The 2013 DanceBlue marathon raised $1,113,189.42 for the fight against cancer. (photo via DanceBlue)
For 24 hours in a row, University of Kentucky students danced away their Friday and Saturday, and it was all for a great cause.
Memorial Coliseum played host to the eighth annual DanceBlue marathon, where a record $1,113,189.42 was raised for the fight against pediatric cancer. After the final total was revealed on Saturday evening, participants learned of a $500,000 endowment fund started by the late Joy Wills, who beat cancer three times and supported DanceBlue during her life.
"This year, with a record number of 800 dancers, DanceBlue was able to raise over $1.1 million for the Golden Matrix Fund to support cancer research at the Markey Cancer Center and child-life initiatives in the DanceBlue Kentucky Children's Hospital Pediatric Hematology/Oncology Clinic," said Ethan Ritter, DanceBlue's 2013 Overall Chair. "It was a wonderful 24 hours that united our entire campus and state."
Include UK Athletics in that too.
Wildcat student-athletes, coaches, teams and the department at large lent their support in myriad ways. Multiple coaches - including John Calipari and Matthew Mitchell - took to the stage to encourage dancers, one of whom was former UK wide receiver La'Rod King. Any visitors to the marathon left in awe of the dedication and passion of the participants.
"I was blown away by the number of students in that gym Friday night dancing and raising money to fight pediatric cancer," Coach Cal said. "As I told them Friday, they may never do anything more meaningful than what they did with DanceBlue. It is hard to do something by yourself, but to come together like they did and raise more than a million dollars warms my heart. It will make a tremendous difference in the fight against cancer."
The women's soccer team took an even more active role.
The women's soccer team presented a check for $4,000 at the DanceBlue marathon. (UK Athletics)
In September, the Cats held their second-annual "Kick Cancer" match. Inspired by a young fan who lost her battle with brain and spinal cord cancer, players wore special gold jersey that were later auctioned off. In addition, $1 from each ticket sold to UK's match against Mississippi State was set aside. With that money, the women's soccer team presented a check for $4,000 to DanceBlue.
"It means a lot for us as a team to be able to give back to the Lexington community and donate to something that we strongly believe in," head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "Allison Berger was someone who touched all of our hearts and so we will continue to do everything we can to fight this awful disease in her honor. Yes, we want to win games and win championships, but just as important is winning off the field, and this cause means a lot to our players, coaches, staff and university."
The donation by the women's soccer team instigated a little good-natured competitiveness from a fellow UK program. Volleyball head coach Craig Skinner, in addressing dancers, announced his team would hold a match of its own next season to benefit DanceBlue.
"I personally challenge Coach Lipsitz the volleyball team will raise more money than the soccer team next year," said Skinner before going on to propose the losing coach shave his head. Lipsitz may want to amend that wager considering he has substantially more hair to begin with.
Friendly jabs aside, DanceBlue - which has raised more than $5 million since its inception- has grown into something few could have imagined when it began in 2006. That good work will surely continue with or without the involvement of UK Athletics, but that involvement is appreciated nonetheless.
"The support from our athletic community was terrific," Ritter said. "Visits from our coaches got our dancers excited, the only thing they cheered more for were our clinic families. Our continued use of Memorial Coliseum for the event and the special events hosted by teams like women's soccer shows that UK Athletics truly takes interest in supporting events that improve our community."
Guy Ramsey took on the rigorous task last holiday season of dubbing Wildcats esteemed victors of the 2011 Scratchies. The Scratchies commemorate the best of the best of the fall semester, celebrating the many achievements and top events and performers so far in the athletic calendar. Guy has, with great regret and sorrow due to a stressful and hectic schedule, passed along the duties of handing out these illustrious Wildcats to me. After putting in countless hours of research and analysis, consulting with the Cat Scratches brain trust, and many sleepless nights, it is with great honor that I present to you the winners of 2012 Scratchies for the fall semester...
