Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Aug 19:
Women's soccer: Cara Ledman
In her first game in a UK uniform, forward Cara Ledman made a big impact, scoring her first career goal off a rebound in the 67th minute, which sealed the win for the Wildcats in a 2-0 defeat of Coastal Carolina. Ledman was one of four freshmen in the starting lineup for UK, joining fellow newcomer Kelli Hubly up top for the Wildcats. The UK offense mustered 21 shots in the game, including 14 in the second half, as well as tallying 13 corner kicks.
Women's soccer: Ashley VanLandingham
Ashley VanLandingham scored her second-career goal on Friday night in game-winning fashion on
a ball the junior served into the box from 35 yards out on a free kick that took a hop and rolled into the back of the net from distance. In addition to tallying the game-winning goal for the Wildcats in Friday night's game, VanLandingham helped anchor the UK back line, which kept a clean sheet for the third-consecutive season opener. The Wildcats allowed just one Coastal Carolina shot the full 90 minutes, which was not on goal. VanLandingham has played in, and started in all 41 games she has been a Wildcat.
Women's soccer - Kentucky started off the year with a win for the fourth-consecutive season, defeating Coastal Carolina 2-0 thanks to goals off the boots of junior Ashley VanLandingham and freshman Cara Ledman. - The shutout posted by the UK defense was the third-consecutive shutout for the Wildcats in their last three season openers. - Kentucky dominated the game, tallying 21 shots to the Chanticleers one, while generating many set-piece opportunities including 13 corner kicks. - The Wildcats outshot Coastal Carolina 14-0 in the second frame, while also earning nine second-half corner kicks.
Men's soccer - Kentucky got goals from freshman Caleb Richardson and junior Steven Perinovic to post a 2-2 tie against Northern Kentucky University in an exhibition game Friday night. - The Wildcats unofficially opened the Johan Cedergren era, facing the Norse in the lone scrimmage of the season. NKU will transfer to NCAA Division I after a dominating run in NCAA Division II that culminated in the 2010 National Championship. - UK took the lead in the 23rd minute, as the Wildcats forced their second corner kick of the game. Gabriel Conelian lofted the cross inside the six-yard box, with a leaping Perinovic heading the ball into the back of the net at the far post. - After NKU took a 2-1 lead, UK evened up the game in the 76th minute as a long ball was played into the box by Kristoffer Tollesfsen and Dylan Asher. With the keeper coming out of the six-yard box to attempt to secure the ball, Richardson found the ball inside the box and finished the goal for the game-tying tally.
Volleyball - Under the direction of eighth-year head coach Craig Skinner, the 13th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team will begin its quest for an eighth-straight trip to the NCAA Tournament with its only home preseason tournament of the season. - UK opens the 2012 campaign by hosting the Kentucky Classic from Aug. 24-25. The Wildcats will welcome North Carolina, Lipscomb and Long Beach State for a round-robin affair. The entire field at the Classic were NCAA Tournament representatives from a season ago. - UK begins the season with its highest preseason ranking in school history and is coming off a 28-6 season that saw the Cats advance to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons. The Blue and White return nine letter winners from last year's remarkable campaign, including seven that appeared in all 34 matches. - The Wildcats are led by second-team All-America selection and the reigning two-time SEC Libero of the Year in Stephanie Klefot. Klefot and junior Whitney Billings were tabbed preseason All-Southeastern Conference selections.
Upcoming schedule Friday, Aug. 24 Volleyball hosts North Carolina 0 7:00 p.m. Women's soccer hosts Eastern Kentucky - 7:00 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 25 Volleyball hosts Lipscomb - 11:00 a.m. Volleyball hosts Long Beach State - 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, Aug. 26 Men's soccer at Dayton - 5:00 p.m.
The Kentucky women's soccer team had to bear the weight of leading off the 2012-13 year in UK Athletics. The Wildcats wasted no time in getting things going.
Ashley VanLandingham gave UK a lead over Coastal Carolina just 11:21 into the game on a free kick from 35 yards out. The Cats would add a second goal when Cara Ledman followed a Caitlin Landis shot off the bar en route to a 2-0 victory.
