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Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 21:
Men's soccer: Dylan Asher
Junior Dylan Asher registered a prolific week in leading the Wildcats to two crucial Conference USA wins ... With UK leading scorer and starting forward Tyler Riggs out for both games due to injury, Asher - a two-time All-Conference USA defender - made his two first career starts at forward ... He finished with his first four career goals in the two games, with the eighth hat trick in UK history during a win over FIU ... During the 1-0 win at 10-win Marshall on Wednesday, Asher scored the game-winning goal in 54th minute, his first-career tally ... In the win against FIU, Asher had a career day for the Wildcats, notching goals in the third, 41st, and 57th minute to record the eighth hat trick in Kentucky soccer history ... His goals were dynamic during the week, including a diving header for the hat trick in the 57th frame vs. FIU ... The Richardson, Texas, native fired a total of four shots in the week, connecting at a 1.000 clip with all four finding nylon ... A two-time All-Conference USA selection, a preseason All-Conference USA honoree and a freshman All-American in 2010, Asher has played in 45 games with 43 starts in his career with four goals and three assists.
Volleyball: Whitney Billings
Junior Whitney Billings provided magnificent defensive play in guiding UK to a 1-1 weekend. Billings led the team in every statistical category this week in kills (4.17), hitting percentage (.367), digs (22) and blocks (8). She paced the Wildcats in both digs and kills in both matches this week including a five-block, 14-dig performance in a 3-0 win over LSU. She also provided an offensive spark with a team-high 16 kills on a blazing .481 hitting clip for her 23rd career double-double and the 10th of the season against the Tigers. She logged 32 serve-receive chances and did not commit a single error in that category. The win over LSU marked the 10th time this season the junior topped 10-or more digs and just the third time with five or more blocks. For the week she was well over her season averages in both digs (3.67 vs. 2.70) and blocks (1.33 vs. 0.87).
Football: Landon Foster
Foster was key for Kentucky in switching field position, launching six punts and pinning UGA inside its own 20-yard line three times. Foster averaged 44.5 yards per punt against the Bulldogs while also drilling a 53-yarder. He also did not have a touchback. Individually, Foster ranks fifth in the conference and 21st nationally in punting with a 43.1-yard average. He is third among true freshman punters in the nation and first in the conference in that category. As a team, Kentucky sits 20th in the nation and fifth in the Southeastern Conference in net punting at 39.95 yards per punt.
Women's soccer: Arin Gilliland
Sophomore Arin Gilliland continued her stellar season, capturing the game-winning goal vs. South Carolina on Friday night in a 1-0 defensive showcase and also scoring in Sunday's 2-1 come-from-behind win over Auburn. Gilliland has now scored a point in five of Kentucky's last six games, including scoring a goal in each of the last three games, with two game winners.
Women's soccer: Olivia Jester
Freshman Olivia Jester picked a perfect time to score her first-career goal, as the Cincinnati, Ohio native tallied the game-winning goal on Sunday afternoon in a 2-1 win over Auburn. Jester has played over 1,400 minutes this season and has started in every game this season. The goal was a header off an Alyssa Telang corner kick, and helped guide UK to its fourth-straight win.
Rifle: Henri Junghänel
Senior Henri Junghänel recorded a historic performance in Kentucky's record-breaking win over No. 4 Army. Contributing to Kentucky's 4716, a new school record, Junghänel bested the previous smallbore program high with a 592. The previous school record, held by Junghänel, was 590. Junghänel added a 594 in air rifle to bring his aggregate score to 1186, also a new program best. Two days earlier, Junghänel led the Wildcats to a 4676 - 4605 win over No. 10 Murray State. Junghänel recorded team highs in smallbore and air rifle, shooting a 587 in smallbore and 590 in air rifle. Through three matches, Junghänel leads the team in smallbore scoring average (589.5) and air rifles scoring average (591.7) on the year.
Women's soccer: Kayla King
After a weekend in which Kayla King recorded back-to-back shutouts, the Louisville, Ky., native backed it up with a 2-0-0 weekend in net, in which she made seven saves and also shutout South Carolina on Friday night. Until Auburn finally got a shot past the line, King went 322 minutes in the cage without allowing a goal. In addition, Auburn missed a PK while King was in net that would have given AU the 2-0 lead in the opening half of play.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Monday, Oct. 22
Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.)
Wednesday, Oct. 24
Men's basketball Blue-White game - 7:00 p.m.
Thursday, Oct. 25
Women's soccer hosts Vanderbilt - 7:00 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 26
Cross country at SEC Championships - 7:00 p.m. (Nashville, Tenn.)