MVW (Most Valuable Wildcat) Cally Macumber (Cross Country) - The 2012 cross country season was one of the best in Kentucky history as junior Cally Macumber helped welcome new head coach Edrick Floreal with an individual SEC Championship. Macumber won the SEC Championship on Oct. 26, she earned SEC-best times in both the 5,000- and 6,000-meter events, won SEC Athlete of the Week twice, and was named 2012 SEC Cross Country Runner of the Year. She became the first Wildcat to win the women's SEC Title since 1989.
The Dream Team (team of the semester) Volleyball - For the second time in as many seasons and the third in four years under head coach Craig Skinner, the Kentucky volleyball team advanced to the Sweet 16. Kentucky earned the No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament, giving the Cats the opportunity to host the first and second rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats defeated East Tennessee State to move on and face Ohio State. Kentucky won convincingly over the Buckeyes, 3-1, after dropping the first set.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, they would be matched up with the No. 1 seed in Penn State in the West Lafayette, Ind., Regional. The six-time NCAA Champions fought off the Wildcats as UK made runs in the first two sets and ended another successful Kentucky season. The Cats finished the year with another 20-win season with a final record of 22-11. They faced one of the toughest schedules in the country, beat Tennessee twice, and had three Wildcats named All-Americans including second-team selection Whitney Billings and honorable mentions Stephanie Klefot and Christine Hartmann.
The Adolph Rupp Award (coach of the semester) Jon Lipsitz (women's soccer) and Johan Cedergren (men's soccer) - The Kentucky soccer programs each reached new heights in the respective programs this season, and much of the credit goes to those running those teams. Women's soccer head coach Jon Lipsitz guided his team to the first NCAA Tournament win in program history with a victory over UT Martin in the first round. Kentucky racked up big wins against Louisville and Florida and finished 14-7-1 to cap off one of the best seasons in program history.
Johan Cedergren's first season at the helm of the men's program got off to a rocky start, but it didn't take long before he rallied the troops. The Cats dropped their first three matches of the season before getting in the win column against Saint Joseph's. The Wildcats' next win came in a huge upset over rival Louisville, which sparked a four-game win streak. After a tie against Memphis and losses to Indiana and Southern Methodist, Kentucky went on another four-game win streak to put itself in prime position to make the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2003. Not only did Kentucky make the NCAA Tournament field, but the Cats were selected to host the first round for just the second time in program history. Kentucky fell to No. 19 Xavier in the first round, but UK finished with a 10-9-2 record and Cedergren looks to have his program on the rise.
The Butler-VCU Award (surprise team of the semester) Men's soccer - When UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart hired Johan Cedergren to become the new head coach of the men's soccer program, most expected Cedergren to eventually right the ship and get the team headed in the right direction. But no one could have expected the run they would go on after starting the season 1-4-0. There was a gloomy outlook on the beginning of the season as Cedergren looked to install his style on his veteran squad. But the Wildcats got a broke out and broke through with an upset win on the road over rival Louisville. After the 1-4-0 start, Kentucky went on to post a 9-5-2 mark over its last 16 games, building a strong enough resume not only to make the NCAA Tournament, but also host the first round for the second time in program history.
One Shining Moment (best moment)
Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart introduces his newest hire in head football coach Mark Stoops in his first press conference. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Stoops Press Conference (football) - Kentucky football got a shot in the arm with the hiring of Florida State defensive coordinator Mark Stoops as the new head coach at the University of Kentucky. It was a hire that reignited passion in the Kentucky football program as Stoops brings with him an impressive resume backed up by a pedigree of successful collegiate football coaches.
After an exhaustive coaching search, Barnhart found his man and officially named Stoops the next head football coach on Nov. 27. And for the first time as the new head coach, he was introduced to the media, donors, Kentucky Athletics staff and some fans for the very first time during an elaborate celebration/press conference on Dec. 2. Stoops and his family got to see firsthand what the Big Blue Nation is all about as he was first greeted by fans waiting outside of the Nutter Field House in the rain. As he entered, he was met by Kentucky cheerleaders and the sound of the Kentucky fight song on his way to the podium to meet Barnhart and UK President Eli Capilouto.
