Men's basketball - The Kentucky men's basketball team dropped an 88-58 loss to Tennessee on Saturday. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer led the Cats with 18 points and six rebounds. - Senior Julius Mays scored 12 points and has logged 10 or more points in five straight games. - Junior Jarrod Polson contributed a career-high 11 points.
Women's basketball - Kentucky has won its last three games and looks to keep its winning streak alive when it faces No. 11/13 Texas A&M on ESPN2's Big Monday in the second meeting of the season between the teams. - The Wildcats charted their 10th SEC win last week with an impressive come-from-behind victory over No. 16/14 South Carolina. Trailing by 16 points early in the second half, the Wildcats used a four-guard set to chip away at the Gamecocks' lead and win 78-74 - the largest comeback in the Matthew Mitchell era. - Four players scored in double digits led by redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill with 19.
Gymnastics - Then-No. 17 Kentucky defeated Missouri 194.250-194.125 on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. - Audrey Harrison was the lone all-around competitor posting a 39.3, which tied her career-high set last week. - The junior also won balance beam, and shared the honors on uneven bars and floor exercise. - The Knoxville, Tenn., native now has 12 individual event honors this season and 19 in her career. - Her five all-around wins in 2013 have all come against Southeastern Conference competition. - Shannon Mitchell tied Harrison for the floor title, her second of the season and the third of her career.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team shot a 4697 on Saturday at the NCAA Qualifiers. - Sophomore Elijah Ellis and senior Stacy Wheatley delivered personal bests in smallbore, with Ellis posting a 583 and Wheatley shooting a 586. - Senior Henri Junghänel led the team in smallbore and air rifle, shooting a 588 in smallbore and a 594 in air rifle.
Softball - The No. 22/24 UK softball team continued where it left off last weekend by defeating another ranked team en route to a 4-1 record in the 23rd Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego. The Wildcats posted wins over No. 16 Washington, San Diego State - who is receiving votes in one poll - Cal Poly and UC Riverside. - Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess paced the Wildcats throughout the weekend at the plate, blasting two homers for a .500 average (8-for-16) at the event with five RBI. Cumbess also went 1-0 in the circle, while freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley went 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA over the weekend. Nunley defeated San Diego State and Washington, throwing a complete game shutout against the Aztecs allowing only three hits. - UK has now defeated three ranked teams this season in then-No. 3 Cal, No. 16 Washington and No. 20 Stanford. Coach Rachel Lawson and Co. have also taken down Oregon State and SDSU, who both were receiving votes when UK posted wins against them. After two weekends of play, UK is 8-3 with its only losses coming to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Arizona State and unranked Portland State.
Baseball - Kentucky began the season 2-0 with wins over UNC Asheville and Niagara in Spartanburg, S.C. UK wraps up play at Wofford on Monday against USC Upstate. - Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle set a new program record with a 6-for-6 game at the plate and starter Jerad Grundy tied a career-best with nine strikeouts in six innings in the win over Niagara. - Sophomore All-America southpaw A.J. Reed worked five innings on the mound and went a career-best 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI, leading No. 8 Kentucky to a 9-2 season-opening win over UNC Asheville.
