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.
Football - UK put together arguably the best half of football of its season against USC, blocking a Gamecock punt, recovering a fumble and stopping the South Carolina offense at the goal line. UK limited USC to 26 rushing yards in the first half and only allowed two third-down conversions. - True freshman Jalen Whitlow came off the bench to fill in nicely for UK, leading the Wildcats to 17 first-half points, including his first career touchdown. Whitlow finished the game 12-of-23 for 114 yards. - UK held South Carolina - who entered the game averaging 424.2 yards of offense per game - to 348 yards of total offense, the second-lowest offensive output for the Gamecocks this year, behind a 272-yard offensive game in a USC win at Vanderbilt during the opening weekend of action. Volleyball - Junior Whitney Billings led the charge with a pair of double-double efforts including a career-high 19 kills in a four-set match vs. Auburn. Her 10-kill performance vs. Tennessee marked the first double-figure kill effort without committing an error in her career. She has logged three-consecutive double-doubles which has coincided with UK's winning streak. In addition to her point scoring, she was masterful defensively as well pacing UK in digs (4.43) and blocks (1.14). - Senior setter Christine Hartmann led the offense to 14.5 kills per set on an impressive .239 hitting clip in the two wins. Hartmann had a double-double effort vs. Auburn with 45 assists and 12 digs. She also led the team with six blocks in the contest as she nearly came away with a triple-double.
Women's soccer - Kentucky took on No. 6 Texas A&M Friday night, playing the highest-ranked team ever to play in Lexington to a 2-2 draw, earning its 10th SEC point of the season. - All three goals for UK on the weekend were off the boot of a freshman as Kelli Hubly scored both goals in Friday's tie and fellow newcomer Cara Ledman struck for UK on Sunday afternoon against Alabama. - Courtney Raetzman continues to play well as the Elk Grove, Ill., native has tallied at least a point in every SEC game of the season, striking for two assists this weekend. - The Wildcats have now played in three consecutive overtime games dating back to Sept. 23 at LSU where the Cats picked up a 2-1 win. It is the first time since the 1999 season that UK has played three-straight OT games.
Men's soccer - Kentucky posted a 7-3 goal margin in its two games during the week, as the Wildcats got the first career multi-goal game from veteran Gabriel Conelian against IPFW, as well as multi-goal game from Tyler Riggs. A pair of three-point performances were registered in the game against the Memphis Tigers, with Charley Pettys and Tyler Riggs both accounting for a goal and an assist on the day. - UK is currently riding a stellar five-match unbeaten streak (4-0-1), its longest since the 2009 season. UK owns a 13-4 total goal differential in the five-game span, which started with a thrilling 1-0 win at No. 18 Louisville on Sept. 14.
Cross country - The Kentucky women's cross country teams earned an eighth-place finish overall, and the men's team posted a 12th-place performance at the Greater Louisville Cross Country Classic on Saturday. - The women's team placed two runners inside the top 10. - Cally Macumber was the second runner to cross the finish line in 16:55.14 to back up her individual win a week ago. - Macumber has now finished inside the top two at all three meets the Wildcats have competed in this season. - Chelsea Oswald was the seventh runner to complete the 5,000 meter race with a time of 16:59.32. - Luis Orta led the way for the Wildcat men with a 12th-place time of 24:06.96 over 8K.
Men's golf - The UK men's golf team placed second at the Saint Mary's Invitational last week with a team score of 3-over-par 867. - After sitting in 10th following the opening session, the squad responded by carding the lowest scores of the tournament in the final two rounds. - Stephen Powers led the Wildcats and was tied for sixth individually with a 1-under-par invitational. - Sophomore David Snyder also placed in the top-10, finishing with a score of even par for the tournament.
Monday, Oct. 1 Men's tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.) Tuesday, Oct. 2 Men's tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.)
Wednesday, Oct. 3 Men's tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.) Men's soccer hosts Indiana - 7:00 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 4 Men's tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.)
