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."
Football - UK's rushing attack was solid against a tough UGA defense, posting a season-best 206 rushing yards on 43 carries. Jonathan George led the way with a career-high 87 yards on 12 carries, while Morgan Newton and Raymond Sanders had rushing touchdowns. Newton also threw a touchdown pass to Aaron Boyd, while starting quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw for 86 yards, rushed for 31 yards and caught a 33-yard pass. - Kentucky entered the game having played the toughest schedule in the nation, according to three of the computer rating used in the official BCS rankings. Georgia was Kentucky's fifth top-25 opponent this season. The Wildcats are using a young squad against the best teams in the nation, ranking top-five nationally in true freshmen played, and frosh (true freshmen and redshirt freshmen) played this season. Volleyball - Junior Whitney Billings led the way for the Wildcats with an average of 4.17 kills, 3.67 digs and 1.33 blocks per set for the week. She logged her 23rd career double-double with 16 kills and 14 digs against the Tigers. - Senior Ashley Frazier was named a Senior CLASS award finalist during the week. She is the first player in school history to advance to the final 10 seniors for the prestigious award. Women's soccer - Sophomore Arin Gilliland has scored a point in five of the last six games for UK, including scoring a goal in each of the last three games, with two game-winners. - Goalkeeper Kayla King recorded her third-straight shutout Friday night in a 1-0 win before allowing her only goal of the weekend to Auburn, snapping her 322-minute scoreless streak in net. King now stands at 11-2-0 in the net. - The win Sunday over AU was UK's fourth-straight SEC win. It is the first time since 2006 that UK has won four-straight SEC games. Men's soccer - Kentucky (8-6-1, Conference USA 3-1-1) posted a 6-1 goal margin in its two games, as the Wildcats got the first career goal from veteran Dylan Asher against Marshall, as well as Asher's hat-trick, and Kentucky's eighth all-time, vs. FIU. Senior midfielder Charley Pettys netted a goal vs. FIU off of a handball in the box allowed him to take the penalty kick.
Rifle - Kentucky set numerous program records in Sunday's win over Army, including total aggregate score (4716), total smallbore score (2348), individual aggregate score and individual smallbore score. - Senior Henri Junghanel recorded a historic Sunday as an individual, posting a program-best 1186 total score and another program-record 592 in smallbore.
Women's tennis - Freshmen Nadia Ravita and Kirsten Lewis had impressive outings in West Lafayette, Ind. The duo went 2-1 in doubles competition. Lewis advanced to the round of 32 while Ravita won two matches to make it to the quarterfinals of singles play.
Men's tennis - The men's tennis team was in Memphis, Tenn., this weekend competing in the ITA Ohio Valley Regional Indoor Championships. - Jomby and freshman Kevin Lai have earned a spot in the doubles championship match on Monday at 10:00 a.m. ET. Lai and Jomby are the No. 2 seed in the draw, and will face No. 1 overall seeded John Collins and Mikelis Lieibtis of Tennessee. Men's golf - The UK men's golf team finished tied for second at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate, shooting 11-under-par. - Sophomore Will Bishop was the individual champion, carding a 2-under-par, 70 for the tournament.
Cross country - Cally Macumber was named SEC Cross Country Athlete of the Week for the second time in a row on Tuesday. - The Rochester Hills, Mich., native's 6K time of 20:09.0 at Pre-Nationals currently ranks as the best time in the conference this season at that distance. - Macumber and Oswald led Kentucky to 12th-place overall in Louisville.
Swimming and diving - Kentucky's lone victory of the swimming meet came from sophomore Lucas Gerotto who took home first in the 100-butterfly (49.70). - The diving team had a strong opening meet with multiple victories. Junior Greg Ferrucci won the three-meter event with a score of 423.5 while senior John Fox placed fourth 332.50. Ferrucci also claimed second in the one-meter dive (361.95). For the women, in the one meter diving event Rebecca Hamperian took first for the Cats with a score of 298.35, while Sarah Chewning followed her in second scoring 282.20. Christa Cabot took first place with a final score of 308.05 in three meter diving.
This week marks the last few quiet days around UK Athletics before football fall camp gets started after Media Day on Friday. Still, there are a few news items to report.
