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The Kentucky volleyball team celebrates making the program's eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. (Alyx Ayer, UK Athletics) The Kentucky volleyball team celebrates making the program's eighth straight NCAA Tournament appearance. (Alyx Ayer, UK Athletics)
Selection Sunday is always one of the more exciting days in collegiate sports that have national championship tournaments. It's also stressful. In most cases, teams don't know where they will be heading, and sometimes they aren't even sure whether they will get invited to participate.

With a strong RPI heading into the final weekend of the regular season and picking up two wins on the road this week, Kentucky liked its chances of being selected to its eighth straight NCAA Tournament.

What the Wildcats weren't prepared for was their First and Second Round destination.

In a thrilling turn of events, based on the screams of the girls on the team upon learning the news, the Wildcats not only were selected to the field of 64, but they also earned the No. 16 seed and were chosen to host the first and second rounds of the 2012 NCAA Tournament in Memorial Coliseum.

"I think we were shocked because no one was expecting to host this year, and relieved at the same time," said senior libero Stephanie Klefot. "It's great to play at home and have your crowd and support from them. I think we're ready."

Last season, Kentucky received an overwhelming amount of support from their fan base as its hosted a regional for the first time during head coach Craig Skinner's tenure. Memorial Coliseum was transformed into a volleyball haven for some of the best talent in the country as UK advanced through the first two rounds to face No. 1 seed Texas in the Sweet 16.

Though the Wildcats fell short of upsetting the tournament's top seed, it was a major step for the program advancing to their second Sweet 16 in three seasons.

"That was a big game for us," said junior right side hitter Whitney Billings. "Texas was pretty good and we played well against them. So we're going to remember what we did against Texas for this year."

This season, as Kentucky becomes one of 14 programs nationally to be selected to the NCAA Tournament eight seasons in a row, UK has its sights set on a similar run. Only this year, they are looking to break through to the round of eight and beyond.

"We were so close (to beating Texas) and we want to make it past the Sweet 16 and that's our goal," Klefot said.

Last year, the Wildcats never faced that type of competition before getting into the NCAA Tournament. This season, Skinner made sure that his team would have those types of experiences so that if that were in a similar situation again, they would have that experience to lean on in addition to last season's match against the Longhorns.

Kentucky had one of the toughest non-conference slates in the country this season, facing then No. 1 Nebraska, eventual No. 1 Oregon, and Louisville (ranked No. 4 in the final RPI). They Cats found themselves in almost every situation imaginable. After scheduling tough and having a successful run in the Southeastern Conference, UK worked itself up to No. 19 in the final RPI. That's likely the reason Kentucky will be staying at home this weekend to face East Tennessee State on Friday in its home gym.

"We felt like our schedule would prepare us for anything," said Skinner. "There's not a situation we haven't been in this year, and there's no question our schedule gave us those opportunities. We scheduled the right way.

"It was definitely a challenge for us, but I think ultimately we want to be prepared heading into this tournament and I think we've done that."

This weekend will mark the second straight year Kentucky as hosted a portion of the NCAA Tournament and fourth in the last five. The manner in which Skinner has built this program and the volleyball culture in the state of Kentucky is likely a contributing factor to why they are chosen to host with such regularity. After a strong showing of support from the fan base last season during the regional, UK will not only host the first and second rounds this season, but will once again have the privilege of hosting another regional in 2013.

Skinner and his team, however, are only worried about this year, specifically Friday night and first-round opponent East Tennessee State. And he's happy that his team fought to earn the respect to once again host three more matches of the NCAA Tournament.

 But even Skinner was excited and surprised by the opportunity.

"Literally every year I've been coaching you never really know exactly what you're going to get and this is no exception," said Skinner. "Of course our team is excited and we're looking forward to playing Friday night. We're certainly glad we earned enough respect to get seeded and have the opportunity to host."

With Eastern Tennessee State up first the Wildcats, Notre Dame and Ohio State will play in Friday's first match of the doubleheader at 5 p.m. Kentucky and ETSU will play in the night's second match, tentatively scheduled for 7:30 p.m.

Just like last year, Kentucky is hoping to draw the Big Blue Nation to Memorial Coliseum this weekend as they have the opportunity to display the game of volleyball on the greatest stage. For this team, a group that love playing on the big stage in front of a huge crowd, the homecourt advantage could go a long way into helping propel the Wildcats into another Sweet 16.