Men's tennis - Kentucky advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 ITA National Team Indoor Championships this weekend in Seattle, recording wins over No. 10 Mississippi State (4-0), and No. 6 Georgia (4-2). - UK's No. 90 Anthony Rossi went 2-0 in singles action, defeating No. 12 Raymond Sarmiento of Southern Cal and knocking off No. 21 Nathan Pasha of Georgia 6-4, 7-6 (7) on Sunday. - With the wins this weekend, UK recorded their seventh win of the season over teams in the top 25 of the ITA rankings, as the Wildcats are now 3-1 versus teams in the top 10. - Tom Jomby also went 2-0 in singles play this weekend, collecting two straight-set wins. On Friday, Jomby ran past No. 43 Malte Stroppe of Mississippi State 6-2, 6-0 before giving UK a crucial point in its match with UGA, collecting a 6- 4, 6-4 win over No. 92 over No. 92 Ben Wagland at the two slot.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team knocked off No. 55 Ohio State and No. 54 Indiana throughout the course of the week, taking both matches 4-3. - Freshman Nadia Ravita recorded two singles win in the No. 1 slot to go along with two doubles wins in the No. 1 slot, paired with junior Caitlin McGraw. - Senior Jessica Stiles went 2-0 on the week in the No. 2 singles spot, taking both matches in straight sets.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team began their 2013 spring season with an eighth place finish in the 15-team field at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic Feb. 10-12. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht was the low finisher for the Wildcats, tying for 14th at 7-over-par. - Junior Liz Breed and freshman Sarah Harris were tied for 28th at 12-over, while freshman Cylia Damerau placed tied for 34th at 13-over.
Upcoming schedule Tuesday, Feb. 19 Women's tennis hosts Miami (OH) - 4:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas) Men's golf at Mobile Bay Intercollegiate (Mobile, Ala.)
Wednesday, Feb. 20 Men's basketball hosts Vanderbilt - 8:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas)
Thursday, Feb. 21 Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas)
Friday, Feb. 22 Baseball vs. Elon - Noon (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Softball vs. Presbyterian - 2:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Gymnastics at Florida - 7:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas) Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Saturday, Feb. 23 Softball vs. Georgetown - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Women's tennis at Kansas - 1:00 p.m. Softball vs. USC Upstate - 2:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Baseball vs. Coastal Carolina - 3:00 p.m. (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Men's basketball hosts Missouri - 9:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College Station, Texas) Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.) Rifle at GARC Championships (Oxford, Miss.)
Sunday, Feb. 24 Softball vs. Howard - 10:00 a.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Men's tennis at Samford - 10:00 a.m. Baseball vs. Kansas State - 11:00 a.m. (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Men's tennis vs. Jacksonville State - 2:00 p.m. (Birmingham, Ala.) Women's basketball at LSU - 3:00 p.m. Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.) Rifle at GARC Championships (Oxford, Miss.)
Men's basketball - Kentucky earned a hard-fought 72-62 win over visiting Auburn on Saturday to push its win-streak to a season-long five games. - The Wildcats received another double-double effort from freshman Nerlens Noel who posted 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. - Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer led five players in double-figures with a team-best 14 points. Sophomore Ryan Harrow and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein both notched 12 points, with senior Julius Mays pitching in with 10.
Women's basketball - Kentucky improved to 21-3 overall, 9-2 in the SEC with hard-fought road wins at Arkansas and Vanderbilt last week. - Against the Razorbacks, the Wildcats rallied from an 11-point first half deficit for an 80-74 overtime win. Sophomore guard Bria Goss scored 16 of her team-high 17 points in the second half and overtime after not starting the game for the first time in her career, a stretch of 57 consecutive starts. - On Sunday vs. Vanderbilt, A'dia Mathies put on quite the show by charting a season-high 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. She also dished out a game-high five assists and three steals. She has now reached double figures in 22-of-24 games, including 15 in a row. The 28 points moved her up to No. 3 on UK's all-time scoring list with 1,815.
Gymnastics - No. 18 Kentucky tied No. 6 Georgia 195.825 on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. - The team score was a season-high for the Wildcats. - Audrey Harrison won the individual all-around title for the second straight week with a career-high 39.3. - Harrison also won floor exercise, and she now has eight individual titles this season. - Harrison has four all-around crowns this season, and they all have come in SEC competition. - Jill Chappel, Shelby Hilton and Shannon Mitchell all tied or set new event career highs on Friday.