-On Tuesday afternoon, UK Athletics announced its 2012 Hall of Fame class. Six Wildcat greats will be welcomed into the prestigious group as a part of Hall of Fame Weekend. On Sept. 14-15, in conjunction with Kentucky's football game against Western Kentucky, the six individuals below will be officially inducted.
Derek Abney - Football (2000-03)
Leroy Edwards - Men's basketball (1935)
J.B. Holmes - Men's golf (2002-05)
Jeff Keener - Baseball (1980-81)
Clayton Moss - Swimming and diving (1999-2003)
Nancy Scranton - Women's Golf (1983-84)
-Junior men's golfer Cody Martin qualified for the 2012 U.S. Amateur Championship, shooting even-par over two rounds at the U.S. Amateur Qualifier at Coldstream Country Club in Cincinnati, Ohio. He joins teammate David Snyder as the second Wildcat to qualify. Play at the championship begins on Aug. 15 at Cherry Hills Golf Club in Denver.
-Anthony Davis will be suiting up for Team USA for the second time on Tuesday evening, as the Americans take on Tunisia at 5:15 p.m. ET. The game will be televised on NBC Sports Network. Even if Davis continues to serve as the 12th man against Tunisia, he will likely play should the game prove to be the blowout so many expect it to be.
Earlier this week, the Southeastern Conference unveiled its Winter Academic Honor Roll. To be named to the list, student-athletes must have a grade point average of 3.00 or above for either the preceding academic year have a cumulative GPA of 3.00, among other criteria.
Forty-three Kentucky Wildcats were named to the Honor Roll, the fourth-highest total of any SEC school. Student-athletes from six different teams earned spots. Men's and women's swimming and diving led the way with 14 and 10 honorees each. Gymnastics and rifle each had six, while men's and women's basketball had four and three respectively.
Congratulations to all these Wildcats for their hard work and achievement in the classroom!
See below for a list of all 43 along with their majors.
Twany Beckham - M. Basketball - Communication Terrence Jones - M. Basketball - Communication Darius Miller - M. Basketball - Community Communications and Leadership Development Jarrod Polson - M. Basketball - Finance Kastine Evans - W. Basketball - Business Management Amber Smith - W. Basketball - Family Sciences Keyla Snowden - W. Basketball - Media Arts and Studies Caitlyn Ciokajlo - Gymnastics - Kinesiology/Exercise Science Audrey Harrison - Gymnastics - Business Management Kayla Hartley - Gymnastics - Hospitality Management and Tourism Storey Morris - Gymnastics - Community Communications and Leadership Development Whitney Rose - Gymnastics - Business Management Kayla Sienkowski - Gymnastics - Merchandising, Apparel, and Textiles Dayna Ferguson - Rifle - French Heather Greathouse - Rifle - Psychology Emily Holsopple - Rifle - Biology Henri Junghanel - Rifle - Mechanical Engineering Ed Ryznar - Rifle - Mechanical Engineering Stacy Wheatley - Rifle - Nursing John Bullock - M. Swimming and Diving - Finance/Business Management Greg Ferrucci - M. Swimming and Diving - Kinesiology/Exercise Science John Fox - M. Swimming and Diving - Political Science Blake Freeman - M. Swimming and Diving - Biology Travis Green - M. Swimming and Diving - Biology William Heidler - M. Swimming and Diving - Chemistry Luke Iannuzzi - M. Swimming and Diving - Biology Jonathan Keltner - M. Swimming and Diving - Finance/Business Management Pat Kemme - M. Swimming and Diving - Family Sciences Zack Peterson - M. Swimming and Diving - Kinesiology/Exercise Science Tyler Reed - M. Swimming and Diving - Secondary Education Matt Russell - M. Swimming and Diving - Psychology Maclin Simpson - M. Swimming and Diving - Marketing/Business Management Jacob Thomas - M. Swimming and Diving - Kinesiology/Exercise Science Claire Archibald - W. Swimming and Diving - Accounting Catherine Brueckbauer - W. Swimming and Diving - Marketing Megan Eppler - W. Swimming and Diving - Accounting Lindsay Lash - W. Swimming and Diving - Elementary Education Anna Mattox - W. Swimming and Diving - Communication Disorders Marisa McGlynn - W. Swimming and Diving - Marketing Chelsea Peterson - W. Swimming and Diving - Biology Jenna Willis - W. Swimming and Diving - Psychology Kristen Wilson - W. Swimming and Diving - Finance Samantha Wright - W. Swimming and Diving - Psychology
Before March Madness, UK Athletics was already having a 2011-12 season to remember. Volleyball advanced to the Sweet 16, women's soccer made a return trip to the NCAA Tournament, football scored a streak-busting win over Tennessee and rifle fell just short of a second national championship in a row.