"We like playing in our gym," said Skinner. "We have great fans and a great environment for volleyball. We love the opportunity to play at home."


Live blog: Volleyball at Auburn

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Live blog: Volleyball at Missouri

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Video: Volleyball Senior Day intro

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Nov. 18 Performances of the Week

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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Nov. 18:

Volleyball: Alexandra Morgan

Junior Alexandra Morgan was simply a game-changer in helping lead UK to a four-set victory over Georgia on Senior Day. Morgan posted a career-high 10 blocks which easily is also the highest mark of the season for any Wildcat. She is the first UK player to tally 10 or more rejections in a match since 2010 when Lauren Rapp had 10 blocks in the second-round of the NCAA Tournament. In addition to the 10 rejections she also had a team-high three aces and contributed four digs which is the second-highest total for the junior this season behind her career-high of five. She was one kill off a double-double effort with nine hammers on a blazing .400 hitting percentage. With the 10 blocks she now pushes her season average to above one with 1.02 blocks per frame.

Men's basketball: Nerlens Noel

Freshman Nerlens Noel had a coming out party in front of a national audience against No. 9 Duke. Noel had his first-career double-figure point effort with 16 points while adding a team-high eight rebounds. He notched a game-high four steals and added three blocks to his stat line. He added career-high numbers at the line with 6-of-8 free throws. Against Lafayette, he was the spark to the Wildcats' effort with countless hustle plays that resulted in four steals and four assists in helping UK top the century mark for the first time since the opening game of the 2011-12 season. Noel added 15 points, his second-straight double-figure effort, and again led UK in rebounds with seven. The four assists and four steals were both career high tallies. His 6-of-8 performance from the field highlighted UK's .645 shooting from the field as a team which was the highest clip under fourth-year head coach John Calipari and the best clip for any UK team since 2008.

Men's basketball: Alex Poythress

Freshman Alex Poythress exploded for back-to-back 20-point efforts in helping lead UK to a 1-1 week. Poythress had 20 points and added a team-high eight rebounds in a loss to No. 9 Duke. He then topped that performance with a 9-10 night from the field for a career-high 22 points. He added his first career block and first career steal in the victory. The .900 field goal percentage led the team which turned in a .645 percentage - the highest field goal clip under John Calipari. The .900 clip was the third best individual performance in the Calipari era. He also becomes the first freshman since Brandon Knight in Feb. 2011 to have consecutive 20-point efforts.

Volleyball: Kayla Tronick

Freshman Kayla Tronick provided a spark off the bench for the Wildcats in helping UK down Georgia on Senior Day. Tronick did not play in the opening set, but came out midway through the second frame and struck for seven kills on a match-high .417 hitting clip to become one of five UK players to tally five or more kills in the victory. The kills and hitting percentage both ranked the second-best of the senior for the year first-year player, outside of her only career start against Ole Miss earlier this season. Tronick also added a block and just her second-career assist.

Kentucky Sports Report (week of Nov. 19)

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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.

Upcoming schedule

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.

Sunday, Nov. 25
Women's basketball hosts USC Upstate - 1:00 p.m.



The Kentucky volleyball team celebrated Senior Day on Sunday with a win over Georgia. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics) The Kentucky volleyball team celebrated Senior Day on Sunday with a win over Georgia. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Emotions have been running high lately for the Wildcats as the regular season winds down. Tensions were running high after a rough weekend on the road where Kentucky suffered two losses. But with an entire week to focus on the Georgia Lady Bulldogs for Senior Day on Sunday, the Wildcats were on point as emotions peaked before, during and after the game.

"I guess it was really emotional," said senior outside hitter Ashley Frazier. "It was back and forth a lot of the time. The team that had the momentum was the team that usually ended up winning the games, especially in games one and two. It was getting all of that momentum and emotion on our side and keeping it there."

Kentucky held its traditional pregame Senior Day ceremonies on the court before action got started, and it didn't take long for the emotions to rise. But when the celebration was over and the focus turned to the actual match as UK knew they would have its hands full with the Georgia Bulldogs.

