It was a winning weekend for Kentucky women's soccer, as the Wildcats got two one-goal Southeastern Conference wins over South Carolina and Auburn. The victories have UK on a four-match winning streak heading into Senior Night on Saturday against Arkansas, but it's a pair of freshmen that we're talking about this morning.
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.
"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."
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.
Olivia Jester scored her first goal as a Wildcat on Sunday, the game winner in a 2-1 victory over Auburn. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky and Auburn found themselves in similar places heading into a match on Sunday. Both the Wildcats and Tigers have clinched places in the Southeastern Conference Women's Tournament and now have their sights set on seeding and reaching the NCAA Tournament.
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."
Arin Gilliland scored her team-leading sixth goal in a 1-0 victory over South Carolina on Friday night. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
With his team in mired in a three-game losing streak, Jon Lipsitz was looking for a spark. Kentucky had scored just two goals in over 300 minutes, spanning five games in Southeastern Conference play.
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."
Junior goalkeeper Kayla King is the reigning SEC Defensive Player of the Week after posting back-to-back road shutouts against Tennessee and Georgia. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
For the first time this season, the Kentucky women's soccer team was dealing with prolonged struggles.
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."
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Oct. 14:
Women's soccer: Arin Gilliland
Sophomore Arin Gilliland scored the game-winning goal Sunday in a 1-0 win on the road at Georgia while also collecting the assist on the game-winning goal to Kelli Hubly in a 1-0 win at Tennessee as UK completed the weekend sweep. The Lexinton, Ky., native now leads Kentucky with 15 points on the season, striking for five goals and five assists. The game-winning goal by Gilliand was her second on the season.
Volleyball: Christine Hartmann
Senior Christine Hartmann directed the UK offense to a pair of sweeps of SEC Western Division foes including handing Texas A&M just its second loss of the season in league action. Against the Aggies, Hartmann led the Blue and White to a .351 hitting percentage which is the highest percentage yielded by Texas A&M this season. The Aggies lead the league in opponent hitting percentage allowing .143 for the season and .159 against league foes - and that's following yesterday's match. The previous best hitting clip allowed by A&M was a .229 clip, also to Kentucky. Hartmann dished out 39 assists and led UK to 14 or more kills in all three sets including 18 in the second set and 17 in the set-clinching win. UK hit above .400 for a stanza twice in the match. Furthermore, the 39 assists for a three-set match is a season-best for the senior. Hartmann's defensive prowess guided the Wildcats to a win over visiting Mississippi State. Hartmann had a squad-best eight digs and as well as a team-high three blocks to lead the way against the Bulldogs.
Rifle: Emily Holsopple
Junior Emily Holsopple led Kentucky in air rifle during the first match of the year, posting a 592 Saturday in Lincoln, Neb. To go along with her 592 in air rifle, Holsopple posted a 587 in smallbore to record an aggregate score of 1179. Holsopple's 592 came from steady shooting throughout and was just above her 2011-12 air rifle season average of 591.9.
Women's soccer: Kelli Hubly
Freshman Kelli Hubly added to her team lead, scoring her fifth goal of the season in Knoxville, Tenn., as UK charted a 1-0 win over Tennessee. The tally was the game's only goal, and was struck in the 70th minute. The game-winner was Hubly's second of the season and now stands second on the team with 12 points.
Rifle: Henri Junghänel
Senior Henri Junghänel opened the 2012-13 campaign with a bang, shooting a 590 in smallbore against Nebraska. Junghänel's 590 marks the highest smallbore score for a Wildcat since Ethan Settlemires shot a 590 in the 2011 NCAA Championships and goes down as a personal best. Junghänel led the team with a total aggregate score of 1181, after shooting a 591 in air rifle. Junghänel's performance helped the preseason No. 2 Wildcats knock off No. 4 Nebraska, moving the Wildcats to 1-0 with the conference win.
