Junior diver Greg Ferrucci will return to the boards at the 2013 SEC Championships while dealing with torn ligaments in his thumb. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
It's been a banner year for Kentucky diving. The Wildcats have racked up wins at an incredible pace, posting 18 combined individual wins from the men and women competitors out of a possible 32 events.
Ted Hautau took over the UK diving program in the 2008-09 season and had only two divers in the program. Since that time, Hautau has rebuilt the program from the ground up, currently has 10 divers on his roster and is looking for his athletes to make a splash on the national scene.
Last season, Hautau tailored his training regimen to allow for his athletes to be in prime condition at the 2012 Southeastern Conference Championships. After the success his team has had so far this season, Hautau has tweaked his plans for 2013.
"We're not exactly tapering for SECs," said Hautau. "We're shooting for NCAAs. I just told the team early on before the season that we're going to train through SECs. That doesn't mean I don't think we can perform well there; they perform well every week. So I expect they'll do well at this meet."
The Wildcats will receive a huge boost as the 2013 SEC Championships will mark the return of All-SEC performer junior Greg Ferrucci. A six-time SEC Diver of the Week winner including twice this season, Ferrucci was limited by a thumb injury heading into the Louisville meet. He was then held out of competition in the final dual meet of the season at Cincinnati.
With eight individual wins prior to the injury, Ferrucci left a big hole in the diving lineup. Kentucky's depth, however, was more than enough to make up for Ferrucci's absence. UK got strong performances from Corey Cowger, Zachary Zandona and junior captain John Fox, who all earned victories in Ferrucci's stead.
"He's a little bit of the engine of our program in the sense that everyone gets excited and he's a phenomenal diver," said Hautau of Ferrucci. "He's always great in big meets, and just having him back is a relief for him and fun for everybody else. Obviously from a points standpoint, he was the high scorer on the whole team."
Though Ferrucci will be back in competition, it's been nearly a month and a half since he dove at full strength. Ferrucci will be forced to dive through the pain this week, so he'll have to battle through the it if he hopes to get back to his winning ways at the SEC Championships. The time off, however, may have given him a chance to improve in other areas.
"His thumb, it is what it is," said Hautau. "He's going to have to tape it up and it might hurt a little bit. He's really strong right now, he's getting his air awareness back, so we'll see where he's at (this) week."
Fox - described by Hautau and his teammates as the heart and soul of the diving team - was a key component in holding the divers intact while Ferrucci healed. But Fox knows the importance of his teammate to the overall team's success moving forward.
"It's good to have him back," said Fox of Ferrucci. "I don't think it necessarily takes any pressure off the team, but having him around is great because he's incredibly talented and he just brings us up as a team, like our competitive level and everything."
With the whole unit finally back on the boards, Kentucky will have the opportunity to compete against top-notch competition before Zone Diving qualifying in March. The SEC Championships is just another opportunity for UK to really show who the best of the best is.
"The SEC environment is different than any other meet we go to," said Fox. "It's extremely competitive. The talent in our conference is amazing, so competing against those athletes is pretty special."
Though Kentucky expects to do well this week in Texas, they are more worried about being in top form for the Zone Diving event to qualify for the NCAA Championships
Last season, Ferrucci was the lone diver from UK to make it to the NCAAs. This season, UK will be training throughout its time at the SEC Championships with the hopes of qualifying a few more athletes for NCAAs. While that might make success difficult to come by this week, it will allow the Cats to be at full strength when the Zone Diving qualifying meet rolls around.
"I've decided as a program that we've got some depth on our team, we've got talent, they all kind of push each other, so we're at the point now that we're going to start grooming and shooting for NCAAs as a program and putting multiple kids there," said Hautau. "We've got a good shot this year to get more kids into NCAAs. So we're trending in the right direction."
Though the plans have changed this year, UK divers are looking forward to the challenge. Training through an event instead of preparing up to it makes a big difference physically. If UK can get over that hump mentally, the Cats can still enjoy success at the SECs while preparing for NCAA qualifying at the same time.
"It makes it difficult, but you just have to rely on your meet adrenaline," said Fox. "When you've got that going, you don't really feel anything in your body. It's more of a psychological thing. If you can just forget about it and go out there and trick yourself into thinking that you're feeling really good, you tend to dive pretty well. I don't think it's going to affect us too much. It will ensure that we peak at the right time at the end of the season."
Head swimming coach Gary Conelly has prepared his team all season for the SEC Championships. (Barry Westerman, UK Athletics)
The Kentucky swimming team is gearing up for its most important meet of the season: the 2013 Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championships. Actually, UK has been preparing for this meet all season long.
One meet specifically, however, may have propelled the Wildcats into this week's competition in College Station, Texas.
The Kentucky and Louisville rivalry is as simple as it is complex. While both universities are within just an hour's drive from one another making the proximity the main culprit for the ferocity of the rivalry, it has many layers to it that have turned it into what it is today.
That rivalry does not exist in basketball and football alone. Each varsity sport that Kentucky and Louisville share has an element of that rivalry, and their swimming and diving programs are no different.
For Kentucky, their recent meeting with the Cardinals in the pool may have struck a nerve with the Wildcats and served as a momentum-shifting turning point for UK as the Cats head into the always-crucial SEC Championships.