Georgia took the Wildcats to five sets in their first meeting. It looked like the Dogs and Cats would be in another tight battle through the early part of set one.

The teams traded points early on in the first set, but it was a kill from Frazier that got things started for UK. A beautiful touch shot that found the floor gave the Cats a two-point edge and propelled them to a 12-10 lead. That lead stretched to 20-15. Then to 22-16. And then UK captured the first set 25-19 on the strength of four of sophomore Lauren O'Conner's match-high 14 kills.

Kentucky looked like it would be cruising to a Senior Day victory from there. Georgia wasn't about to let that happen so easily.

The Bulldogs answered immediately as it appeared there was a role reversal in set two.  Once again, it was a seesaw battle through the nine-point mark, but Georgia began pulling away from there. The Lady Bulldogs jumped out to a 16-10 lead and it was over from there. After an emotional first win, Georgia ripped the momentum right away in set two as they took the second set, 25-18.

The Wildcats and their seniors would have to respond.

Whatever took place in the Kentucky locker room at the break worked wonders because the Wildcats looked refreshed and aggressive. Skinner changed up the strategy a bit, as well as the lineup, and the energy was apparent on the court in sets three and four.

A big part of that was the insertion of redshirt freshman Kayla Tronick. The middle blocker saw action for just her 10th match on Sunday, and she provided quite a jolt after entering the lineup in set two. She then reappeared in the starting lineup in set three and rewarded her coach and her team with seven kills and hit .417 for the match.

"She had a heck of a week in practice," said Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner. "Honestly, she deserved to start the way that she had been playing. We just needed a change of what we were doing and Kayla obviously did a great job.

"She brings a lot of energy and great play for us."

Tronick picked up three of her seven kills in that third set. Meanwhile junior right side hitter Whitney Billings led UK with five kills in the set as junior middle blocker Alexandra Morgan held it down defensively with four blocks. It was a big set for the Wildcats as they finished things off in a dominant fashion, winning 25-14 and taking a 2-1 lead in the match.

"I think Georgia responded really well in the second game and we weren't ready for that," said Frazier who finished with nine kills on her Senior Day. "So when we came into the locker room in between two and three, we talked about refocusing on the game and getting back to our game because they took us out of our game in the second set."

While Kentucky was clearly more focused in sets three and four, it was a strategy change that helped the Wildcats find an edge. At the break, Skinner elected to start serving more aggressively down the sideline to help funnel the Georgia attack to his to his blockers. The aggressive serving not only helped UK earn easy points, but it also put Morgan in great situations to help her rack up a career-high 10 blocks on the day.

Morgan had a huge match. To accompany the 10 blocks, she added nine kills, four digs and three aces. Her two aces in set four were momentum stealers in the fourth set and her blocks always seemed to swing momentum

"(Morgan) did a great job," said Skinner. "Before I think she was reaching for the ball, but today she took away space, which is the most important thing. When she does that, she's tough to hit around."

Kentucky continued to rack up the kills throughout set four, as senior setter Christine Hartmann continued to find all of her attackers all afternoon. She finished with 45 assists and 13 digs to earn her eighth double-double of the season, while leading five different hitters to seven-plus kills on the day.

Hartmann and the Wildcats went on to cruise to a 25-17 victory and 3-1 win on Senior Day. It was just the way the seniors hoped they could go out in their final regular season match in Memorial Coliseum.

"It was great," said Hartmann. "Definitely coming out with a win whether it's three, four or five sets, just knowing that my team's behind me and played their hardest."

As UK (18-19, 12-6 SEC) wraps up their home schedule, they look forward to a short week of preparation before they head back on the road for their final two regular season matches of the season.  The Wildcats will have a pair of matches wrapped around Thanksgiving Day as they travel to Missouri and Auburn to try and boost their NCAA Tournament resume.

Senior libero Stephanie Klefot, who fittingly led the Wildcats with 19 digs on Senior Day, knows UK has to keep a similar focus to be able to get a pair of wins this week.

"It's very important that we finish out and we have a good practice before we leave because we have practice Monday then we leave on Tuesday," said Klefot. "It's going to be a big weekend for us, and then we'll be able to prepare for the tournament after that."

Senior libero Stephanie Klefot



Senior setter Christine Hartmann



Senior outside hitter Ashley Frazier


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