Softball - The UK softball team started its 2013 season in style, going 4-2 against some of the best teams in the nation at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. UK got the season started fast with a nine-inning, 3-2 victory over No. 3 California in its season opener before defeating No. 20 Stanford in the weekend finale. UK also defeated Oregon State - who was also receiving votes in both preseason polls. - Junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess was the difference in the huge UK victory, pitching all nine innings, allowing only six hits and two runs while striking out six. Cumbess also went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI - including the game winner. - Five Wildcats closed the opening weekend with a batting average well over .350, including freshman Nikki Sagermann, who leads the team with a .429 mark. Junior Ginny Carroll leads the team in RBI with six, while senior Alice O'Brien has scored a team-high seven runs. - On top of Cumbess' pitching performance against Cal, freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley was UK's star pitcher on the weekend, going 3-0 with wins against WMU, OSU and Stanford. In all, Nunley threw 17.1 innings, allowing seven earned runs while striking out a team-high 19.
Men's tennis - The Kentucky men's tennis team climbed to No. 7 in this week's ITA rankings, after starting out the season 6-0. The Wildcats dropped their first match of 2013 in a back-and-forth affair 4-3 on Saturday night at No. 19 Illinois. - In the loss, No. 94 Anthony Rossi upped his record to 6-1 on court one singles with a 6-4, 6-4 win, while Charles Minc improved to 4-0 on the season with a 6-3, 6-3 win on court five. - The Wildcats won the doubles point for the seventh time in seven tries with wins on courts two and three.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team fell to No. 59 Tulane 6-1 on Saturday in New Orleans. - Freshman Kirsten Lewis recorded Kentucky's lone win of the match, defeating Caroline Magnusson 0-6, 7-6 (1-0) (7). - Freshman Nadia Ravita lost her first match of the season, falling 6-0, 6-4 to Klara Vyskocilova in the No. 1 slot.
Track and field - Cally Macumber won the 3,000 meters at the Husky Classic on Saturday. - Macumber's time of 8:59.98 set a new indoor school record. - Chelsea Oswald took eighth with a PR 9:06.64, third-fastest indoor time in school history. - The rest of the Wildcats spent the weekend competing at the Tyson Invitational on the Arkansas campus. - Bradley Szypka finished second in the shot put with a PR-tying throw of 18.50m/60-08.50. - Keffri Neal took second in the men's 800-meter final with a PR, team-best time of 1:49.79. - Allison Peare ran a season-best, team-leading 2:09.04 in the women's 800 meters to finish fourth - Keith Hayes produced a season-best time of 7.79 in the 60-meter hurdles finals to place fourth.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team began their 2013 spring season at the Lady Puerto Classic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico at the Rio Mar Beach Resort River Course. - The Wildcats opened up the invitational on Sunday carding a 13-over-par, 301 and are currently in seventh place. Senior Ashleigh Albrecht recorded the low round for UK with a 2-over-par, 74. - The tournament will resume on Monday at 7 a.m. ET and the tournament is scheduled to wrap up with a final round on Tuesday beginning at 6:30 a.m.
Monday, Feb. 11 Women's golf at Lady Puerto Rico Classic (Puerto Rico)
Tuesday, Feb. 12 Men's tennis hosts Notre Dame - 1:00 p.m. Women's tennis at Ohio State - 4:00 p.m. Men's basketball at Florida - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Eastern Kentucky - 7:00 p.m. Women's golf at Lady Puerto Rico Classic (Puerto Rico)
Thursday, Feb. 14 Softball vs. Cal Poly - 6:30 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Women's basketball hosts South Carolina - 7:00 p.m. Softball at San Diego State - 9:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.)