"The Louisville meet was by far the most exciting I've ever been a part of," said senior captain Mandy Myers. "My freshman year we won against them and it was a really great meet, but this was the first time in a really long time that I've seen everyone up and excited and ready to go, just focusing on each other.
"I think Louisville was an extremely important meet for us mentally."
It hasn't been an easy season for Kentucky. The SEC is arguably the strongest swimming conference in the country and the Cats have faced several ranked teams - SEC and non-conference alike - along the way.
Head swimming coach Gary Conelly knew his team had a difficult schedule ahead of them, but with that in mind he decided that he would use the regular season as one long training period. Though UK might take some lumps lumps during the season, the Wildcats would grind through the regular season with the intent to make a splash at the SEC Championships beginning Tuesday in College Station, Texas on the campus of Texas A&M.
Since their opening meet of the season against Tennessee and Indiana, the Cats have made improvements on a meet-to-meet basis.
"Every dual meet is an opportunity to practice and get better," said Myers. "I think every meet we've gotten better. Our first meet was against Tennessee and Indiana. It wasn't a great meet, but every meet since then, there have been things that we've worked on and improved."
As the regular season wound down, Kentucky ramped up its performance, and it was evident as the Cats took Louisville to the wire on UK's senior day in late January. Louisville's men were ranked No. 14 heading into the meet while the U of L women ranked No. 17. Each was pushed to the limit on that day as UK's men and women were neck and neck for most of the afternoon. The men's battle went all the way to the last few races before it was decided, but Louisville managed to pull it out down the stretch.
Despite the loss, Kentucky was encouraged by the performance as it signified that everything that they had been doing during the season was starting to payoff.
Kentucky traveled to Cincinnati the following weekend and proceeded to dominate the Bearcats in UK's final dual meet of the season.
Since that day, Kentucky's swimmers have had their total attention aimed at this week, even though the SEC Championships have been circled on their calendars all season long.
As their last two performances of the season would indicate, the Wildcats are peaking at the right time.
"I think we're pretty excited about it," said Conelly. "Everybody looks pretty good in the water right now.
"We've put in a good year of training. We've been focused on this as our primary meet. All of our marbles are in one jar and everyone's excited as we get ready to go."
The last two meets have not only produced some of the strongest results of the season for the Cats, but it's built their confidence up as they head into their most important meet of the season. As they head into action this Tuesday for the conference championships, UK has left no page left unturned.
"This is my fifth year on the team and this is for sure the most confident we've been as a whole," said Myers. "Personally, I feel the same way. I don't really have any doubts going into SECs, and I don't think anyone else does either, so I'm excited to see what happens."
The 2013 SEC Championships will be special for Myers and her fellow seniors. But for Myers, it will be particularly rewarding.
After sitting out all of last season as she rehabbed her shoulder from surgery, Myers, a fifth-year senior, hopes to go out in a big way.
"This year is especially important to me to give everything I have to my teammates because I owe it to them for allowing me to stick around an extra year to get better," said Myers. "I definitely want to leave on a good note for my team."
Kentucky hopes to have its best showing of the season in Texas this week with the prospects of knocking off some of the top-ranked teams in the country. Though winning the event will be a tall task, UK can gain several small victories with a strong team showing as well as seeing individuals qualify for the NCAA Championships during this meet.
While Kentucky has been looking forward to this opportunity all season long, success in the SEC Championships would not only validate the Cats' hard work all season, but it could bring strong returns for the future of the UK swimming program for years to come.
"It's enormous," said Conelly of having a strong performance this week. "It's clearly the toughest league in the country. Any time you're moving up through that conference, that's a good perception everywhere.
"To get the athletes to the NCAAs makes it even better. Fortunately, we've had a really good recruiting class this year, so I have a pretty strong sense we're going upward anyway, but this would just get the ball moving even more."
Men's basketball - The Wildcats will open up conference play on the road for the fourth time in the last 10 years and the second time in the John Calipari era with a date at Vanderbilt on Thursday. UK defeated Eastern Michigan in dominating fashion to conclude non-conference action. - Freshman Alex Poythress had 16 points, sophomore Ryan Harrow passed out eight assists and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein had a double-double to lead the way. - Kentucky shot 51.7 percent against the Eagles marking the fifth time this season UK has eclipsed the 50 percent mark. UK is undefeated in those contests. - The Wildcats also secured a season-high 52 rebounds, and limited Eastern Michigan to 38 points and a 24.2 percent field-goal percentage which ranks as the fewest points and lowest percentage in the John Calipari era. Women's basketball - No. 6/6 Kentucky is 2-0 to start SEC play for the second straight season after wins over Florida and Alabama last week. In the Florida game, UK broke the school record for consecutive wins in a single season (12) and tied the school record for consecutive home wins (30) with a 76-69 win over the Gators. - Four players scored in double digits led by the reigning SEC Player of the Year A'dia Mathies' season-high 20 points against the Gators. She also dished out four assists and took a team-high four charges in the game. - The Cats then traveled to Tuscaloosa, Ala., for the their SEC road opener, picking up their 13th straight win with a hard-fought victory over Alabama 87-70. Five players broke into the double-digit scoring column and three Wildcats had double-figure rebounds. - Junior center DeNesha Stallworth got her second straight double-double with a game-high 19 points to go along with 10 rebounds in just 21 minutes of action. Mathies scored all 17 of her points in just 16 minutes of the second half, nailing a career-high-tying five 3-pointers.