Friday, Oct. 5 Women's soccer at Missouri - 7:30 p.m. Men's tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.) Volleyball at Ole Miss - 8:00 p.m. Women's tennis at Roberta Allison (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Saturday, Oct. 6 Football hosts Mississippi State - 12:21 p.m. Men's soccer at SMU - 8:00 p.m. Men's tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.) Women's tennis at Roberta Allison (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Sunday, Oct. 7 Women's soccer at Ole Miss - 2:00 p.m. Volleyball at Florida - 3:00 p.m. Men's tennis at ITA All-American Championships (Tulsa, Okla.) Women's tennis at Roberta Allison (Tuscaloosa, Ala.)
Jon Lipsitz predicted Friday night's match against Texas A&M would be interesting. The sixth-ranked Aggies were coming to Lexington for their first-ever matchup with Kentucky as members of the Southeastern Conference. With its high-pressure style, Lipsitz called A&M the "exact foil" for the Wildcats' possession-based approach.
The contrast made for a thrilling match that ended in a 2-2 tie after a pair of 10-minute overtime periods, proving Lipsitz right.
"I just thought it was a fantastic game and Texas A&M is just pure class," Lipsitz said. "Getting to play them and knowing we're going to get to play them year after year is only going to make our program better."
UK (8-2-1, 4-0-1 SEC) twice took second-half leads after a scoreless first. True freshman Kelli Hubly scored both goals - bringing her season total to four - but A&M (10-1-1, 4-0-1 SEC) answered with the equalizer within 15 minutes each time. The game would end in a draw, but not before the Wildcats dodged a Texas-sized bullet when Shea Groom's shot went inches wide as the final seconds ticked down on regulation.
"That's what I want from a big-time matchup," Lipsitz said. "I want to play the number (six) team in the country. I want it to be a great game without bad fouls. I want it to be exciting for the fans."
Hubly's goals were certainly the highlight for the 1,006 fans in attendance at the UK Soccer Complex. The young forward is coming on strong in her first season, having scored 10 points in her last seven matches and five in her last two.
"Kelli is a very talented player and what Kelli's learning, like most young players, is you can't fade in and out of training," Lipsitz said. "You can't fade in and out of games. We see what her talent is and we expect it all the time."
It was the first tie of the season for both teams, and it left the Cats with a curious feeling. On one hand, they couldn't help but be happy to be the first SEC team to register a point against the Aggies, one of the best teams in the nation. On the other, UK wanted more.
"I want the players to be disappointed when we tie," Lipsitz said. "I think that says a lot about our attitude and where we're coming. If Texas A&M is the benchmark in our conference right now, we're doing pretty well."
Both teams in this back-and-forth battle were visibly tired by the time it ended, but they have to turn around and play again on Sunday. Kentucky host Alabama on Sunday at noon with little time to rest, but that's why the Cats worked so hard this offseason.
"We came in fit to preseason," Lipsitz said. "We came in over-the-top fit. That is because last year we were really bad on Sundays. We took it as a personal challenge to come in fit, to take care of our bodies, do a better job and be ready on Sunday."
Jon Lipsitz has led UK to a 8-2-0 start to the 2012 season. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Following Jon Lipsitz on Twitter, there's no way of knowing what you're going to get. He interacts with his players. He recounts beating one of his two young sons in a video game. He gives his opinions on sports other than his own, Kentucky or otherwise.
Sometimes, Lipsitz can make his followers forget he's a women's soccer coach, at least until the day or two following his team's weekend matches. He's always made a habit of sharing his thoughts on how the Wildcats played, but this season, his public evaluations have taken a statistical turn.
"Interesting stats from this weekend," Lipsitz tweeted on Tuesday. "Friday (in a 3-2 loss at Arkansas) completed 349 passes to 149 for opponent, yet lost and deserved to because (UK) did not win the box.