Friday, Feb. 15 Baseball vs. UNC Asheville - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Softball vs. Washington - 2:15 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Gymnastics hosts Missouri - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
Saturday, Feb. 16 Softball vs. UC Riverside - Noon (San Diego, Calif.) Men's basketball at Tennessee - 1:00 p.m. Baseball vs. USC Upstate - 4:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Softball vs. Oklahoma - 4:30 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Rifle hosts NCAA Qualifier Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
Sunday, Feb. 17 Women's tennis hosts Indiana - 11:00 a.m. Baseball vs. Niagara - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Women's tennis hosts Northern Kentucky - 6:00 p.m. Rifle hosts NCAA Qualifier Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Feb. 10:
Softball: Lauren Cumbess
Outstanding opening weekend for Cumbess, sitting first in ERA with a 2.50 mark and fourth in batting average on the team. Her season started with a bang when she threw nine strong innings against No. 3 California, getting the win over the highly ranked squad. Against Cal, Cumbess went the distance, allowing only six hits, two runs, two earned runs while striking out six. Her performance at the plate against Cal is what won UK the game, going 2-for-4 with two RBI, including the game-winning hit in the ninth inning against Jolene Henderson, who is the two-time defending Pac-12 Pitcher of the Year. Ended the weekend with a .368 batting average with seven hits, including one double and five RBI.
Gymnastics: Audrey Harrison
Audrey Harrison won the individual all-around title for the second straight week with a career-high 39.3 on Friday inside.
The junior also took the floor exercise crown after posting a career-best tying 9.9 to help spark an improbable comeback as the Wildcats would tie then-No. 6 Georgia.
The Knoxville, Tenn., native now has eight individual event honors this season and 15 in her career. Her four all-around wins in 2013 have all come against Southeastern Conference competition.
Track and field: Cally Macumber
Cally Macumber won the women's 3,000 meters at the Husky Classic on the Washington campus in Seattle on Saturday.
Her time of 8:59.98 smashed three-time 5K NCAA champion Valarie McGovern's school record of 9:05.74.
Macumber set a new personal-best by more than 10 seconds, and the time currently leads the SEC. The performance is also third-fastest in the nation this season, and she is in elite company as one of just three collegiate women in America to break nine minutes at 3K this season.
Women's basketball: A'dia Mathies
Senior guard A'dia Mathies led UK to road wins at Arkansas and Vanderbilt last week.
Averaged a team-high 21.5 points, along with 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals in the two wins.
In a tough, come-from-behind overtime win at Arkansas, she scored 13 of her 15 points in the decisive second half, including four in overtime play to give the Wildcats their first win in Fayetteville since 2010.
Hit four of her last six shot attempts in the overtime win and grabbed a season-high tying nine rebounds and team-high five assists.
Had an all-around impressive performance vs. Vanderbilt by netting a season-high 28 points on 10-of-17 from the floor, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc.
Holding just a slight five-point lead with seven minutes to play in the first half, Mathies scored the final nine points for the Cats, giving the Cats a nine-point 31-22 advantage at the break.
Concluded the first half with a game-high 15 points.
The 28 points marked the third-largest point total in her career and the most since scoring 34 points vs. Tennessee on Jan. 12, 2012.
The 28 points moved her up to No. 3 on UK's all-time scoring list with 1,815 career points.
Mathies became just the third player in UK history to score over 1,800 career points.
Tied her career high with five 3-pointers and dished out a team-high five assists against the 'Dores.
Has reached double figures in 22-of-24 games this season, including 15 in a row.
Leads the team in scoring (15.8 ppg), including 18.8 points per game in SEC play ... Also leads UK in 3-pointers made (50) and assists per game (1.3) this season.
Men's basketball: Nerlens Noel
Freshman Nerlens Noel helped lead UK to a pair of wins at home this week to run the Wildcats' winning streak to five games. Noel logged double-doubles in both outings and has now put together a career-long three-game double-double streak. Noel had 10 points and 10 boards in a win over South Carolina to couple with five blocks. Against Auburn, he logged 10 points on a career-best 8-for-13 day at the line to go along with a game-high 12 rebounds. He continued his streak of at least one block in every game this season.