Gymnastics - The No. 25 University of Kentucky gymnastics team notched the program's best-ever score at a season-opening meet on Sunday. The Wildcats totaled 195.125 to finish second in the quad meet behind Cal's 195.425. Arizona finished third (194.825) and Auburn was fourth (194.625). - Kentucky completed the afternoon with a total score more than 195 at the season's first meet for the first time in school history. The Wildcats also enjoyed a day of individual triumphs and firsts as Audrey Harrison set a career-high on uneven bars with a 9.9 to finish in a tie for first on the event. Kayla Hartley tied a career-high of 9.9 to win floor. Harrison's bars title was the first of her career in the event, while she also ran her career tally of individual titles to eight. Hartley now has four career individual titles, all on beam. - Alexis Gross set a career-high with a 9.875. Kayla Sienkowski and Hartley both also had career-performances as both picked up scores of 9.75. Sienkowski was competing on bars for the first time in her UK career. Shelby Hilton rounded out the action on bars with a 9.725.
Swimming and diving - Junior diver Greg Ferrucci picked up a win on the 3-meter springboard at the Tennessee Diving Invitational on Friday with a winning score of 410.85. - Junior swimmer Lucas Gerotto earned two wins at LSU Saturday. He picked up a win in the 100-backstroke finishing at 50.41. He also remained unbeaten in dual meets in the 100-butterfly with a winning time of 49.37.
Upcoming schedule Thursday, Jan. 10 Women's basketball hosts Texas A&M - 6:00 p.m. Men's basketball at Vanderbilt - 9:00 p.m. Friday, Jan. 11 Gymnastics at Auburn - 8:00 p.m. Track and field hosts Kentucky Invitational
Saturday, Jan. 12 Men's basketball hosts Texas A&M - 4:00 p.m. Track and field hosts Kentucky Invitational
Sunday, Jan. 13 Women's basketball at Missouri - 1:30 p.m. Rifle vs. Alaska-Fairbanks (Murray, Ky.)
MEN'S BASKETBALL - The Kentucky basketball team will play its final midweek contest in the month of December when the Blue and White takes on Samford on Tuesday at 7 p.m. ET. Kentucky and Samford met for the first time a season ago with the Wildcats earning an 82-50 win. - Freshman Archie Goodwin has logged four or more assists in four consecutive games including five against Baylor on Saturday. Classmate Alex Poythress leads the Southeastern Conference hitting .672 percent of his shots, while fellow freshman Nerlens Noel leads the league with 2.9 blocks per game. - Samford enters the matchup owning a 2-7 overall record which includes a pair of losses to ranked foes in Louisville and Memphis.
VOLLEYBALL - The Kentucky volleyball team advanced to its second straight Sweet 16 following wins over East Tennessee State and Ohio State in the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament. With back-to-back appearances in the round of 16, UK is one of just eight schools to achieve the feat. It's the first time in the Craig Skinner era that UK has won two matches in the tournament in consecutive years and the first time in program history since the 1987-88 seasons. - Senior Ashley Frazier's 12 kills on .500 hitting sparked a 3-0 sweep of ETSU on Friday. Then it was a spectacular display of defensive fortitude that halted the high-octane attack of Ohio State. UK charted 11.5 blocks and picked up 55 digs to fluster the Buckeyes into a .213 hitting clip and no more than 14 kills in a set following the opening frame en route to a 3-1 win. - Junior Alexandra Morgan had seven blocks in the win, and senior Stephanie Klefot logged 18 digs to lead the way vs. OSU. Sophomore Lauren O'Conner paced three attackers in double-figures with a team-high 16 kills, while junior Whitney Billings notched her 17th double-double of the season with 10 kills and 12 digs in the winning effort. - Kentucky will move on to face No. 1 seed Penn State on Friday at 5 p.m. in the West Lafeytte Regional. It is the second-consecutive season UK will face the top overall seed in the tournament. WOMEN'S BASKETBALL - Kentucky improved to 6-1 with wins over Miami (Ohio) and No. 6/7 Louisville last week. Against the RedHawks, junior Bernisha Pinkett had a career day as she came off the bench to record her first career double-double. She set personal-bests with 21 points and 10 rebounds, while equaling her career-high with five assists. She became the first Wildcat to post a 20-point and 10-rebound game since Victoria Dunlap (22 pts/11 rbs) vs. Vanderbilt on March 5, 2011. - Sunday's matchup at Louisville pitted two of the nation's top two teams as No. 9/8 UK traveled to No. 6/7 Louisville. It marked the first meeting with both teams ranked in the top 10 nationally, and it turned out to be quite the barnburner. - Trailing by 14 points with 15:08 to play in the game, the Wildcats clawed back and charted one of the biggest comebacks in the Matthew Mitchell era. Led by junior DeNesha Stallworth's game-high 14 points, the Cats outscored the Cards 18-6 in the final 10 minutes, but the most valuable player of the game turned out to be one of the most unlikely players. - Freshman point guard Janee Thompson, who did not see action in the first half and who was averaging just 5.2 points coming into the game, came off the bench to hit three straight critical free throws down the stretch and nail the go-ahead 3-pointer with 8.5 seconds to play. She ended with 13 points in just 16 minutes of action, giving the Cats their first win over the Cards on the road since 1999 and their first win over a top-10 foe on the road since defeating No. 8 Western Kentucky in Bowling Green, Ky., in 1991.