Volleyball at Tennessee - 7:00 p.m.
Women's tennis at Knoxville Hidden (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Swimming and diving at Missouri (Arkansas, Missouri, SIU) - 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 27
Women's tennis at Knoxville Hidden (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Men's soccer at Tulsa - 8:00 p.m.
Football at Missouri - 12:00 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 28
Volleyball at Georgia - 1:30 p.m.
Rifle hosts Tennessee-Martin
Women's tennis at Knoxville Hidden (Knoxville, Tenn.)
Women's golf at Alamo Invitational (San Antonio, Texas)
Midfielder Courtney Raetzman and forward Kelli Hubly are UK's second- and third-leading scorers in their first college seasons. They have combined for nine goals and 24 points, helping the Cats to seven wins in SEC play for the first time since 1999.
Two freshmen playing so well is a story on its own, but making it even more interesting is the fact that Hubly and Raetzman have known each other since before they started kindergarten. The grew up together in Elk Grove, Ill., played on the same club team and are now college teammates and roommates. However, they weren't a package deal for UK head coach Jon Lipsitz.
Sean Cartell of the SEC Digital Network has the story.
As hard to believe as it might be, the decision to come to Kentucky was not a joint one.LINK: LIFELONG FRIENDS MAKE COLLEGE TRANSITION
"We didn't go into the college decision-making process together," Raetzman said. "One day, we were talking at our practice and asking each other what schools we were interested in. It happened by chance that we basically said all the same schools. We both visited Maryland and Kentucky. We talked to each other after our visits, but we weren't planning to go to school together. We wanted to do what was a better fit for us, but if it worked out that we ended of as the same school, it would be what we dreamed of when we were little kids.
"When we thought of our lives when we were younger, we planned to be roommates when we went to college," Raetzman continued. "It all fell into place."
The final verdict came down to dinner at a restaurant that featured the perfect table cloth for a major decision.
"After we found out we both wanted to go to the same places, our parents took us out to dinner," Hubly said. "You know those places that have tables with paper on them? We wrote down on the table the pros and cons and we both had our own list. We each made our own decisions at different times; Courtney did before me. We helped each other, but we made our own individual decisions."
Things certainly have worked out so far.
In other women's soccer news, we posted a story from UK's 2-1 win over Auburn on Sunday that you can read here, but didn't get a chance to show you highlights. A day late, here they are along with some of Lipsitz's post-match comments.
Even though the two teams were in comparable positions, UK head coach Jon Lipsitz didn't think they looked like it through 45 minutes. Kentucky headed to the halftime locker room trailing 1-0 and Lipsitz delivered a very simple message.
"The message was just that it looked like they were playing for more than we were," Lipsitz said.
Lipsitz didn't throw things. He didn't break out a fire-and-brimstone speech.
"I just felt like they were playing harder than us," Lipsitz said. "It was a calm talk. It wasn't yelling or anything like this. It was just, 'We're better than this.' "
The Wildcats didn't waste any time heeding their coach's advice. UK erased the halftime deficit in just 183 seconds on one of the Cats' prettier goals of the season. Defender Alyssa Telang delivered a perfect cross in front of net and forward Arin Gilliland deftly volleyed it into the net for her third goal in as many games and team-leading seventh of the season.
"I assume we'll respond," Lipsitz said. "It would have been more surprising if we hadn't."
The goal seemed to give UK a shot of energy. Less than six minutes later, the Cats scored the go-ahead tally and it was Telang triggering the attack again with her fourth assist of the season. She sent a corner into the box and freshman Olivia Jester headed in the first goal of her career.
"Obviously when it's a goal, it means more in the end, but I think we're just motivated by watching our teammates really work hard and that's as a coaching staff too," Lipsitz said. "When we see people really putting out everything on the field, it's exciting."
It wasn't just the UK offense that got a boost from the goals. Facing a Tiger attack that has scored three goals or more three times in SEC play, the Kentucky defense turned a solid first half - one that was marred only by a missed assignment on a set piece that resulted in a Tatiana Coleman goal - into an even better performance once the Cats grabbed a lead.
"Really, really good," Lipsitz said of the play of UK's back line, "but it always comes down to 11 of us defending. It doesn't come down to a back line just like our attack never comes down to just three forwards."
With the defense holding it together and the offense keeping the pressure on, UK came away with a 2-1 win to move to 12-5-1 (7-4-1 SEC). The victory means the Cats are on a four-match winning streak heading into the regular-season finale and Senior Night against Vanderbilt on Thursday at 7 p.m.
