
She said what? (quote of the semester) Rachel Lawson, fighting back tears after losing to Cal in the Lexington Super Regional - "I feel really good about the future of the program. But I feel best about the fact that this group was - nobody thought they could win. I love (Samantha) DeMartine and (Meagan) Aull, (Megan) Yocke's OK. I know (Annie) Rowlands, for her to be able to come up with that big hit. I wanted them to go to the World Series. So far I'm the only one who's been there and I'm tired of having the upper hand on them."
The Best Dougie (best dance/celebration) Jarrod Polson, men's basketball - In 2009-10, the John Wall Dance was the unofficial celebration of the Wildcats. This past year it was, without question, The Dougie, a dance made famous (or infamous) by Matthew Mitchell at Big Blue Madness. Jarrod Polson continued the craze on national TV after Kentucky defeated North Carolina and advanced to the Final Four. Check out his rendition below.
Rifle - Behind gritty performances from veterans Heather Greathouse and Ethan Settlemires, the Kentucky rifle team won the overall national title at the 2010-11 NCAA Championships. After UK won the smallbore NCAA Title on Friday in the first day of competition, the Wildcats held off West Virginia's charge in air rifle on Saturday to secure the first national championship in program history, finishing with a 4700 team total score. - Kentucky entered the final day of competition on Saturday owning a seven-point lead. UK claimed its first-ever NCAA Championship in smallbore on Friday, totaling a 2336 team score, led by Settlemires and Greathouse. Settlemires won the NCAA individual championship on Friday with a 590 in smallbore, becoming the first individual NCAA Champion in smallbore in program history.
Men's basketball - Kentucky won its league-leading 27th SEC Tournament championship, defeating Florida 70-54 in the championship game. Darius Miller was named the tournament MVP and the Wildcats placed Miller, Josh Harrellson and Brandon Knight on the SEC All-Tournament team. - UK will be making its NCAA record 51st appearance in the NCAA Tournament, taking on Princeton in the second round of the tournament in Tampa, Fla.
Women's basketball - The No. 17/16 Kentucky women's basketball team earned its eighth bid to the NCAA Tournament with a No. 4 seed in the Spokane Regional. UK will play 13th-seeded Hampton on Saturday at 6:30 p.m. in Albuquerque, N.M. - It is the eighth overall NCAA Tournament berth for the Cats and their first back-to-back appearances since the 1982-83 seasons. UK is 7-7 all-time in the Big Dance, including a 3-1 mark under Matthew Mitchell.
Softball - Behind a pair of comeback victories, the 23rd-ranked softball team defeated No. 7 Tennessee in two out of three games to capture the series to begin SEC play. It marked the first time since 2000 UK had won the series with its border-state rival. - Senior Megan Yocke batted .556 on the weekend, which included a three-run home run in the bottom of the seventh to force extra innings in the rubber match between the two teams. She was then intentionally walked in the bottom of the 10th to set the stage for Kara Dill's walk-off RBI-single.
Baseball - The Wildcats posted four wins on the week, totaling a staggering 1.40 ERA as a team in 45 innings pitched, walking just 13 and striking out 45. UK got stellar starting pitching during the week, including quality starts from four of five starters a complete-game shutout from junior Alex Meyer on Saturday. - Kentucky has been a well-rounded team, totaling a .295 batting average and a 3.51 team ERA, fielding at a .978 clip. The Wildcats have been led by center fielder Brian Adams, who has hit .368 with five doubles and five RBI.
Gymnastics - The gymnastics team scored three wins over the weekend, defeating William and Mary on Friday and North Carolina and George Washington on Sunday. Kentucky was led in both meets by senior Phylicia Reshard, who won the all-around against William and Mary and finished second in the all-around in Sunday's quad-meet. - The Wildcats defeated William and Mary on each event, with junior Storey Morris winning the uneven bars title, Reshard winning the vault title, seniors Jasmine Minion, Andrea Mitchell and Reshard winning on floor, and Mitchell grabbing event honors on beam.