SWIMMING & DIVING - The Kentucky diving team competed at the Miami Open last weekend in Oxford, Ohio in a field that included the Guangdong Provincial diving team from China. - Junior diver Greg Ferrucci picked up a third-place score of 386.0 while senior John Fox earned a 322.4, good for fifth place in the 1-meter. Freshman Rebecca Hamperian earned a fifth-place score of 275.35. Sophomore Sarah Chewning earned sixth place with a final tally of 271.05 in the 3-meter. - Sophomore Christa Cabot earned a career high score of 301.95 to take second place in the women's 1-meter. Junior Corey Cowger earned an NCAA Zone qualifying score of 326.45 on the 3-meter board.
Football - Kentucky was impressive both on offense and defense in a win over Samford. Offensively, Kentucky posted 455 yards of total offense including 342 on the ground, while the UK defense limited Samford to 102 yards of total offense - which was the lowest output by a UK opponent since 1996. - True freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow went 10-of-13 for 66 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for 59 yards and a rushing touchdown. Junior Raymond Sanders led the team in rushing with 123 yards and a TD. - Linebacker Avery Williamson paced the defense with 13 tackles, including two sacks, becoming the first player since 1990 to have four straight games with 13 or more tackles.
Men's basketball - Freshmen Alex Poythress and Nerlens Noel led the effort against Duke as Poythress scored 20 points, while Noel contributed 15 points and eight rebounds. - Kentucky used sharp shooting in going over the century mark in the 101-49 victory over Lafayette. Kentucky's .645 shooting from the floor as a team was the best under fourth-year head coach John Calipari and best for any UK team since 2008. - Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer hit a career-high seven 3-pointers. Poythress charted a career-high 22 points to become the first freshman to have back-to-back 20-point efforts since Brandon Knight in February 2011.
Volleyball - Junior Alexandra Morgan shined in a 3-1 win over Georgia with nine kills on a .400 hitting percentage, but it was her defense that proved the difference. Morgan had a career-high 10 blocks to accompany three aces and four digs. The 10 rejections was easily a career high and it marks the first 10-block performance by a Wildcat since Lauren Rapp had 10 blocks in an NCAA Tournament victory back in 2010. - UK honored the senior class of Ashley Frazier, Christine Hartmann and Stephanie Klefot before the match. Frazier had nine kills, Hartmann a double-double with 45 assists and 13 digs, and Klefot a match-high 19 scoops in the victory.
Women's basketball - UK's first road trip of the season wasn't a very pleasant one as the Wildcats dropped an 85-51 decision to No. 1 Baylor in the programs' first-ever meeting. It didn't help that UK shot its lowest shooting percentage since 2008, netting just 27.1 percent from the field. Senior guard A'dia Mathies led UK with 12 points, while sophomore guard Bria Goss added 11. - UK regrouped and charted an 80-46 win over High Point on Saturday, hitting 50 percent from the field (30-of-60) and forcing 32 turnovers on season-high tying 19 steals. Mathies once again led the way, scoring all 17 of her points in the first half. Junior forward Samarie Walker pulled down a season-best 12 rebounds to go along with six points, three assists and three steals.
Women's soccer - UK fell to No. 5/6 UCLA in the second round of the 2012 NCAA Women's Soccer Championship, ending their season with a 14-6-1 mark. - It was the first time UK had ever advanced in the NCAA Tournament in 20 years of competition. - Kentucky finished the season with a 2-1-1 record against top-15 teams in the country, knocking off No. 12 Louisville, No. 13 Florida and earning a draw with No. 6 Texas A&M.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team shot a 4693 on Saturday but fell to top-ranked TCU. - Freshman Connor Davis tied a program best in air rifle with a 597. Senior Henri Junghänel led the team with an aggregate score of 1185, shooting a 590 in smallbore followed by a 595 in air rifle. Cross country - Cally Macumber capped a great season with a sixth-place finish at the NCAA National Championships on Saturday. She finished the 6K race in a season-best time of 19:42.20, fewer than 15 seconds behind the race winner. She is the highest NCAA finisher for the Wildcat women since Valerie McGovern was the national runner-up in 1989. Macumber became the first woman in UK history to complete a 6K race in less than 20 minutes. - Chelsea Oswald also had an impressive day as she came in 37th with a time of 20:13.00. Both Macumber and Oswald earned All-America honors, marking the first time since 1988 that multiple UK women were garnered that recognition in the same year. - Luis Orta also impressed by finishing with a time of 30:52.30 in his first NCAA Championship appearance.
Swimming and diving - Kentucky's men's and women's swimming teams earned second place finishes in the Volunteer Invitational this weekend. The Wildcats earned strong individual performances from freshman Matt Roman and junior Lucas Gerotto on the men's side, while sophomore Julia Gerotto, senior Mandy Myers and senior Megan Eppler led the way for the women. - Junior diver Greg Ferrucci had a big weekend, sweeping the 1-meter (369.95), 3-meter (410.90), and the platform (383.35) events over Tennessee and Duke.