Softball: Kelsey Nunley
Impressive in her first collegiate action, going 3-0 with wins over Western Michigan, Oregon State - who is receiving votes in both major preseason polls - and No. 20/21 Stanford. Nunley's first action of the season came against Western Michigan, where she posted a complete game, allowing only one run and four hits with nine strikeouts. She also came on the next day in mid-innings against Oregon State, throwing 2.1 scoreless innings with two strikeouts, allowing UK to take a late lead and get the win. Her most impressive performance of the weekend came against Stanford, where she limited the top-20 Cardinal to four hits and one earned run while striking out eight. In fact, Stanford's leadoff batter reached on an infield single but Nunley would not give up another hit until the bottom of the fifth inning. In her two starts against Western Michigan and Stanford, Nunley went 12 innings, giving up only eight hits and two earned runs while striking out 17.
Junior captain Lauren Cumbess looks to be a force in the circle and at the plate this season for the Wildcats. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Last season, Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley were a two-headed monster for Kentucky as they combined to start in 41 of the 60 games and earn 25 of the Cats' 30 wins, guiding UK to its fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance.
The two left their mark on UK softball but it's time to move forward and juniors Lauren Cumbess and Ellen Weaver along with freshmen Katie Henderson and Kelsey Nunley are ready to shine.
Cumbess finished last year with a 3-4 record in nine starts but boasted a team-best 2.78 earned-run average in 45.1 innings pitched. The Normal, Ill., native will most likely get the nod in the Cats' season opener vs. Cal and showed signs of brilliance last year when she no-hit Georgia. Cumbess has been known to play first base when she isn't in the circle and her athleticism is maybe the one thing Lawson likes the most out of her junior hurler.
"It's funny because she is probably one of the best athletes that has ever come through here," Lawson said. "What gives me confidence is not only that she's a superior athlete but that she's proven she could do it on a national stage last year. I would argue that at the beginning of the season she was our top pitcher and then she certainly showed it when we played Georgia and no-hit them."
Weaver provides some experience for the Cats, appearing in 14 games last season and had three complete games to her credit. Henderson and Nunley will get a taste of collegiate softball when they stand in the circle for the first time this season.
Cumbess is confident in the rotation the Wildcats will feature this season and likes the rarity of a four-person pitching staff.
"I think four strong pitchers on the staff is a great thing to have and not every staff in the country has that so we are very lucky to have four strong pitchers," Cumbess said. "We all complement each other really well so it's going to be very fun to see us work game-to-game together since we are all so different."
Cats hit the road
Fans will get a quick answer of where the Wildcats stand against the top teams in the country as UK will challenge No. 3/3 Cal, No. 4/4 Arizona State and No. 21/20 Stanford this weekend in the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz.
This weekend will also be a perfect time for Lawson to find out what her group of pitchers are made of as the Cats are slated to play five games in a span of three days. A lot of questions will be answered this weekend but this is just the start of a rough opening 20 games of the season for the Wildcats.
UK will hit the road for the first 20 games of the 2013 campaign, playing in four tournaments before returning home and introducing the renovated UK Softball Complex for the first time on March 6 against Marshall.
Lawson realizes this isn't the greatest situation for her Cats but there is only so much she can control and it's a hump the team will have to make it over.
"You never want to go on the road for the first 20 games," Lawson said. "First of all, it's nice sleeping in your own bed and second of all, we do have an unbelievable fan base which you can start to see that the SEC home-field advantage is really starting to take effect in the last couple of years in the sport of softball."
This is nothing new to Kentucky given its limited ability to begin hosting games in Lexington due to the weather in the month of February. What also prevented UK from hosting some early season tournaments was the UK Softball Complex.
With the upgraded stadium, Kentucky will host its first SEC Tournament this year and Lawson says fans will see a change in the schedule from here on out due to the luxurious new stadium.
"That's also why I'm excited about the new stadium because we'll be able to host," Lawson said. "Next year, you'll see our schedule is going to be a little different in that we can host a couple of tournaments at our own field."
Kentucky enters this season with just two seniors in Kara Dill and Alice O'Brien, who were both named team captains along with Cumbess.
Dill had a fantastic 2012 season posting team-highs of .351 average and 21 stolen bases, earning her way on the All-SEC second team. O'Brien had a fine year herself, finishing fourth on the squad by hitting at a .265 clip. Cumbess had success in the circle but was also productive at the plate and should see ample time at first base.