The hiring and the event sparked the Kentucky fan base and now has the state buzzing about football in the thick of the college basketball season.
The "Band is Out On the Field" Award (best game/match) Volleyball comes back from 2-0 deficit at Tennessee - Kentucky was looking for its first season sweep of Tennessee since 1995. The Wildcats earned their first three-set sweep over the Volunteers since that same 1995 season in their first meeting of 2012. Knoxville, Tenn., had not been kind to the Wildcats in recent history, and it looked as if history would repeat itself once more. After the first two sets of the match, the Wildcats faced a 2-0 deficit at the break and it was all but certain that UK would split matches with UT.
The Wildcats came out angry and hammered the Vols, 25-14, in the third set. They then held off UT in set four, forcing the decisive fifth set with a 25-22 victory. Riding all of the momentum of the match, stealing it directly from the clutch of Tennessee's hands, Kentucky handled the Volunteers with a 15-5 in a set where UT never threatened. And for the first time in 17 years, Kentucky returned to Lexington with two wins over the neighbors to the south.
The Doug Flutie Hail Mary Award (best play)
Hubly's golden goal in 93rd minute earns first-ever NCAA Tournament victory - Kentucky and UT Martin were locked in a scoreless battle heading to overtime. The Wildcats had earned the right to host the first round as they sought the first NCAA Tournament win in program history. In the 93rd minute of the game, freshman Kelli Hubly came from the right wing, took a one-on-one opportunity, beat the defender and knocked her shot in past the diving UT Martin goalkeeper for the game winner.
Honorable mention: Janee Thompson's three, Azia Bishop's block clinch comeback win at Louisville for UK Hoops
All-Wildcat Team (the Scratchies equivalent of the All-America Team) Cally Macumber (XC)- SEC Cross Country Runner of the Year, SEC Champion Whitney Billings (volleyball) - Second-Team All-American Avery Williamson (football) - Second in SEC in tackles with 135 while adding three sacks Larry Warford (football) - Three-year starter at offensive guard named All-American by AP Stephanie Klefot (volleyball) - SEC Libero of the Year for conference record third consecutive season Arin Gilliland (women's soccer) - First-Team All-SEC Matt Lodge (men's soccer) - First-Team All-C-USA Steven Perinovic (men's soccer) - First-Team All-C-USA Greg Ferrucci (diving) - Two-time SEC Diver of the Week so far in 2012 Henri Junghanel (rifle) - Tied a program best shooting a 597 in the air rifle event
All-Calipari Team (all-freshman team) Courtney Raetzman (women's soccer) - Freshman All-SEC scoring four goals with 12 total points Kelli Hubly (women's soccer) - Scored six goals, including a game winner in the NCAA Tournament Sara Schwarzwalder (volleyball) - Freshman All-SEC tallying 149 kills (1.51 k/set) in 30 starts Landon Foster (football) - Named to the first team Freshman All-America by Scout.com as well as earning All-SEC Freshman accolades Archie Goodwin (men's basketball) -Averaging team-highs in points (15.8) and assists (4.4) through 10 games Nerlens Noel (men's basketball) - Putting up impressive numbers across the board, averaging 10.7 ppg, 9.0 rpg, 2.8 spg, 3.9 bpg through his first 10 games Rebecca Hamperian (diving) - Named SEC Female Freshman of the Week (Nov. 6)
All-Up-and-Comers(non-freshmen on the rise) Kyle Wiltjer (men's basketball) -First double-double with 23 points, 12 rebounds vs. Lipscomb (averaging 11.7 points on the season) Zan Morgan (volleyball) - Started for the first time as junior in 2012 averaging 2.3 kills/set and 1.1 blocks/set Samarie Walker (women's basketball) - Has started all 10 games this season averaging 9.0 points and 7.6 rebounds Charles Pettys (men's soccer) - Scored six goals in his junior campaign in 18 games this season Liz Breed (women's golf) - The junior shot a 2-under-par (70) helping UK to a 6-under-par score, a record low round in program history, at the Alamo Invitational in San Antonio, Texas Will Bishop (men's golf) - The sophomore won the Cabo Collegiate shooting 2-under-par for the event to pick up his first collegiate victory
He said what? (quote of the semester) - "We've been sitting in the office for three years going, '2012, 2012, 2012. And that doesn't mean we didn't think it could happen before. We almost did it last year, but it was our dream that we knew it was going to happen this year. We knew." - Jon Lipsitz after women's soccer won the first NCAA Tournament game in program history.