Men's soccer - Kentucky fell to No. 19 Xavier, 1-0, in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament. - UK hosted just its second NCAA Tournament game in the history of the program and its first since 2003. UK's NCAA Tournament berth was also its first in nine seasons, with the Wildcats making its fifth all-time postseason appearance.
Wednesday, Nov. 21 Men's basketball hosts Morehead State - 7:00 p.m. Volleyball at Missouri - 8:00 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 23 Volleyball at Auburn - 4:00 p.m. Women's basketball hosts Morehead State - 4:00 p.m. Men's basketball hosts LIU Brooklyn - 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 24 Football at Tennessee - 12:21 p.m.
Lucas Gerotto has won the 100-butterfly in all three meets this season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For the Kentucky swimming team, two Gerottos are better than one.
Junior Lucas Gerotto and his sister, sophomore Julia Gerotto, have been two bright spots early on for the Kentucky squad this season. Lucas has been on a hot streak all season, winning the 100-butterfly event in all three swim meets UK has participated in this season, while Julia has come on strong as of late, winning her first event in the 200-butterfly.
The Brazilian siblings are showing that even though they are a long ways away from home, they are more than comfortable finding success in the United States. And even better, for the University of Kentucky.
It almost didn't turn out that way.
Lucas's first choice wasn't Kentucky. He actually spent one season at Clemson University before transferring to UK. But the decision to transfer wasn't ultimately his.
"I first went to Clemson and then we had our program cut," said Lucas. "I started looking for new places and (UK head coach) Gary (Conelly) contacted me."
It was a frustrating time for Lucas. Clemson had just completed one of the greatest seasons in program history. They finished No. 25 in the nation and Lucas had excelled in his freshman season. As he dealt with the feelings of losing his team, he had to begin looking for a new one.
Current Kentucky assistant and former Clemson assistant Derek Perkins played a major role in the recruitment of the Gerottos to Kentucky. He knew Lucas from their time at Clemson and had already developed a relationship with the Gerotto family.
While Lucas weighed his options, a newly-hired Perkins and the Kentucky staff were already looking at Julia to possibly add to their roster. Unable to make a visit of her own, Julia had to rely on Lucas's opinion when he took his recruiting trip to the Bluegrass.
"I came for a recruiting trip, loved it, and my sister was back in Brazil looking for a university here," said Lucas. "She asked me to pay attention to stuff and tell her later what I thought about it. I just told her that I loved it and thought it was a great place."
Each of them had other options and places they were looking at, but based on her older brother's impressions, Julia put her trust in Lucas's observations during his trip.
"It kind of just worked out that way," said Julia. "We were looking at all different places, and I just trusted my brother's opinion and thought, 'OK, I can go to the same school as you.' "
With the decision made to come to Kentucky, Julia finished up her high school education in December of 2010 so that she could enroll early at UK in 2011. Though she would have to sit out of competition in the spring semester, she was able to spend some time with the team and get used to the college life.
Meanwhile, Lucas was finishing up his final semester at Clemson before he could head to his new university.
It was a difficult adjustment for Julia initially, coming to a brand-new country and having to assimilate into a completely different culture. Times were tough.
"It was like a big change for me," said Julia. "I didn't have time to get used to it. I just got here and had to learn everything. My brother was at Clemson, so he had a year to adjust to the American lifestyle."
But when Lucas finally made it to Lexington, the Gerottos relied on one another to settle in. Julia looked to her older brother on how to get used to America and the college lifestyle, while Lucas relied on Julia to get used to his new school and team.
"I'm the oldest one so I'm kind of responsible for her," said Lucas. "But she got here six months before me, so she had the responsibility to tell me where things were and how things work here, so it was funny because I was looking out for her and taking care of her, and she was doing the same thing for me."
Each of them, after spending most of their lives swimming together back in their club at Brazil, were reunited and once again swimming for the same team. Life became easier.
"He taught me some things about classes and how it worked," said Julia. "He taught me some things about practice and how different the coaching style is from Brazil. It was just really helpful to have him go through the adjustments first."
For Lucas, after spending a year by himself in Clemson, it was nice to be able to have his family back.
"I think here it's special because we're away from family, so we have each other's support and someone to speak Portuguese to," said Lucas. "I think that's one of the things I wish I had in my first year as a freshman. She wasn't there with me. I feel like it's easier here for me."
Julia Gerotto picked up her first win of the season against Auburn in the 200-butterfly. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
After strong campaigns in their first seasons at Kentucky, it would seem the Gerottos have settled in nicely in Lexington. This season, they are already making a deep impact, often seeing their names high up in the results.
Lucas has had a great start to the season, winning the 100-buttefly event in each of the first three meets he's competed in this season. And in each meet he's improved his time. Standing at 5-foot-9, Lucas doesn't have the typical make-up of a sprinter. But one thing that he was able to do that he didn't have the chance to do in Brazil was to hit the weight room.
After spending a summer in Lexington after his first season, Lucas hit the weights and added some strength. A distance swimmer for the majority of his life with the 200-butterfly his specialty, his additional strength helped him become one of the top sprinters in the Southeastern Conference.
"That's his favorite because it's the perfect distance for him," said Conelly. "He takes a lot of pride in that race. I don't think he's going to let anyone beat him in it. They're going to have to outperform him to do that, and that's going to take a pretty special swim."