Although the team has a lot of youth, Lawson doesn't see a lack of leadership. She is very confident that her captains will step up and take charge but is also looking for her sophomores and juniors to lead as well.
"I believe there are a number of people on our team that step up in different situations," Lawson said. "I'm pretty fortunate that in this program, we year-in and year-out have brilliant student-athletes. They're good in the classroom, they're good on the field and they're blue-collar, level-headed people. I'm not worried from the standpoint that we have two seniors because what everybody provides collectively is pretty special."
Head coach Rachel Lawson looks to guide the Wildcats to their fifth straight NCAA Tournament berth. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
This UK softball season is set to feature several new additions. Head coach Rachel Lawson is looking to take her program to the next level and earn a fifth straight NCAA tournament berth after setting a school record with six Southeastern Conference series wins during the 2012 campaign.
Lawson, along with senior infielder Kara Dill and junior pitcher/first baseman Lauren Cumbess, met with the media on Monday for the annual softball media day to talk about the upcoming season.
The newest addition to the program and one that's arguably attracting the most buzz is the renovation of the UK Softball Complex into a state-of-the-art 1,500-seat facility. The stadium is scheduled to host the 2013 SEC Tournament for the first time in school history during the week of May 8-11. The upgrade to the stadium will certainly provide major boosts to the program and according to Lawson it will be among the best in the SEC, if not the cream of the crop.
"First and foremost, it is for the student-athletes," Lawson said. "It is going to provide us with an opportunity to train at the highest level possible. There are certainly unbelievable stadiums in the SEC but nobody is going to have a better set up when you take the stadium and new indoor facility into consideration."
The plan on the facility was passed by the University of Kentucky Board of Trustees on Dec. 13, 2011. Since that date, anticipation has been building for the 2013 season amongst everyone in the program. Lawson also said the field will give the Wildcats' loyal fan base an experience they deserve when watching an SEC softball game.
As for the players, Cumbess who is entering her third season, was ecstatic when asked about playing in the new stadium for the first time this year.
"We were out there a couple times this year when it was warm enough and I could not stop smiling looking at it," Cumbess said. "Everyone is really grateful for it and we are just really excited to have a nice area for all the fans to see us."
In the future, the stadium will also feature a new hitting building near the left field foul pole that will include a team lounge and locker room. Like any new facility, one of the improvements that will come of this is in recruiting student-athletes to come to UK.
And it all starts with this year's class.
Kentucky will introduce eight freshmen on its roster, a group that will likely play a vital role in UK's success. The Wildcats lost three pivotal players from last season due to graduation in Chanda Bell, Brittany Cervantes and Rachel Riley. Bell and Riley are regarded as two of the best pitchers to ever come through UK, while Cervantes exited as the school's all-time leading home run hitter.
When a team loses that much talent, it's nearly impossible to replace. But Lawson and the players are confident the newcomers will step up to the challenge and be ready to perform when their time comes.
Lawson said she expects to see a few new faces in the starting lineup when the Cats open their season on Friday, Feb. 8 against Pacific-12 Conference powerhouse and the third-ranked California Golden Bears.
Dill, who is one of two seniors on the squad, also foresees a few freshmen getting their first taste of collegiate softball when the season gets underway but is very impressed by the 2013 class and expects them to contribute right away.
"The freshman class is unbelievable," Dill said. "Offensively, defensively, pitching, they're so good. I think a lot of them are going to play, whether they start or, you know, there are eight of them, I don't think they're all going to start, but they are going to have integral roles throughout the season with our tough schedule."
Lawson touched on the impact the freshmen will have this season.
Darington Richardson (Duluth, Ga./Woodward Academy) and Sylver Samuel (Simpsonville, S.C./Hillcrest HS) will provide speed in UK's outfield, while also wreaking havoc on the base paths. The sixth-year head coach added that Samuel is by far the fastest player she has ever coached.
