After capping an eight-game win streak with three straight losses on the road to No. 9 Auburn last weekend, No. 15 Kentucky hoped to use the following week of practice to bounce back to winning form before Friday's SEC home opener versus No. 1 LSU.
According to UK head coach Rachel Lawson, the Cats jumped at the opportunity for redemption.
"(The players) worked incredibly hard this week," said Lawson. "They had to basically reinvent themselves, and remember the team that they had been in the past that allowed them to be so successful."
Instead of simply returning to the heights they had experienced before, Kentucky used Friday's platform to bypass all of its past successes. The Wildcats' 3-1 victory over LSU marked the first win over a top ranked opponent in program history.
"Any time you can beat a team the caliber of LSU, you feel pretty good about your win," Lawson said. "The team worked hard this week, so it just validated all of the work they put in in practices and film, and all of the things that they did to get ready for today."
For senior catcher Griffin Joiner, this week meant letting go of external pressures and getting back to doing what she does best.
"We just have a better focus," Joiner said. "We stopped worrying about all the outside things. We just tried to worry about getting better each day at practice, and let the pieces fall where they fall."
As evidenced by her 3-for-3 performance at the plate (including the contest's only home run and her team-leading sixth RBI of the season), all of the right pieces fell into place for Joiner.
"(Joiner) has been clutch for us her entire career," Lawson said. "So, to be able to see her do it after we had such a rough weekend, to be able to do it against an outstanding team, and just to be able to relax and let the game come to her really says a lot about her character, and her ability just to keep moving on and playing the game the right way."
Joiner & Co.'s defensive performance that held the Tigers to just a single run for only the second time all season was anchored by junior pitcher Kelsey Nunley, who earned her 10th win of the 2015.
"We didn't do so well, and we weren't aggressive enough last week," said Nunley. "So, Coach was like, 'We've got to be more aggressive. We've got to be on the hunt.' So, we just came out, and we were like, 'We have nothing to lose. Let's just go out on the hunt and try and play our game.'"
Despite making the trip to Lexington with only one blemish on their record, LSU's remarkable resume failed to intimidate the team that used nine innings to defeat the Tigers 4-3 in last season's SEC Tournament semifinals.
"It was just nice to come out and get to play the No. 1 team in the nation," Joiner said. "We play in a tough conference, and we know that every game that we come out here is going to be tough. So, we were excited."
Nunley echoed her catcher's sentiment.
"I love the challenge, and I love pitching against teams that are really, really good," said Nunley. "That's why I chose to play in the SEC, because I love to play teams that are always going to be a challenge. So, it was fun."
However, Lawson is just pleased to see success return to her team who worked so hard to deserve it.
"I think it's gratifying for (the players)," Lawson said. "Fortunately, we did not have a midweek (game), so we were able to have some really demanding practices, and they answered. Today, you saw the fruits of their labors. So, I feel really good about that today."
Kentucky (22-8, 2-5 SEC) will host LSU (31-2, 5-2 SEC) for the second installment of a three-game series on Saturday at noon at John Cropp Stadium.