On the women's side this season, Julia has helped pick up the slack. On a team that's hurting due to a few injuries, Julia's filled in for other areas that may not be her strong suits. And she's getting better every week.
Conelly says her swims have been critical.
"On Julia's side," said Conelly, "her performances are enormous because we actually are swimming her out of her best events and she's taking up slack where we're not as strong like the 1000 and 500 and stuff like that."
Julia's best events are shorter races like the 200-butterfly or the 200-individual medley, but she's been able to hold her own in the other events that her team needs her. Last weekend against Auburn, she picked up her first win of the season in one of her specialty races, finishing first in the 200-butterfly while also claiming second place finishes in the 1000-freestyle and 400-individual medley.
The Gerottos are not long, tall athletes. They don't have prototypical builds of top swimmers. They are getting results. But how?
"I personally hate, hate to lose," said Julia. "I'm really competitive in everything I do in life."
Julia and Lucas each have that killer instinct which has seen them find success during meets each weekend this season. It's something that Conelly believes makes a good swimmer great.
"They are both really talented swimmers, but I think more importantly they're real hard workers," said Conelly. "They're very competitive. They want to do real well. They push themselves real hard in practices. So when they get up to race, they give 100 percent every time they race."
That competitiveness may be the key to each of Lucas and Julia's success the rest of their swimming careers as their bright spots become brighter. Conelly feels that there is potential for each of them to succeed in the NCAA championships and eventually compete for the Brazilian national team in the Olympics. With the physical skills that each of them already have, the future is very bright as long as they continue to "hate to lose."
"They can go pretty far," said Conelly. "They've got a really good combination. They've got the most important piece of the combination which is the drive to win. They're both physically really talented and then they have that killer instinct to compete. You can't teach that."
Football - Linebacker Avery Williamson, who entered the game leading the league in total tackles, had a career-high 20 tackles. He is the first UK player with 20 or more tackles since Chad Anderson made 21 tackles against Georgia in 2003. - Kentucky has an open date Nov. 10 before returning to action Sat. Nov. 17 at home vs. Samford. Kentucky entered the weekend having played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to Anderson and Hester computer ratings used in the official BCS rankings.
Men's basketball - Kentucky was paced by a team-high 22 points from freshman Archie Goodwin in the win over, NAIA's No. 1 ranked team, Northwood. - Fellow freshman Nerlens Noel added a double-double effort with 17 points and 11 rebounds. - The meeting with Transylvania will mark the final preseason competition for the Cats, before UK travels to Brooklyn, N.Y., to open the Barclays Center with a season-opening contest against Maryland on Friday.
Volleyball - The 17 victories guarantees UK a winning season for an unprecedented eighth-consecutive season under UK coach Craig Skinner. - The Wildcats were paced by senior Ashley Frazier as she averaged 4.29 kills per set on an impressive .362 hitting percentage. Frazier had a career-high 20 kills against the Rebels to couple with a career-high eight digs in the win. - Senior setter Christine Hartmann directed the offense to the tune of 15.80 kills per set on a .372 hitting percentage. - Senior libero Stephanie Klefot continues to be an anchor for the Wildcats from the back line. She was perfect on her serve-receive attempts and averaged a squad-best 4.14 digs per set. With 29 scoops on the weekend, she became just the fourth player in SEC history to tally 1,800 or more digs in a career.
Women's soccer - Kentucky bowed out of the SEC Tournament to Missouri in the quarterfinals 2-1 in Orange Beach, Ala., on Wednesday. - Caitlin Landis scored UK's lone goal on Wednesday. Landis has scored three goals in the last two games.
Men's soccer - The Wildcats have been led offensively by Tyler Riggs and Matt Lodge, who have accounted for 14 goals (Riggs-7, Lodge-7) combined through 18 games .The duo has also connected for six assists (Riggs-4, Lodge-2) during the regular season. - UK will travel to Hoover, Ala. for the C-USA tournament game at 6:00 p.m. ET vs. Memphis.
Rifle - The University of Kentucky rifle team defeated No. 15 North Carolina State and The Citadel on Saturday, shooting a 4686 in the triangular match in Charleston, S.C. - Junior Emily Holsopple shot a personal-best 590 in smallbore. - Sophomore Jonathan Pinkel and freshman Luke South recorded personal bests in air rifle, Pinkel shooting a 591 and South a 590.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team finished in sixth place at the Alamo Invitational with a score of 11-over-par, 875. - The squad set a program record with a final round of 6-under-par, 282. The Cats broke the previous school record of 284 for a round, which was set during the 2009-10 season. - Kentucky had two top-25 finishers as Ashleigh Albrecht placed tied for 22nd at 2-over, while Cylia Damerau was tied for 25th at 3-over.
Cross country - Cally Macumber was named Southeastern Conference Cross Country Runner of the Year on Friday. - The Rochester Hills, Mich., native won the SEC Championship Race on Oct. 26 and owns the SEC-best times at both 5,000 meters and 6K. She was also named a First Team All-SEC runner. - Macumber was the first Wildcat to win the women's SEC Title since Valarie McGovern won the conference meet in 1989. - The Kentucky cross country teams return to action on Nov. 9 for the NCAA Southeast Regional in Charlotte, N.C.