The Dougie Award Coach Mitchell dances to MC Hammer at Big Blue Madness
In recent years, UK Athletics has made unprecedented strides in fielding a comprehensive athletic program. Twice in the past three years, the department has finished 29th in the final Director's Cup standings, a impressive mark, but not yet reaching the top-15 level Mitch Barnhart set as a goal as part of his 15 by 15 by 15 plan.
Historically, the fall sports season has put UK Athletics in a position of having to play catch-up in the winter and spring. Volleyball, men's soccer, women's soccer and cross country all complete the championship portions of their schedule in November or December. Each team has had its moments, but those moments have rarely coincided.
In 2012-13, it's been a different story.
UK is one of just six schools nationally to reach the NCAA Tournament in men's soccer, women's soccer and volleyball, joining Washington, UCLA, North Carolina, Marquette and Notre Dame. Moreover, UK is one of just three programs to host a first-round game in all three sports along with Washington and UCLA.
Volleyball has been a mainstay in the tournament, receiving bids in each of the last eight seasons, but the success of the two soccer teams is new. Women's soccer has now reached back-to-back NCAA Tournaments under Jon Lipsitz, including this season when the Wildcats won a game for the first time in school history. Meanwhile, Johan Cedergren's team was ahead of schedule in his first season, hosting a tournament game for the second time in school history.
The lone fall Olympic program at UK not to reach the team portion of the NCAA Championships was cross country, but individuals from both the men's and women's teams were represented in the individual portion. Cally Macumber and Chelsea Oswald each earned All-America recognition with top-40 finishes, while Luis Orta finished 114th, impressive for a runner participating in the race for the first time. All in all, the early returns in Edrick Floreal's first season leading UK track and field and cross country were very good.
Of course, the final piece of the fall puzzle is football, and UK recognizes just how important that program is to the department as a whole and, just as importantly, the Big Blue Nation. The 2012 season may not have gone as planned, but the coming weeks could lay the foundation for a bright future with a new coach set to be named soon.
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.
The Kentucky women's soccer team continues its NCAA Tournament run on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET vs. UCLA in San Diego. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
There's no place the Kentucky women's soccer team would rather have made history than in front of its home fans. When the Wildcats won the program's first-ever NCAA Tournament game over UT Martin on Friday night, having their supporters there to rejoice in the victory with them made it that much more special.
There's no place UK would rather continue its postseason run than the UK Soccer Complex, but things have not worked out that way. Since the Cats will have to leave home in search of NCAA win No. 2, they want it to be an occasion.
"We had a great home game in front of our crowd and of course wish we were home again," UK head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "But if we're not going to be home, let's make it a big deal."
Lipsitz and the Wildcats want to go somewhere they will always remember to play an opponent they will never forget.
"Let's really go someplace," Lipsitz said. "Let's go play the best. Let's go out west. Let's go someplace that's new and exciting."
They are getting their wish.
Kentucky's second-round game will take place in San Diego far from Lexington both in terms of distance (it's more than 2,000 miles away) and climate (Wednesday's high temperature in Lexington is 44 degrees, 68 in San Diego).