Ledman was one of four freshmen to start for UK on Friday night, but it's not as if the team is wholly inexperienced.
"I think it's exciting," head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "But I also started two senior center backs (Alyssa Telang and Natalie Horner) and that was very special and very important to have them in there."
Telang and Horner, along with goalkeepers Kayla King and Kayla Price, helped anchor a defense that shut out the visiting Chanticleers. The group, which has been reshuffled due to a preseason injury, did the job in protecting the goal on Friday, but Lipsitz wants the unit to be where the attack starts as well.
"I think defensively we played very well. What we want to do is go to the next level," Lipsitz said. "I think, in the past, our back line has been more of a defensive unit than starting our possession. As we become more talented, as we've gotten our culture in place more, we're much more of a possession team now."
Lipsitz discusses those topics and more in the video interview below:
Alyssa Telang and Jon Lipsitz previewed the 2012 women's soccer season at Fall Sports Media Day on Thursday. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
The spirit of the Kentucky women's soccer team's 2011 season was defined by its motto, "21 Strong." The rallying cry reflected the Wildcats' shorthanded roster, turning what many outsiders would have called the team's biggest weakness into a point of pride.
A year ago, the Cats were underdogs, and 21 Strong reflected that. Not much was expected of UK, but the team surprised en route to a trip to the Southeastern Conference Tournament and hosting a game in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 12 seasons.
Gone are the days of sneaking up on opponents. Gone are the days of an underdog mentality. UK women's soccer made its mark on the national stage last season. Now, the Wildcats are ready to act like they belong.
"It is not an us-against-everyone attitude anymore," head coach Jon Lipsitz said. "I think as you improve the program, you get to the point where you say...we now have a target on our backs. Instead of rallying around, I think you are really talking about our own excellence."
The new mantra for 2012 is an outgrowth of that new mentality. The Wildcats - who open the season on Friday at 7 p.m. against Coastal Carolina - need only look inward for motivation.
"As a team we decided we were going to have the theme 'Believe,' " senior midfielder Alyssa Telang said. "Last year we were the underdogs in the SEC and we made it to the NCAA Tournament. This year it is just about believing in ourselves and believing that we can do greater things every year."
It shouldn't be too much of a stretch for the team to believe it can improve on last year's 13-7-1 record, because the Cats have done it every year since Lipsitz and Telang both arrived in 2009. That first season was a struggle, as UK won just five games. A year later, the Wildcats took a step forward with 10 wins and a trip to the SEC Tournament before progressing ever further in 2011.
"Every year we have just been working on creating this new culture that has been based on hard work, discipline and family," Telang said. "Different people have different qualities to add to our team and it is just amazing how much we have changed."
To Lipsitz, the changes make it impossible to compare the program as it was when he arrived and the one he presides over today.
"It's hard to do that now because I can't see the same things," Lipsitz said. "When I look back four years, it is as if it is two totally different programs. The answer is everything. Everything is different."
Telang and fellow senior Brooke Keyes are the lone holdovers from the 2009 roster, but the changes are about so much more than personnel. In fact, Lipsitz cites Telang as the perfect example of UK's evolution.
"She came here pretty shy, and not just shy, but a little meek at times," Lipsitz said. "She didn't want to stand out. She wanted to fit in, to the point, fitting in meant not creating waves, not embarrassing someone in practice, not doing a special thing. She at times struggled on and off the field and had to decide who she wanted to be."
Years later, Telang's decision is clear. She is still soft-spoken and would rather lead by example than with an impassioned speech, but she is not afraid to stand out and certainly not afraid to serve as a leader. Without hesitation, Lipsitz called Telang and Keyes the undisputed leaders of this team. They are the two team captains and their coach could not have more faith in them.
Before each season, Lipsitz summons team leaders to his office for a meeting to discuss what he will be asking of them throughout the year. Normally, the leadership summit takes place within the first day or two of fall camp. This year, a number of factors caused it to be delayed by a week and a half, which normally would have Lipsitz more than a little worried. But not this year.