Swimming and diving - Kentucky divers junior Greg Ferrucci and freshman Rebecca Hamperian each picked up wins in the 1-meter and 3-meter events Friday against Auburn. - For the third consecutive Friday, sophomore Lucas Gerotto won the 100-butterfly (49.25) and has bested his time each meet. His sister, sophomore Julia Gerotto, earned her first win of the season with a victory in the 200-butterfly (2:02.44) while also picking up a second place finish in the 1000-freestyle (10:15.39).
Football - The UK defense continued to improve, limiting Missouri to 273 yards of total offense which was the lowest number of yards UK has allowed all season. - The Wildcat defense also created a season-high three turnovers in the game, getting two interceptions and a fumble recovery. J.D. Harmon was impressive in the effort for Kentucky, earning a career-best seven tackles on top of the two interceptions.
Volleyball - Senior setter Christine Hartmann narrowly missed out on a triple-double with nine kills, 52 assists and 11 digs against Tennessee. She directed four players to 10 or more kills in the match including 19 on a .472 hitting clip from senior Ashley Frazier. - With 21 digs against UT, senior Stephanie Klefot moved into sole possession of fourth place on the SEC all-time career digs leader list. - In the victory over Georgia, UK saw Hartmann lead the defensive effort with a career-high 19 digs. She passed out 58 assists and again found four players for 10 or more kills. - Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder led the defensive effort for the weekend with team-highs in blocks in both matches including matching a career-high eight in the victory against the Bulldogs. Women's soccer - UK's eight SEC wins marks the most conference wins for the Wildcats since the 1999 season. It ties a program record for most SEC wins in a season. - The Wildcats have shut out four of the last five opponents they have faced, as goalkeeper Kayla King has only allowed one goal in the last 422 minutes of action in the net. - UK finishes the season having six different freshmen score a goal, as the class accounted for more than 30 points on the season.
Men's soccer - Jack Van Arsdale notched his fourth shutout of the year and UK got splendid play from defenders Steven Perinovic, Jacob Kemper, Jacob Speed and Isak Krogstad in a win at No. 23 Tulsa. - UK has improved to 6-2 on the road in 2012, with the Wildcats tied for the second-most road wins in the NCAA entering the Saturday win.
Rifle - The No. 2 University of Kentucky rifle team defeated No. 15 Tennessee-Martin 4656 - 4577 Sunday in Barker Hall. - Freshman Connor Davis led the Wildcats with an aggregate score of 1170. - Junior Aaron Holsopple finished with a match high in smallbore, shooting a 582. Women's soccer - Senior Jessica Stiles finished the weekend 3-0 in singles play and 2-1 in doubles. Stiles' play left her in second for singles champion, one point off first. - Junior Khristina Blajkevitch capped off a perfect singles weekend with a 6-1, 6-1 win on Sunday.
Cross country - Cally Macumber achieved a feat no other University of Kentucky Wildcat had accomplished in 23 years when she won the SEC Cross Country Championship by a four-second margin with a time of 20:23.29 in Nashville, Tenn., on Friday. - The UK women placed fifth overall, while the men finished sixth. - Luis Orta was the first Wildcat to finish on the men's side in 24:10.83 over 8K. - Three Wildcats earned spots on the All-SEC teams by virtue of their performances at the Conference meet as Macumber and Oswald were named to the First Team, while Orta made the Second Team. - Macumber and Oswald each received All-SEC honors for the second time in their careers. Orta, a senior, reached All-Conference status for the third time.
Swimming and diving - The Kentucky men and women's swimming teams picked up their first wins of the season against Southern Illinois in a tri-meet. - Kentucky's men were led by sophomore Lucas Gerotto who picked up his second victory in the 100-butterfly (49.70) and took third in the 50-freestyle (21.15). The men also earned their first relay victory of the season in the 4x100-freestyle as Chris Lott, Will Heidler, Gerotto and Chris Thomas combined for the winning time of 3:05.62.The women pulled out two wins with senior Mandy Myers taking home first in the 100-buttefly with a time of 55.53. Sophomore Christina Bechtel earned her first win of the season as well with a win in the 200-butterfly with the winning time of 66.10.
Monday, Oct. 29 Women's golf at Alamo Invitational (San Antonio, Texas)
Tuesday, Oct. 30 Women's golf at Alamo Invitational (San Antonio, Texas)
Wednesday, Oct. 31 Women's soccer vs. Missouri (Orange Beach, Ala.) - 8:30 p.m. Men's soccer hosts UCF - 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, Nov. 1 Men's basketball hosts Northwood - 7:00 p.m. Friday, Nov. 2 Volleyball hosts Ole Miss - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Collegiate Clay Court Tournament (Orlando, Fla.) Swimming and diving hosts Auburn - 2:00 p.m. Women's soccer SEC Tournament Semifinals (Orange Beach, Ala.) - TBA
Saturday, Nov. 3 Men's tennis at Collegiate Clay Court Tournament (Orlando, Fla.) Rifle at North Carolina State Football hosts Vanderbilt - 12:00 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 4 Volleyball hosts South Carolina - 1:30 p.m. Men's tennis at Collegiate Clay Court Tournament (Orlando, Fla.) Men's soccer hosts South Carolina - 1:00 p.m. Women's soccer SEC Tournament Championship (Orange Beach, Ala.) • TBA
Junior Greg Ferrucci took home a first and second place finish in UK's opening meet against Indiana and Tennessee. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
There are a lot of reasons why Kentucky's diving team should be behind schedule.