Women's soccer: Kayla King
Junior Kayla King had her best weekend in the Blue and White, recording back-to-back, 90-minute shutouts on the road at Tennessee and Georgia. The Louisville, Ky., native had a career high 10 saves on Sunday in Athens and kept a clean sheet vs. Tennessee on Friday night as the Wildcats picked up a crucial six points. King fended off 36 shots over the two games and dropped her GAA to 0.81 on the season. The back-to-back shutouts was a career first for King, as she had recorded one prior in her career entering the weekend.
Men's soccer: Matt Lodge
Senior midfielder Matt Lodge connected on his first career penalty kick goal as the game-winning tally in leading UK to a 2-1 comeback win at No. 25 UAB on Saturday ... Lodge finished the penalty after freshman forward Caleb Richardson forced the attempt by drawing a foul on a run in the box ... The win for UK was its first over UAB since the 2008 season and marked UK's first comeback win of the year ... A native of Rossington, England, Lodge has six goals in 2012 and owns 23 in his sparkling four-year career ... He ranks tied for fourth in UK career history in goals and sixth in points (61) ... With his eighth career game-winning goal - and his second in 2012 - Lodge ranks tied fourth in program history ... In the win at UAB, Lodge fired a club-best three shots and now has a school-record 177 in his career.
Men's golf: Chase Parker
Chase Parker recorded his best finish of the year thus far, finishing in a tie for sixth individually at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational, Oct. 8-9. The Augusta, Ga., native fired a 3-over-par, 75 in round one before concluding the 36-hole stroke-play tournament with a 2-over-par, 74 in the second round. Parker was 5-over for the event and helped lead the Wildcats to a fourth place finish against a competitive 11-team field.
Volleyball: Sara Schwarzwalder
Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder returned to the lineup this week and provided a spark for the Wildcats en route to a 2-0 weekend. Schwarzwalder was magnificent in helping lead UK past Texas A&M for the second time this season. The freshman logged seven kills on a .667 hitting percentage. Both the kill total as well as the hitting percentage are career-bests for the Ohio native within SEC play. She also pitched in with a career-high two digs in the victory. Her three blocks against Mississippi State ranked as a team-best in leading UK to a win over the Bulldogs in Rupp Arena.
Men's soccer: Jack Van Arsdale
Junior goalkeeper Jack Van Arsdale saved five shots in a stellar performance to lead UK to a win at No. 25 UAB on Saturday night ... Van Arsdale charted five saves, including several leaping, diving and fully extended efforts to thwart scoring chances for the physical Blazers ... On the year Van Arsdale has a 1.39 goals-against average in 11 games and 970 minutes, saving 32 shots with two shutouts ... The native of Richmond, Va., has now shined in UK's two wins over top-25 foes on the road in 2012, also posting a six-save performance in a 1-0 win at No. 18 Louisville on Sept. 14 ... Van Arsdale has now started eight consecutive games in goal for UK, sporting a 1.34 goals-against average in those games, with UK owning a 5-2-1 record.
Football - The Kentucky football team fell over the weekend to Arkansas 49-7 in Fayetteville. The game was suspended because of lightning twice. The second delay was with 5:08 remaining in the third quarter and Arkansas leading 49-7. The game would not resume. - In the third quarter, freshman quarterback Jalen Whitlow threw his first collegiate touchdown pass, a 61-yard play to La'Rod King. King now has 1,569 receiving yards in his career, moving past Anthony White for seventh place on the UK career receiving yardage list. He also has 17 receiving TDs in his career, tying Steve Meilinger for fifth place on the UK career list. - Kentucky is fielding one of the nation's youngest teams, playing 14 true freshmen and 26 total (true and redshirt) frosh, one of the nation's top-five teams in each category. True freshman cornerback Cody Quinn led UK in tackles with a career-best seven.