"I'm pleased to get six points," Lipsitz said of the two wins this weekend over South Carolina and Auburn. "I'm pleased with many things that we did, but it's not enough. We've got to get better. We've got to be better tomorrow than we were today and we've got to be better Tuesday than we were Monday."
The Wildcats needed offense, so Lipsitz naturally turned to his back line.
Arin Gilliland had played outside back through the season's first 14 matches. She had excelled in a defensive role, going forward when the situation called for it. The versatile sophomore had four goals and four assists from her back position, but Lipsitz believed her talents would be put to better use attacking full time.
"She's a special player," Lipsitz said. "We knew we moved her up top we needed help up there. It wasn't that other people weren't doing well, we were just missing something."
They found it.
Gilliland assisted on the game-winning goal in her first game at right forward against Tennessee before scoring the decisive tally the next time out against Georgia. Most recently, she helped lift her women's soccer team to a third straight win, scoring the lone goal as Kentucky (11-5-1, 6-4-1 SEC) defeated South Carolina (5-8-4, 2-6-3 SEC) by a score of 1-0 on Friday night.
"What a coincidence that is," Lipsitz said with a sarcastic smile. "Somehow Arin goes up top and is involved in every goal. I can't figure out. I don't know how that happens."
It may seem a bit of an oddity for a defensive player to so seamlessly transition to attack, but it should come as no surprise to anyone who has watched the Lexington native in her two seasons as Wildcat.
Gilliland started her freshman season as a forward, playing there every game until deep into the season. Ironically, her move to outside back came against Tennessee almost a year to the day before she returned to forward on Oct. 12 against those same Lady Volunteers as a sophomore.
"He told me one day I was going to start up there and when I did it kind of gave all the forwards some energy and gave us what we needed," Gilliland said. "From there we've been building and it's been really good."
Gilliland's goal on this chilly Friday night came when she received the ball along the left side in the 37th minute of an otherwise sluggish first half for the Cats. She beat a defender, fired a low shot that was deflected by a Gamecock defender and into the near side of the net.
She can't quite put her finger on why her transition to forward has been so seamless, but Gilliland does have a couple ideas.
"I have a really aggressive mentality when I'm on the field," Gilliland said. "I think that's pretty big. When I get up there, I have a feel for the ball and when I have it, I want to keep it. When I do give it up, I want to get it back. When you have a mentality like that, it's easy to get at goal."
Her athleticism and skill have a little something to do with it as well. Those are the kinds of things Lipsitz and his coaching staff are constantly seeking.
"It's something that we do a huge amount in recruiting," Lipsitz said. "We look for players that can play in multiple places. We try to recruit soccer players rather than just people that are experts at one position."
If not for a player like Cara Ledman having comparable versatility to Gilliland, the move wouldn't even be possible. Ledman has spent the majority of her freshman season as an attacker, but when Lipsitz called on her to switch with Gilliland and take over at right back, she and the UK defense as a whole didn't miss a beat.
"Part of our ability to do that has to do with how our back line is playing," Lipsitz said. "Let's recognize also that, as she's moved up, we've had three shutouts without her in the back. It's about everybody doing their job."
In the second half, the Gilliland-led UK offense looked dangerous, but the Cats couldn't net an insurance goal. With the score stuck at 1-0 in the 83rd minute, Lipsitz moved Gilliland back to right back to protect the narrow lead. She made a handful of solid plays to preserve the victory, which clinched a spot in the SEC Tournament for UK.
Gilliland will likely start at forward for the final two games of the regular season, but she will surely be needed both up top and at the back the rest of the way. Others might prefer to play the spot that afford more opportunities on goal, but not Gilliland. She's just looking for a challenge.
"If we're playing a team that has really good forwards, I like to play against them," Gilliland said. "If we're down or something like that, I like to play up top and try to get my team back in it."
Following a 7-1-0 start to the season and the first Southeastern Conference weekend sweep of the Jon Lipsitz era, the Wildcats went 1-4-1. Mired in a three-match losing streak at the tail end of that stretch, UK had not picked up a victory in more than two weeks.
With five days to lick their wounds after a 2-0 loss at Ole Miss, the Cats set about preparing for a third SEC road weekend in four weeks. Lipsitz, meanwhile, set about delivering a stern message to his team.
"I think that there was a challenge posed to players that this isn't good enough and either step it up or you're not going to be on the field," Lipsitz said.