Early on in the season, divers are often tired, sore, and stressed out from the daily grind of a student-athlete. They are also behind the eight ball because head coach Ted Hautau was unable to be with his team as much as he would have due to doctor's visits with his wife in anticipation of the birth of his daughter.
But they aren't behind schedule. And as last Friday's home meet against Tennessee and Indiana revealed, UK is actually further along than Hautau expected.
"I was very impressed because I thought at this time of the year we would be very broken down," said Hautau. "I was happy with how we performed, but it's really early."
In the meet, junior Greg Ferrucci won the three-meter diving event (423.25) and grabbed second place (361.95) in the one-meter. The women were the pleasant surprise of the meet as freshman Rebecca Hamperian won her first collegiate event in the one-meter with a top score of 298.35. Sophomore Sarah Chewning followed Hamperian up in second place scoring 282.20. Sophomore Christa Cabot grabbed a victory of her own in the three-meter event earning a score of 308.05, and Chewning placed third (305.05).
Chewning was particularly encouraged by her team's strong start out of the gate.
"I think it's a good indicator of what we can see the rest of this season," said Chewning. "Indiana and Tennessee are some of our biggest competitors and to come out with this performance is really spectacular, but we do want to stay humble and hungry. We know that we have a lot of great competitions ahead of us."
However, it's only early with respect to the competitive portion of the Wilcats' schedule. The diving team has been hard at work since this summer in preparation for the 2012-13 season.
With Hautau in and out of the facility for a portion of the summer, the Wildcats were still able to make the most out of the situation even in the absence of their head coach. Perhaps that's where this team has taken off. And perhaps that's why this team is special.
Despite Hautau's absence, the divers continued to get into the Lancaster Aquatic Center to hone their craft.
"All of them want to be here and they all want to train," said Hautau. "I don't have to make any of them be here. Never. When I'm not here, they are there working out every single day. They want to train on their own. So they are highly motivated and just a great group of people to be around."
That's not just coach speak. Hautau's love for his team is easily observed on a daily. The divers come up to him before practice and they talk about each other's days. They joke around and share laughs. Hautau even broke down in practice and showed his athletes how to do proper pushups as they gathered around and enjoyed Hautau's demonstration.
And as much as all the divers appear to love their head coach, the affection they feel for one another is every bit as evident.
In a sport as individual as diving, Kentucky's diving team is anything but. In fact, they will be the first to tell you that they're more akin to a family than just a team. Though the athletes are tired and beat up as they battle through the fall semester, it's the family atmosphere that Hautau and his divers have created that help push this team through the difficult moments.
"Typically diving is a very individual sport with individual performances," said Chewning. "But being part of this team has been probably the most influential part of my experience here. I come in every day and the upbeat attitude of every single person is just incredible.
"It really pushes you through times when your body hurts and you feel fatigued and maybe you don't personally have the best attitude, but being surrounded with these people with the hunger for competition and the joy of life is just really incredible."
Ferrucci agrees. The high scorer on the men's side last season has seen this program grow over the last two years now into his third. He's witnessed it grow into a cohesive unit where no secrets are kept. They have become siblings under the Hautau household.
"(They're) Like family," said Ferrucci of his teammates. "Brothers and sisters. There's nothing they don't know about me. Nothing I don't know about them."
While Hautau deserves a lot of the credit for the culture he's built at UK, he'll be the last one to accept it. He gives all of the credit to his athletes, a group so special to him that he hopes that no member ever leaves. One diver in particular, senior captain John Fox, drew quite a bit of that praise from Hautau himself.
Fox doesn't possess the typical diver's body. He's a bit longer than most of his teammates, but it was just something about him that caught Hautau's eye. Not highly recruited by many major programs, he was highly coveted by his current head coach, and with purpose.
"There was something I just felt and liked about him a lot," said Hautau. "Just the look in his eyes, it's kind of as simple as that. When he got here, he was hard and he was insecure and it was a really high level for him. But, he showed some toughness. And I just told him, you're going to be the leader of this program."
In his senior year, he's already delivered. Though he registered just a fourth-place finish in the men's three-meter dive, he may have been the biggest reason for UK's success last Friday.
"For the first time," said Ferrucci, "(Fox) being a captain, he pulled us together before the meet and had a little talk with us which he's never done before. It really made us feel calm and cool and good about competing."
And then Kentucky went out and had the meet it had to open the season with three individual victories. That's a sign of a good leader.
Now this family looks forward to a tough schedule up ahead leading up to the SEC Championships and eventually zone diving with an eye toward qualifying for the NCAA Championships is March. The road ahead won't be easy as the SEC has added two talented diving programs in Texas A&M and one of UK's opponent this weekend in Missouri.
This weekend, Kentucky will face the challenge of Missouri, Arkansas and Southern Illinois. After a great start to the season, they will look to improve while fighting through the physical and mental drains. But if they struggle on Friday, as Hautau expects they will at some point during the season, it won't deter this team from their long-term goals.
Even though winning is a lot more fun.
"We take all of our competitions seriously, but we don't bank our performances on just what we see at the beginning," said Chewning. "Good or bad meet, we still have hope for our futures. But it really is encouraging seeing good performances right off the bat."