The opponent awaiting UK is new too, and certainly fits Lipsitz's "play the best" criteria. The Cats (14-6-1) will face third-seeded and sixth-ranked UCLA (16-2-2) for the first time in program history on Friday at 7:30 p.m. ET. The Bruins have made every NCAA Tournament dating back to 1997, reaching at least the second round each time. UCLA has 45 NCAA wins to UK's one and, according to Lipsitz, is one of "four or five" teams most talked about as national championship contenders.
"I have all the respect for UCLA," Lipsitz said. "I have all the respect in the world for what they've accomplished in the past and what they're doing this year."
There's a lot to respect.
UCLA owns an 8-1-1 record against the 64-team NCAA field and has outscored its opponents 44-11 this season. The Bruins have posted shutouts in 11 of their 20 games and their attack is led by the Pac-12's leading scorer and Player of the Year Zakiya Bywaters. Lipsitz and his team have the proper respect for their opponents, but fear doesn't accompany it.
"We couldn't care less about that," Lipsitz said. "That's what people will talk about and they'll talk about us as this upstart team or a big underdog. And we are. We are a big underdog and that's great. We're going to go and we're going to have fun and we're going to play hard."
The Cats are not without reasons to be confident.
Three times this season UK faced a team in the top 18 of the final RPI rankings. UK twice came away with wins (vs. No. 8 Florida and at No. 15 Tennessee) and tied once (vs. No. 18 Texas A&M). UCLA was sixth in the final RPI release on Nov. 5.
"I have a lot of confidence in our players," Lipsitz said. "I have a lot of confidence in their ability to be ready for the matchup and we're just excited to get there."
The Wildcats have had an historic season by playing a possession-based style and refusing to change their approach no matter the opponent. UK will of course prepare for the Bruins, but playing an elite opponent with the ability to turn mistakes into goals in an instant won't make the Cats something they're not.
"It's who we are and we're not going to change that," Lipsitz said. "We have to be who we are. Yes, anybody we play there's a scouting report and there are nuances that UCLA will give us, but the number one thing is we have to be who we are. And we're a possession team and we want to knock the ball around."
UK's will to stay true to that was tested in the first round.
Playing a UT Martin team with a plan designed to attack them, the Cats got off to somewhat of a sputtering start, turning to long passes and direct play more than they had for most of the season. Considering he started a lineup featuring four freshmen, Lipsitz wasn't totally surprised by the uncertain first half.
He wasn't surprised by the way the Cats settled in either.
"As the game went on, we became more and more a possession team knocking it around," Lipsitz said. "I think we were a little tight early in the game they made it difficult to play it through the midfield and we got a little bit too direct. As the game went on, we got better and better at it."
Considering the circumstances, that was particularly impressive.
In spite of a handful of good chances, the match remained scoreless late into the second half and into overtime. The Cats knew one bad touch or errant pass could spell the end of the season, but they persevered. Eventually, Arin Gilliland and Kelli Hubly combined for the golden goal minutes into the first period of overtime.
"To have put the work we did and to win the first NCAA game in the history of this program was a special moment and we're enjoying it," Lipsitz said.
That first NCAA victory has been a stated goal for the team all season and really since Lipsitz arrived four seasons ago. The Cats put great pressure on themselves to deliver it and deserve to celebrate it, but they are not resting on their laurels.
Leading up to the first-round game, Lipsitz was asked whether he was concerned a letdown would follow should UK beat UT Martin. At the time, he thought a lapse in focus for the second round was a possibility. Now that the moment is here, his concerns have evaporated.
"I was worried about it, but not now," Lipsitz said. "Not now that I've seen them. They just want to play. They want to get back out there. They want to show who we are."
With those worries gone, the Cats turn their attention to UCLA. Plenty of new worries over facing a talented Bruin team could take their place if the Cats thought that way. But they don't.
UK doesn't have to overcome two decades of tradition or undo any of the Bruins' impressive victories this season. All UK has to do is be better on Friday.
"The great thing about playing in this format is there's 90 minutes and it's 11 versus 11 and we're going to do our best," Lipsitz said.