Dill is the lone member of the four infielders from last year that returns for UK. With that being said, Lawson made it a point to bring in some youth to help fill the voids. Nikki Sagermann (Buford, GA./Mill Creek), Ansley Smith (Newman, Ga./Northgate HS), Maisie Steed (Powder Springs, Ga./Hillgrove HS) and Christian Stokes (Chesterfield, S.C./Chesterfield HS) will all fight the veterans for playing time and are all athletically gifted in their own way.
Lawson described Sagermann as one of the best young hitters she has ever seen, Smith as a player who is solid both on the offensive and defensive sides, Steed as a very smart and heads up ball player and Stokes as one of the most athletic softball players she's been around.
To round out the recruiting class, Lawson brought in pitchers Katie Henderson (Hixson, Tenn./Silverdale Academy) and Kelsey Nunley (Soddy Daisy, Tenn./Soddy Daisy HS) to complement projected starters Cumbess and fellow junior Ellen Weaver. Lawson regards the freshmen hurlers as outstanding pitchers who will have a chance to learn from Cumbess and Weaver and provide depth in the circle.
The Wildcats begin their season this weekend when they travel to Tempe, Ariz., for the Kajikawa Classic Feb. 8-10. Kentucky will play five games over the three-day span and along with Cal, UK will face No. 4/4 Arizona State on Saturday and No. 21/20 Stanford on Sunday.
Kentucky is no foreigner to competitive schedules as the Cats compete in the toughest conference in college softball. Lawson sees this as a measuring stick of where the team is at and will help them as SEC play approaches.
Two years ago, the Cats were one win away from the Women's College World Series. Lawson has high hopes for this season and believes the team can make it to Oklahoma City, Okla., referencing that winning the SEC is actually a harder feat due to the amount of teams from the conference that make it to the final eight-team tournament.
For now, Lawson will use these early games to find out some things about her team and make adjustments as the season moves forward.
"I just think that right now, at the beginning of the season, we can schedule really hard games right off the get go to see where we're at," Lawson said. "From there, I think we can really come up with a good game plan and assuming we keep our confidence up and our wits about us, I think we'll be right there in the postseason again, knocking on the door for the World Series."
The event will serve as the centerpiece of UK's spring practice schedule as well as the first chance for fans to get a glimpse of Stoops first Wildcat team. Further plans won't be announced until later and some kept secret until the day of, but this year's spring game figures to be one of the most highly anticipated in recent memory.
Fans will also have the chance to make April 13 a Big Blue Saturday as both the softball and baseball teams are in action at home that day. Softball will take on Florida at 1 p.m., while the baseball team will face Tennessee at 2 p.m.
UK Athletics may be in the middle of the offseason, but that doesn't mean its athletes aren't working hard to prepare themselves for next year. If anything, Wildcats from the women's basketball, softball, women's tennis, women's soccer, volleyball and gymnastics teams are working harder than they do during the season.
Kentucky strength and conditioning coach Stephanie Tracey-Simmons is putting athletes through each of those teams through an intense set of summer workouts. The workouts are designed to build strength, endurance and confidence for the upcoming season, but they also have effect of unifying teammates and creating bonds across sports. Jen Smith from the Lexington Herald-Leader has the story:
The UK strength and conditioning coach says it's not her mission to make athletes miserable. She wants to make them tougher and stronger, more confident.
"I always tell the basketball players, 'You guys hate me now, but you're going to love me in March,'" Simmons says.
By the time basketball season rolls around and the season starts in November, Simmons is sure of one thing. "They will have the confidence that they can run anyone in the country down and wear them out."
There's a competitive portion to the summer workouts. At the end of it, each sport's coach is provided with a chart of how each player finished, not only individually, but also against players from the other participating sports.
"It's a big competition at the end of the summer to see whose team performed the best," says Bria Goss, a sophomore guard on the basketball team. "Also, individually you're competing against other sports. We all push each other and get better."
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.)