"I literally let them come to me," Lipsitz said. "Imagine as a coach not having a meeting with the leaders 10 days into preseason. For me, that is unheard of. For me, I think that tells you something about how much trust I have in them and my trust in their abilities."
On the face of things, Telang and Keyes would seem to have a tall task in leading this year's team. Fifteen of the 32 players on the roster are freshmen, and another six sophomores. It's a young team that will cope with some growing pains, but the incoming class - ranked sixth in the nation - is having no trouble asserting itself.
"It is so awesome to have freshmen that so willingly come in and work hard and do all the little things," Telang said. "I have never had a freshman class since I have been here that works this hard and is so on top of things. It is just really cool to come out and compete every day and get better."
Getting better truly is what it's all about for UK. For Lipsitz, the "excellence" he so often talks about will be measured not by results on the scoreboard, but by the progress of his team.
"It is about what we did today," Lipsitz said. "Did we get better today? Yes. That is excellence today. Tomorrow we have to be better than that. The day after, we have to be better than that. If we follow the process of being our best and getting better every day, in the end, we will achieve more than we did last year."
Thursday is going to be a busy one here at the Joe Craft Center.
Beginning at noon, UK Athletics will host a press conference quadruple header ahead of the fall sports season. It will start with Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart introducing new track and field and cross country coach. Next, women's soccer coach Jon Lipsitz and midfielder Alyssa Telang will take their turn previewing the season. Volleyball's Craig Skinner and Stephanie Klefot will follow and Johan Cedergren and Cameron Wilder from men's soccer will close it out.
Each of the press conferences is expected to last 15 minutes and you can watch them all live on UKathletics.com. Throughout Thursday and Friday, Ryan Suckow and I will have stories from the event in addition to our regular football coverage.
There's no getting around it now. The season is upon us.
It's August. The middle of August. Summer break has come and went, and the typical University of Kentucky student is tying up loose ends preparing for the trek back to Lexington for the beginning of the fall semester. But there is another group of students who have already been in Lexington, back at work in the hot summer sun or the muggy confines of a gymnasium. Fall sports are right around the corner for Kentucky, and student athletes are already in full swing when it comes to preparation.
Before you know it, men's and women's soccer will be kicking off and volleyball will be looking to build on last year's trip to the Sweet 16. All of that starts in the summer, when other kids are mowing lawns, swimming or vacationing, the elite athletes of the University of Kentucky are using their time to better themselves in the classroom, in the weight room or improving their game. All in the name of the University of Kentucky.
Craig Skinner's volleyball team is hard at work in Memorial Coliseum on a daily basis, sweating out two-a-days in hopes of building on a strong ending to the 2011 season. Kentucky hopes to build on a Sweet 16 run and break through into the Final Four, which will be hosted in the Bluegrass.
Johan Cedergren hopes to rekindle a winning tradition for men's soccer. After accepting the position as an assistant at Dartmouth in late December, Cedergren has sought to make a connection with his new players. A 3-0 run in the spring has Cedergren and his team excited about the prospects this fall.
And women's soccer looks to combine some veteran leadership with some talented underclassmen under the tutelage of head coach John Lipsitz. Lipsitz guided the women back to the NCAA Tournament, and this season looks to take more steps forward
People are definitely getting excited in the Big Blue Nation as we prepare to get underway here at UK Athletics. Women's soccer will have its first game of the season this Friday when it hosts Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m. at the UK Soccer Complex. On Sunday, volleyball will get a final tune-up when the Wildcats go live in the annual Blue/White Scrimmage Sunday at 6 p.m. at Memorial Coliseum. Then, men's soccer kicks off its season with a Sunday evening match up at Dayton at 5 p.m.
With Kentucky football on the horizon, it won't be too long before we're all back to normal, cheering on the Blue and White to bring home the victory.
Believe it or not, women's soccer is just 10 days away from opening the 2012-13 UK Athletics year. The Wildcats face Coastal Carolina at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24 at the UK Soccer Complex. This week, the team held its annual photo day. Here's a video look at what it was like to be there.