Volleyball - The Kentucky volleyball team enjoyed a 2-0 week against SEC Western Division foes racking up a pair of sweeps over Mississippi State and Texas A&M. UK captured the win over the Bulldogs in Rupp Arena in front of a Craig Skinner era record crowd of 5,162 fans. - Kentucky then turned around and earned an impressive sweep of the Western Division leading Texas A&M Aggies. Senior setter Christine Hartmann directed the offense to the tune of 49 kills on a blazing .351 hitting percentage. The .351 clip is the highest hitting percentage surrendered by the Aggies this season who currently lead the league in opponent hitting percentage. - Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder led the offensive effort against the Aggies with seven kills on .667 hitting, which both rank as career-highs within conference action.
Women's soccer - Junior Kayla King recorded back-to-back shutouts for the first time in her career, dropping her season GAA to a miniscule .833. The Louisville, Ky., native had a career high 10 saves on Sunday in Athens and kept a clean sheet vs. Tennessee on Friday night as the Wildcats picked up a crucial six points. King fended off 36 shots over the two games - Arin Gilliland scored the game-winning goal vs. Georgia, scoring her fifth goal of the season, adding to her team lead of 15 points on the season. In addition, the Lexington, Ky., native tallied the assist in the game-winning goal to Kelli Hubly in the win over Tennessee.
Men's soccer - The Kentucky men's soccer team continued its rugged schedule to open the 2012 season, traveling to face No. 25 UAB on Saturday and posting a 2-1 comeback win with a pair of second-half tallies. - Kentucky faced off with its seventh ranked opponent of the 2012 season in facing UAB, with the Wildcats falling behind 1-0 early and rallying with goals from senior midfielders Charley Pettys and Matt Lodge for the comeback win. Lodge's goal marked the 23rd of his career, ranking fourth-best in UK history. - The Wildcats have been paced by a dynamic offensive unit in 2012 that has netted 23 goals in the first 13 games, averaging 1.77 goals per game and 12.2 shots a contest. Defensively, UK has a 1.51 goals-against average and owns an 85-69 advantage in corners.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team started off its season with a 4666 - 4643 victory over No. 4 Nebraska. - Senior Henri Junghanel led Kentucky in smallbore, posting a 591. Junghanel also shot a 591 in air rifle. - Junior Emily Holsopple shot a team-best 591 in air rifle after shooting a 587 in smallbore. Women's golf - Kentucky finished tied for 12th in the Tar Heel Invitational that was filled with 13 top-50 teams. - Junior Liz Breed was the high finisher for the Wildcats, finishing tied for 32nd at 9-over-par. Men's golf - The UK men's golf team placed fourth at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational this week, finishing just four strokes off from first. - The Wildcats also competed in the Bearcat Invitational this week as head coach Brian Craig sent Harrison Greenberry, Joseph Barr, Seth Blann and Matthew Anderson to compete in the event as individuals.
Cross country - The Kentucky women's cross country team produced a 12th-place performance at NCAA Pre-Nationals on Saturday in Louisville. - Macumber raced across the challenging E.P. "Tom" Sawyer Park 6,000 meter course in 20:09.00 to notch her fourth top-10 finish in as many meets this season. - Oswald earned a time of 20:32.70 to finish in 23rd ensuring UK was the only unranked team at the nationally competitive meet with multiple top-25 performers. - The Wildcat men finished in 25th-place overall.
Upcoming schedule Monday, Oct. 15 Men's golf at Querencia Cabo Collegiate (San Jose del Cabo, Mexico)
Tuesday, Oct. 16 Men's golf at Querencia Cabo Collegiate (San Jose del Cabo, Mexico)
Wednesday, Oct. 17 Men's soccer at Marshall - 7:00 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18 Women's tennis at ITA Regionals (Lafayette, Ind.) Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.) Friday, Oct. 19 Women's soccer hosts South Carolina - 6:30 p.m. Volleyball hosts Arkansas - 7:00 p.m. Women's tennis at ITA Regionals (Lafayette, Ind.) Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.) Rifle at Murray State Swimming and diving hosts Tennessee and Indiana - 2:00 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 20 Women's tennis at ITA Regionals (Lafayette, Ind.) Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.) Football hosts Georgia - 7:00 p.m.