Things were just getting started.
Kentucky was center stage all season in both men's and women's basketball, culminating in nine combined wins in the NCAA Tournament. Of course, the men took home the big prize, while UK Hoops advanced to its second Elite Eight in three seasons.
As if the tournament runs weren't enough on their own, Kentucky is still reaping the benefits of all the March victories in the Capital One Cup standings. The national championship earned 60 points for UK in the men's standings, lifting the school all the way to second with 66 points, trailing only North Carolina. In the women's standings, UK now sits in a tie for 23rd place with Virginia, meaning Kentucky is one of eight schools in the NCAA to rank in the top 25 of both men's and women's standings.
With baseball and men's tennis ranked each ranked in the top 10, UK is poised to make a run at the top spot in the men's standings this spring. Capital One will award a combined $400,000 in student-athlete scholarships and the Capital One Cup trophy to the winning schools at the ESPY awards in July.
Men's basketball - Kentucky advanced to its second-straight Final Four on the heels of an 82-70 win over Baylor in the Elite Eight on Sunday. - Anthony Davis notched his 19th double-double on the season and fifth in the postseason. He finished with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while adding six blocks and two steals. - Michael Kidd-Gilchrist led the Cats in scoring with a team-high 19 points. Doron Lamb (14) and Terrence Jones (12) also scored in double-figures with all of Lamb's points coming in the second half. Jones also added nine rebounds and a career-high six assists. - Kentucky is averaging 88.0 ppg in its four NCAA games. Women's basketball - The Wildcats earned their second trip to the Elite Eight in the last three years after hot shooting from beyond the arc vs. Gongaza. UK hit 12 3-pointers, most ever by UK in an NCAA Tournament game, including a season-high tying five treys from senior Keyla Snowden. - Snowden led UK with 17 points off the bench, while reserve forward Samarie Walker posted her second straight double-double with 16 points and 12 rebounds. Junior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies and Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year Bria Goss followed with 15 and 10 points, respectively. - Connecticut native and sophomore guard Kastine Evans also was a huge factor on the boards as she grabbed a career-high 10 rebounds. - Their 28 wins tie the school record set in 2009-10 when the Cats also advanced to the Elite Eight. UK has now won 25-plus games for three consecutive seasons for the first time ever.
Baseball - The second-ranked Kentucky baseball team completed a four-game week on the road with three wins, including a series win at Tennessee and a midweek win at Cincinnati. - The Wildcats will return to action on Tuesday with a midweek game vs. Western Kentucky at 6:30 p.m. ET at Cliff Hagan Stadium, before traveling to No. 17 Georgia for a three-game set, starting Friday at 7 p.m. ET at Foley Field. - Kentucky (24-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference) is off to the best start to a season in program history with its 5-1 start to conference play its best since 1992, when UK opened 7-0. - The Wildcats had their record 22-game winning streak snapped on Friday night at UT, before responding to claim the final two games to win the series for the first time in Knoxville since the 2008 campaign.
Gymnastics - Behind an impressive performance on vault, where the Wildcats posted one of their highest team scores of the season with a 49.0, the UK gymnastics team finished in fifth place out of seven teams, tying the best finish in school history at the Southeastern Conference Championships. - Kentucky posted an overall team score of 194.350 at the event to defeat No. 10 Arkansas and No. 15 Auburn. The fifth-place finish for Kentucky ties the best finish in school history. UK finished tied for fifth out of seven teams in 2002, while its best finish at the event was fourth out of six teams in 1996. - UK ends the season with a Regional Qualifying Score of 195.49, which is the second-highest in school history. Kentucky earned the high RQS after its best three-meet sequence in school history, where it posted a 195.875 or higher in three consecutive meets.