Lipsitz often points to a saying on the wall of his office in the bowels of Commonwealth Stadium. The heart of the message is "You're either in or you're out," that there is no middle ground between players fully committing themselves to the culture at UK and not doing so.
In practice this week, an admittedly meaner Lipsitz was aggressive about making his team decide whether they were in or out, and it wasn't just the coaches laying down the gauntlet.
Based on the results at Tennessee and Georgia, it's safe to say the Cats are all in.
"I think it took a level of toughness and demands being placed on players and the group both from myself, but more so from the leaders," Lipsitz said. "Practices were really tough and the captains and just some leaders of the team made it very clear how much harder we needed to work."
UK accomplished another first under Lipsitz, sweeping a pair of road contests with 1-0 victories over the Lady Volunteers and Lady Bulldogs.
That this team would find itself in a midseason lull was unacceptable to Lipsitz, but that doesn't mean it wasn't understandable. Young players have played significant roles from the outset, with four freshmen among UK's top nine players in terms of minutes played. Three of the Cats' top five scorers are newcomers, meaning Lipsitz relies heavily on 18 and 19 year olds who have never been through the grind of a college season.
"I think that our young players hit that wall that happens with young players where they just don't know if they have more to give," Lipsitz said. "I believe that they have more than they know. I believe in them, a lot of times, more than they believe in themselves."
He is turning out to be right.
One of those freshmen, Kelli Hubly, scored the game winner at Tennessee with under 21 minutes to play. Against Georgia, it was a relative veteran in sophomore Arin Gilliland scoring the decisive goal early in the first half even though the Lady Bulldogs outshot the Cats 21-8.
The victory was a bit of a role reversal for UK.
With their high-possession approach, the Cats have lost matches this season in which they dominated the ball and launched more shots than their opponents only to falter due to their inability to convert chances and a stray miscue. Following those defeats, Lipsitz would keep his focus on possession and passing percentages, saying the results would come.
Now, there are just three matches left in the regular season. After that, the Cats will face single-elimination formats in the SEC and NCAA Tournaments, so the time has come for UK to learn to get the result even when they don't play as well as they would like.
"We spent so much time in the preseason and in the early season working on possession and priding ourselves on possession and talking about our passing percentages because that's part of building the team that we want," Lipsitz said. "But in the end, no matter how good you are at that, you have to have the guts and you have to have the depth of courage and work to win games."
There's no clouding the importance of goalkeeping in winning those types of matches and this weekend, Sunday in particular, is exhibit A.
Junior Kayla King took over in goal on Friday, making three crucial saves. Against Georgia, the Louisville, Ky., native stopped 10 shots en route to SEC Defensive Player of the Week honors.
"She was really good," Lipsitz said. "She did her job. I'm not big on individual awards. I tweet a bunch, but I never retweet individual awards. I never even tweet that my players get individual awards and you'll never see me do it. It's not going to happen."
Lipsitz doesn't minimize individual awards because he doesn't want good things for his players. He does it because he knows those awards are a byproduct of team success.
"If we had lost both games 1-0 and Kayla had played just as well, she wouldn't have gotten an award," Lipsitz said. "And that's not to take away from how well she played. Kayla's going to get recognition from me for the work she did in the offseason to get ready for her moment, not for anything she does right now. Right now she's doing her job."
For UK to extend its two-match winning streak and improve its 10-5-1 (5-4-1 SEC), King is going to need to keep doing her job. The SEC has been remarkably competitive this season. UK recently played four overtime matches in a row and there have been nine ties in conference play this season after there were just three in all of 2011.
In other words, UK should expect more close matches starting on Friday night at 7 p.m. against South Carolina (5-7-4, 2-5-3 SEC). Eight of the Gamecocks' 10 matches have ended in ties or with a one-goal margin.
"They're just very, very difficult to break down defensively and they're very difficult to stop on the counter," Lipsitz said. "Here we are, this team that wants to possess it to a fault and we make one bad pass and they could be in behind us on a breakaway. It's a difficult matchup, but one that we have to love."
A wider audience than the one at the UK Soccer Complex will have a chance to see how the matchup plays out, because the game will be televised on Fox Sports South. Kentucky's first televised game of the season is certainly an opportunity and an indication of the progress of the program, but Lipsitz hardly has time to think about any of that.
"If people don't hand me food and water and stuff, I don't even notice right now," Lipsitz said. "As you get down to this point, you start zeroing in on these little things and I've got to make sure that nothing's missed. Do I think it's cool? I really do. Is it exciting to get to show who we are to the country? Yeah, it really is. But until that camera's in my face, I won't even remember."