Sunday, Oct. 21 Volleyball hosts LSU- 1:30 p.m. Rifle hosts Army Women's tennis at ITA Regionals (Lafayette, Ind.) Men's tennis at USTA/ITA Regional Indoor (Memphis, Tenn.) Women's soccer hosts Auburn - 2:30 p.m. Men's soccer hosts Florida International - 5:00 p.m.
In less than two seasons, Arin Gilliland has become one of the best players on an ascendant Kentucky women's soccer team. Over that time, she's also dealt with more than her share of trying circumstances.
Gilliland, a sophomore from Wilmore, has helped UK to an 8-3-1 start (3-2-1 Southeastern Conference). An outside back, she is tied for second on the team with 10 points (three goals, four assists).
Her path has not been smooth.
Never mind a torn ACL last year.
About the time Lipsitz was interviewing with UK is when Gilliland's mother, Letita, was diagnosed with colon cancer.
Soon, the cancer spread, taking her life last April.
Arin brought Letita plenty of joy, though.
Rising from second-team all-state as a freshman at West Jessamine, Arin finished her high school career as an All-American and Kentucky's Miss Soccer.
With her mother's health failing, Arin chose to graduate from high school a half-year early.
"We weren't sure of the time frame she had, and I really wanted her to be able to come here and see me play a few games," Arin said. "Because that's what she's always dreamed of. She's always talked about 'I want to be able to watch you play college soccer' and all that. She always thought I was going to go to like UCLA. ... I decided to come here for her."
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Sept. 30:
Volleyball: Whitney Billings
Junior Whitney Billings has guided the Wildcats to a season-long winning streak of three matches including an upset of No. 25 Tennessee this week and a four-set win over Auburn on Sunday. With the win over the Lady Vols, UK has now won just two of the last nine meetings while stretching its winning-streak over the Tigers to four matches. Billings simply has been superb leading UK in kills (4.14) and digs (4.43) this week with a pair of double-double efforts. She had 10 kills and 16 digs vs. Tennessee, and then totaled 19 kills and 15 digs in the win over Auburn. She has now charted three-straight double-double efforts for just the second time in her career (and second this season). The 19-kills vs. Auburn was a career-high for a four-set match, as well as a season-high. The 16 scoops vs. the Lady Vols matched a season-high. The 10-kill performance with zero errors marked the first double-figure kill effort without committing an error in her career. For the week, she ranked in UK's top-two performances in every statistical category including kills (first), assists (second), aces (second), digs (first), blocks (second) and points (first). During conference action she is the only player who leads her team in scoring to rank in the top-20 statistically of conference leaders in four or more categories: kills (17th), aces (1st), blocks (15th) and digs (20th).
Women's soccer: Kelli Hubly
Freshman Kelli Hubly scored both of UK's goals in the 2-2 draw with No. 6 Texas A&M Friday night in Lexington. The Elk Grove, Ill., native struck for the game-opening goal in the 52nd minute and then again with under 10 minutes remaining in the game. The 5-9 forward has already tallied 10 points on her freshman campaign, which is tied for second on the team.
Men's soccer: Tyler Riggs
Junior forward Tyler Riggs had a prolific two-game week in leading the Wildcats to a win and draw ... During the 5-1 win at IPFW, Riggs totaled two goals, his second career multi-goal game ... In the Conference USA opener against Memphis on Sunday, Riggs contributed sixth goal of the year, also adding his fourth assist ... The Louisville, Ky., native fired a total of six shots during the week, with three going for goals ... On the year, Riggs has a team-high six goals and four assists and in his career, Riggs has 22 goals, nine assists and 53 points ... With 22 goals, Riggs ranks tied with Matt Lodge for sixth-best in UK career history and his 53 points rank seventh-best.