UK Athletics may be in the middle of the offseason, but that doesn't mean its athletes aren't working hard to prepare themselves for next year. If anything, Wildcats from the women's basketball, softball, women's tennis, women's soccer, volleyball and gymnastics teams are working harder than they do during the season.
Kentucky strength and conditioning coach Stephanie Tracey-Simmons is putting athletes through each of those teams through an intense set of summer workouts. The workouts are designed to build strength, endurance and confidence for the upcoming season, but they also have effect of unifying teammates and creating bonds across sports. Jen Smith from the Lexington Herald-Leader has the story:
The UK strength and conditioning coach says it's not her mission to make athletes miserable. She wants to make them tougher and stronger, more confident.
"I always tell the basketball players, 'You guys hate me now, but you're going to love me in March,'" Simmons says.
By the time basketball season rolls around and the season starts in November, Simmons is sure of one thing. "They will have the confidence that they can run anyone in the country down and wear them out."
There's a competitive portion to the summer workouts. At the end of it, each sport's coach is provided with a chart of how each player finished, not only individually, but also against players from the other participating sports.
"It's a big competition at the end of the summer to see whose team performed the best," says Bria Goss, a sophomore guard on the basketball team. "Also, individually you're competing against other sports. We all push each other and get better."
"To be honored as one of the top five classes in the country is pretty special to say the least," Lipsitz said. "You sort of read the top five teams on the list and you see 'Kentucky? How'd they get in there?'
Parallel to his on-field work with the Wildcats, he has toiled just as tirelessly to cobble together UK's 2012 signing class. Beginning the moment he set foot on campus, Lipsitz had his eye on Feb. 1, 2012. Along with a staff of Michelle Rayner, Aaron Rodgers and Courtney Wiesler, Lipsitz made National Signing Day one to remember for UK.
The 15 new players came from eight different states, and most committed well before the team had hosted an NCAA Tournament game for the first time since 1999 this past November."
"You have to realize that the players decided to come here when we were coming off of my first season," Lipsitz said. "We won five games (in 2009). So, it is really quite a leap of faith that people said it was a special place, the relationship that we can have with the current players and the coaches is important enough that we are going to do something special."
With 12 of the 14 players who scored a goal for last year's team that spent most of the season ranked in the RPI top 25 returning, the Cats might not have long to wait before doing something special. Included in that group of returners are rising junior forward Caitlin Landis, who was second on the team behind Kelsey Hunyadi with six goals, and Arin Gilliland, who lived up to her billing as one of the nation's top recruits with a strong freshman season.
The group of newcomers adds a much-needed measure of depth to a UK team that fielded just 21 players a season ago. The Wildcats embraced their short-handed roster, adopting "21 Strong" as their motto for the season, but having significantly more players on next season's roster will add a competitive dynamic to practice.
"Last year, '21 Strong' was special," Lipsitz said. "Every player had to be ready. I think this year it will be a little bit different because every player will have to be ready, otherwise it will be exposed on the practice field."
Just as importantly, a bigger roster will allow Lipsitz a training tool he sorely missed in 2011.
"Think about a basketball team not being able to play five on five for an entire season in practice," Lipsitz said. "It's difficult. We didn't play 11 vs. 11. We didn't have enough players. There will be a great excitement to be able to do that every day, and I think that we will develop a lot more competitively because of that."
As a coach, Lipsitz is all about development, whether he's talking about his team or the program as a whole. It all begins, though, with the student-athletes.
"That comes first," Lipsitz said. "Who they are academically, and getting a fantastic degree, and doing well in school, and obviously development as a student-athlete involves soccer. They came here to play soccer. They care about everything else, but some of that package is soccer."
If Lipsitz is able to help his players as both athletes and people as he sets out to do, he expects success in other areas to follow, including recruiting.
He expects classes like this one to continue to arrive on UK's campus. Others around women's soccer at the college level may have been taken aback by the talent headed to the Bluegrass, but Lipsitz and his staff weren't. They believe in what Kentucky has to offer and think others will follow suit by the time their work is through.
"Our hope is in the long run that no one is surprised anymore," Lipsitz said.