"Sunday (in a 2-1 overtime win at LSU) set all-time records for passes and completion rates: 451 passes at 83.1 (percent). Both are new records."
Lipsitz 140-character-or-less postgame debriefs certainly reflect UK's increased emphasis on possession this season, but where do those numbers come from? Do he and his assistants pore over game tape for hours on end, meticulously noting every detail?
Clearly not, because it's hard to imagine Lipsitz having time to talk UK basketball otherwise.
The statistics come from software developed by Prozone, a United Kingdom-based company that pioneered performance analysis in soccer and has clients like Manchester United and Real Madrid. Using cameras placed around the pitch, the software tracks the movement of players from both teams and the ball, generating statistical, graphical and video representations of the action.
UK, along with every other team in the Southeastern Conference, had used the software before this season, but just a less robust version. Recognizing its impact, Lipsitz and first-year men's soccer coach Johan Cedergren approached athletic department administration about making an investment in Prozone 3, the highest level of the software. According to Lipsitz, UK is the only school in nation make Prozone 3 available to both its men's and women's soccer teams.
"It's just great support by our administration when we went to them and Johan and I said this is really important," Lipsitz said. "It has changed the way we analyze both our play and our opponents' play."
Throughout his time as a collegiate coach, Lipsitz has relied on instincts and limited tools to evaluate the way his team plays. The new software is allowing him and his staff to go far beyond that.
"I think having a balance between us subjectively telling them what is important and showing them objectively this is who we are and who you are is nice," Lipsitz said. "I think you need both."
That doesn't mean he throws a mountain of video and statistics at his players. After taking a look at his own team's play and the opponents, Lipsitz and his coaches distill the information down to what they believe to be its essence.
"I want to decide what the team needs to see," Lipsitz said. "We all interpret things differently, on paper or visually. So we break down the film, we break down the stats and then we decide what we want our team to see. This paints a picture of who this team is and this paints a picture of how we're playing."
In no way has the software been more valuable than the way it has helped the Cats as they've evolved into a possession team. Over his first three years in Lexington, UK was primarily a team that relied on counterattack and the long ball, culminating in an NCAA Tournament berth in 2011.
But all along, Lipsitz knew he wanted to mold Kentucky into a more technical team that won matches with sound passing and consistent possession. With a talented class of newcomers arriving this season, the Cats have undergone exactly that kind of transformation.
During the preseason, Lipsitz knew his team would take steps in that direction, but even he has been surprised by the progress. And with his new favorite toy, he can quantify just how big the strides have been.
"I'm supposed do coach speak right now and say, 'Oh no, I absolutely knew it,' " Lipsitz said. "It has not surprised me that we're better than we were before. We are more technical. We are emphasizing that our players have to be more skillful to get on the field, so it doesn't surprise me that we're better. But when we're making over 400 passes a game at over an 80-percent clip, that's another level."
The play of freshmen like midfielder Courtney Raetzman, Kelli Hubly and Cara Ledman has been instrumental in that, but Lipsitz believes two veterans are truly at the heart of UK's evolution. Seniors Natalie Horner and Alyssa Telang have been Kentucky's defensive anchors all season, but with the new approach, they've started the attack too.
"I really think that the key to it has been that we put two such technical soccer players at center back," Lipsitz said. "It's not right or wrong, but I think most teams' style is to have their center backs smash the ball because they're in trouble. We have our center backs and our defensive center mids set the most play for us."
UK's new style of play will get its sternest test yet on Friday night. At 7 p.m., the Cats (8-2-0, 3-1-0 SEC) will play host to No. 6/8 Texas A&M (10-1-0, 4-0-0 SEC). Lipsitz doesn't need a computer to tell him the Aggies are really good, but Prozone does prove to him just how interesting the matchup could be.
"(Texas A&M) is the exact foil for who we are in that they are going to apply so much pressure to our backline, to our midfield that they're going to disrupt our ability to play soccer the way we like to play," Lipsitz said. "I think these games are great because it's two very different styles that both are incredibly effective."