Softball - UK earned a 3-1 week with a non-conference road victory at Western Kentucky before capturing its first SEC series of the season by taking two-of-three from No. 18 Auburn. - Senior pitcher Rachel Riley tossed two complete-game victories including the decisive series-clinching win over Auburn. The win over the Tigers marked the ninth career win over a top-25 ranked team for Riley and she also notched her sixth multi-hit game in the win. - Kentucky had a slew of terrific offensive performances over the weekend with senior Brittany Cervantes, junior Kara Dill, sophomores Ginny Carroll, Lauren Cumbess, Emily Gaines, Emily Jolly and Ellen Weaver all converting crucial at-bats into runs for the Wildcats.
Men's tennis - The seventh-ranked UK men's tennis team continued its unblemished mark in SEC action with two league wins over the weekend. Kentucky defeated No. 19 Auburn 4-0 before its 4-1 road win over No. 61 Alabama on Sunday. - UK has now won sixth consecutive matches to start SEC play, which is the Wildcats' best start in league action since the 1988 team went a school-best 8-0. Overall, UK has defeated 13 teams that are currently ranked in the ITA top 61, including five teams that are ranked in the top 25. In league play, the Wildcats have defeated No. 11 Florida, No. 19 Auburn, No. 26 LSU, No. 32 Arkansas, No. 40 South Carolina and No. 61 Alabama. - UK won doubles in both matches, moving its record to 12-0 when it wins the doubles point. Senior Alex Musialek led UK in singles, becoming the 14th player in school history to win 100 career singles matches.
Swimming and diving - The men's swimming and diving teams concluded their seasons at the 2012 NCAA Championships in Seattle, Wash., finishing in 21st, accumulating 35 points. The finish was the highest since the 2009-10 season. - Tyler Reed recorded fifth-place finish, swimming a school-record 42.60 in the 100-freestyle. Reed also swam a 1:34.96 in the 200-free, posting an 11th-place finish. - Greg Ferrucci finished in the top-15 in all three diving events, racking up an 11th-place finish in both the one and three-meter springboard, while finishing 15th on the tower.
Women's tennis - Women's tennis traveled to No. 64 Auburn and fell, 5-2. Junior Jessica Stiles and freshman Stephanie Fox excelled in singles play, defeating both of their opponents. Marni Venter and CeCe Witten also grabbed a doubles win for the Wildcats. - Kentucky hosted tough opponent No. 14 Alabama at the Hilary J. Boone Varsity Tennis Complex on Sunday. Witten and Venter once again put on a strong performance in doubles, but could not grab the win. Fox provided fierce competition for Alex Clay at the No. 4 singles slot but narrowly fell, 7-6, 4-6, 1-0 (5). Ultimately, the Cats fell 7-0, to the Crimson Tide.
Men's golf - The men's golf team got off to a fantastic start Sunday in the first round of the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate, shooting a team score of 3-under-par 285, tying for the first round lead. - Kentucky was led by freshman David Snyder, junior Joseph Barr and sophomore Cody Martin, who each find themselves in the top 10. Snyder carded a 2-under-par 70 and is tied for second, while Barr and Martin each shot 1-under-par 71s and are tied for 10th.
Monday, March 26 Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C. )
Tuesday, March 27 Baseball hosts Western Kentucky - 6:30 p.m. Women's basketball vs. UConn - 7:00 p.m. (Kingston, R.I. ) Men's golf at Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate (Awendaw, S.C.)
Wednesday, March 28 Softball hosts Louisville - 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, March 29 Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)
Friday, March 30 Women's tennis hosts Georgia - 5:00 p.m. Men's tennis at Georgia - 5:00 p.m. Softball at Tennessee - 6:00 p.m. Baseball at Georgia - 7:00 p.m. Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)/Yellow Jacket Invitational (Atlanta)
Saturday, March 31 Softball at Tennessee - 2:00 p.m. Baseball at Georgia - 4:00 p.m. Men's basketball vs. Louisville - 6:09 p.m. (Kingston, R.I.) Track and field at Texas Relays (Austin, Texas)/Yellow Jacket Invitational (Atlanta) Sunday, April 1 Women's tennis hosts Tennessee - Noon Men's tennis at Tennessee - 1:00 p.m. Softball at Tennessee - 1:30 p.m. Baseball at Georgia - 2:00 p.m. Women's basketball vs. TBD (Denver)