Men's tennis - The Wildcats were led by impressive play in doubles, taking the doubles point from both Tennessee and Georgia. Against Tennessee, Kentucky got upset wins at No. 2 and No. 3 doubles with senior Alberto Gonzalez and freshman Tom Jomby taking down the 55th-ranked doubles tandem in the nation, while junior Alex Musialek and sophomore Anthony Rossi defeated the 52nd-ranked team. UK was equally impressive against Georgia in doubles with junior Eric Quigley and senior Brad Cox knocking off the sixth-ranked doubles team in the nation and Gonzalez and Jomby posting a win over the 36th-ranked doubles team. UK dropped the overall matches to nationally ranked Tennessee and Georgia. - In singles, Musialek led the UK charge with a convincing win over No. 24 Javier Garrapiz, while Rossi and Jomby also posted singles wins.
Swimming and diving - Freshman diver Greg Ferrucci and senior diver Lisa Faulkner earned spots in the men's and women's NCAA swimming and diving championships, respectively, thanks to their performances in the Zone C Diving Championships. - Ferrucci recorded a score of 339.60 in the preliminaries and finished with a mark of 716.35 in the finals to finish in second place on the men's one-meter and earn his spot in the NCAAs. Faulkner earned a score of 296.35 in the women's one-meter preliminaries and finished with a score of 581.15 in the finals to finish in fifth place and earn a spot in the NCAA championships.
Track and field - Kentucky track and field junior Keith Hayes capped off an incredible three-week run leading up to the 2011 NCAA Indoor Championships with a seventh-place finish in the finals of the 60-meter hurdles, grabbing two points for the Wildcats. - Hayes earned his first All-America honor for his top-eight performance in the finals Saturday.
Men's golf - Behind impressive final rounds from sophomore Chase Parker and freshman Cody Martin, the UK men's golf team moved up four spots on the leaderboard to finish 13th in the Cleveland Golf Palmetto Intercollegiate. Martin (80-70-69-219) and Parker (78-72-70-220) led the Wildcats, posting solid scores on the final day to earn a top-25 finish. - Martin carded the lowest UK round of the day Tuesday, earning a 1-under-par 69 to move 36 spots up the leaderboard. He finished the tournament in a tie for 21st, totaling a 9-over-par 219 after a 10-ove-par 80 in the opening round and an even-par 70 in the second round.
Women's golf - The Cats competed in the LSU Tiger Golf Classic and finished in 18th place with a final score of 95-over-par 959. - Sophomore Heather Lott led the Wildcats with a final score of 12-over par to finish the tournament in a tie for 31st among the 111 competing golfers.
Women's tennis - The Cats dropped a pair of SEC road matches over the weekend to Tennessee and Georgia. The Wildcats fell 6-1 in each match. - Freshman Khristina Blajkevitch won a thrilling victory over UT's Kata Szekely 7-5, 4-6, 1-0 (12-10). Senior Megan Broderick topped Chelsey Gullickson of Georgia after the 48th-ranked player had to retire.
Tuesday, March 15 Baseball hosts Murray State - 4 p.m.
Wednesday, March 16 Softball at Arkansas (DH) - 5 p.m. Women's tennis at Baylor • 5:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 17 Men's tennis hosts Notre Dame - 1 p.m. Women's tennis at TCU - 2 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Princeton - 2:45 p.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Men's tennis hosts Butler - 7 p.m. Women's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Austin, Texas)
Friday, March 18 Baseball hosts Tennessee - 6:30 p.m. Softball at LSU - 7 p.m. Women's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Austin, Texas) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Saturday, March 19 Women's tennis at Texas Tech - 10 a.m. Baseball hosts Tennessee - 1 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Alabama - 1 p.m. Softball at LSU - 4 p.m. Women's basketball vs. Hampton - 6:30 p.m. (Albuquerque, N.M.) Men's basketball vs. West Virginia/Clemson/UAB - TBA (Tampa, Fla.) Gymnastics at SEC Championships (Birmingham, Ala.) Women's swimming and diving at NCAA Championships (Austin, Texas) Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
Sunday, March 20 Baseball hosts Tennessee - 1 p.m. Softball at LSU - 2 p.m. Men's golf at Schenkel Invitational (Statesboro, Ga.)