Lipsitz watches the Aggies play and thinks back to his days at Charlotte, when the 49ers would use superior athleticism to overwhelm Atlantic 10 opponents. On the season, Texas A&M has outscored its opponents 19-3 with its high-pressure style, but the Wildcats aren't going to blink.
"We're going to have the courage that we're going to knock the ball around and we're going to play and it's going to be hard," Lipsitz said. "It's going to be harder to be us than against any other team that we've played because Texas A&M makes it hard to do anything."
Win or lose, Lipsitz will be going right back to the computer next week.
"If we're successful against A&M, that's going to tell us something and we're going to look at the film and say, 'This is what we did that made us successful,' " Lipsitz said. "If we're unsuccessful, we're going to say, 'Here's what they did to us and we've got to get better.' Either way, we're going to work on getting better."
Every Tuesday, UK Athletics recognizes outstanding performances for our student-athletes. These are the honorees for the week ending Sunday, Sept. 23:
Volleyball: Whitney Billings
Junior Whitney Billings guided the Wildcats to a big-time road victory at Texas A&M to help UK snap the Aggies' nine-match winning streak. Billings notched her 18th career double-double effort with season-high totals of 16 kills, 16 digs and six blocks. She also had a career-best five service aces in the win. Against LSU, she totaled 14 kills and added seven digs. For the week, she had team-highs in points (4.10), blocks (1.0) and aces (0.50).
Volleyball: Stephanie Klefot
For just the sixth time in her career, senior libero Stephanie Klefot posted back-to-back 20-dig matches this weekend in helping lead UK to a 1-1 weekend on the road. Klefot matched a career-high of 29 digs at LSU, and then charted 20 in a five-set win at Texas A&M to help snap the Aggies' nine-match winning streak. Klefot for the week, averaged 4.90 digs per set - well above her 3.96 season average. She topped 20 scoops in a match for the 25th and 26th times in her career. Furthermore, with the 49 digs, Klefot (1,641) officially moved into second place on the UK all-time career digs list passing BriAnne Sauer (1,634). That total also ranks 10th all-time in the SEC record books.
Women's soccer: Courtney Raetzman
Freshman Courtney Raetzman has been on fire for the Wildcats as of late, tallying 10 points in the last four games. The freshman charted a goal on Friday night on the road vs. Arkansas, and also scored two goals in UK's win over LSU. Raetzman scored all four of UK's points Sunday, scoring the go-ahead goal in the opening half as well as the golden goal in the 106th minute to give UK the 2-1 OT win. The freshman has scored four goals in four games, while also charting two assists in that time frame.
Men's soccer: Tyler Riggs
Junior forward Tyler Riggs had a prolific week in leading the Wildcats to a pair of wins ... During the two wins, Riggs totaled a goal and two assists ... In a win over East Tennessee State, Riggs contributed his second assist of the year ... On Saturday night at Evansville, Riggs netted the game-winning goal and later dished out an assist ... The Louisville, Ky., native played the full 180 minutes on the week, firing a total of nine shots ... His seven-shot outing at UE on Saturday marked a new career high and a season individual high for the Wildcats ... On the year, Riggs has three goals and three assists and in his career, Riggs has 19 goals, eight assists and 46 points.
Men's soccer: Jack Van Arsdale
Junior Jack Van Arsdale had another dominating week in between the pipes, leading the Wildcats to a pair of wins ... A native of Richmond, Va., Van Arsdale paced a stellar UK defensive attack in a 3-1 win over East Tennessee State on Wednesday, with the Bucs getting their goal on a penalty kick ... On Saturday, Van Arsdale notched his second shutout of the year in a 2-0 winning effort ... On the year, Van Arsdale has a 0.90 goals-against average in six games and 500 minutes, saving 18 shots ... Over the last three games - all UK wins - Van Arsdale has allowed only one goal in 270 minutes.