In his 26-year tenure as head coach of Kentucky's rifle team, Harry Mullins has accomplished a great deal. The program produced All-Americans and Olympians. His teams won conference championships and perennially contended on a national level.
With four second-place national finishes and four third-place finishes, saying that his tenure had been successful would have been an understatement, but something was missing.
At the 2010-11 NCAA Championships in Fort Benning, Ga., the Kentucky Wildcats gave Mullins that title he had been seeking for so long.
"To be able to explain it is kind of tough," Mullins said of UK's national championship, the first in school history. "We've put ourselves, the last few years, in contention to win national championships and fallen short. For this group to be able to achieve that, it's hard to find words to try to explain how that feels, just the pride in them."
The Wildcats delivered that national title in grand fashion. Their overall team score of 4700 is the highest ever recorded in the NCAA Championships. In the air rifle portion of the competition on day two, the Wildcats held off the top-ranked and hard-charging West Virginia Mountaineers.
UK was headlined by smallbore national champion Ethan Settlemires, whose score of 590 also set a NCAA Championships record, but it was a true team effort that brought the crown to Lexington.
"We don't dwell on the numbers as much as the performance," Mullins said. "That's why I'm so proud of the group. They really believe in themselves. It's about having that trust that, if I'm putting myself out there and giving 110 percent, we will be successful."
Mullins views the championship as a culmination of the efforts of all of the people involved in the program over the past quarter century. The program has come a long way in that time, but one tipping point came when Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart arrived at UK in 2002.
Upon Barnhart's arrival, Mullins' duties as head coach were only part time. Mullins worked as a bartender to supplement his income, but Barnhart quickly realized what Mullins was building and made a full-time commitment to him and the program.
There was never any doubt about whether the commitment to Mullins and UK rifle was worthwhile, but winning a national title is a testament to just what it has meant.
"If Mitch had been there, I would have given him a great big hug," Mullins said. "Mitch and (UK President) Dr. (Lee) Todd and the administration on both sides, as far as academics and athletics, does nothing but give great support to all the sports, but especially to us."
That support has helped the Wildcats build an unprecedented following. In the final moments of the competition, Mullins said he was forced to put his cell phone out of reach because of the constant stream of texts, calls and tweets from all around.
If you were on Twitter at all today, you likely saw evidence of that outpouring of support, which was particularly clear immediately after the Wildcats won the title. Barnhart, John Calipari, Matthew Mitchell and countless other UK coaches and athletes offered congratulations. The meaning of those gestures is not lost on Mullins.
"It means so much to the kids," Mullins said. "There are people out there that care just as much about what we're doing as we do. That's a great feeling to have."
While so much of Mullins' satisfaction comes from seeing his athletes perform in the way that they did, this championship is very meaningful to him personally.
His father, Alger, was Kentucky through and through before passing away six years ago.
"He was a Kentucky boy," Mullins said of his father.
Alger Mullins shared with his son a great love of rifle and had a chance to see him build a program at the university they both loved.
"He was always proud when we would finish in the top four or five," Mullins said. "He understood the competitiveness of it and the effort, drive and dedication you have to have."
The site of the NCAA Championships was meaningful as well for Mullins. Alger Mullins was a sergeant in the military and eventually settled with his family in Fort Benning, Ga., where Mullins competed in rifle for the prestigious Fort Benning Junior Club.
"There was a little soft spot in my heart with being able to win a national championship where I got started," Mullins said.
Mullins hopes that a national championship tradition at UK will eventually be able to trace its roots back to the area.
"Hopefully we'll be able to continue that streak of starting things in Fort Benning," Mullins said, ever mindful of continuing to build the program he has led for so long.