Kentucky tennis coaches Carlos Drada (women's, left) and Cedric Kauffmann (men's, right) are former teammates at UK and now look to each other to help build their programs as head coaches. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Cedric Kauffmann and members of his men's tennis coaching staff sat in the far corner on the blue bleachers of the Hilary J. Boone Tennis Complex watching as Carlos Drada stood in between courts two and three, coaching his team as it competed in its second of three matches on the day.
The Kentucky women's tennis team won all three of its matches that day and they had the full backing of the team from right across the hall.
At Kentucky, the men's and women's tennis team share facilities, which means interaction between the two squads is frequent. It also means that the head coaches of their respective programs must work hand in hand to sort out practice schedules and facility usage on a daily basis.
The bond between Kauffmann and Drada reaches far beyond that of two colleagues, however, and the similarities and connections are seemingly never ending.
Drada is in the midst of his eighth season at the helm of the women's tennis program at Kentucky. He's seen his teams make runs to the title match of the Southeastern Conference Tournament, and he's had teams struggle too. For the last two seasons, due to unforeseen circumstances, Drada was forced to enter rebuilding mode and he's now seeing the pendulum swing back in his favor with his team off to a 9-3 start after a tough 4-3 win at LSU on Sunday.
After serving as an assistant to legendary head coach Dennis Emery since 2005, Kauffmann finally got his shot at becoming a head coach on July 25 of last year when he took over for Emery who stepped down after 30 seasons and assumed a new position in the Kentucky athletic department. The transition has been seamless as UK is off to a 14-2 start and currently owns a No. 6 national ranking.
The change not only affected the men's tennis program, but Drada was left to build a new working relationship with Kauffmann as both were now in head-coaching capacities.
"When we got the transition with Cedric, it was just a little bit weird not to have to deal with Coach Emery for the first few days; I was looking around for the guy and he was gone," said Drada. "But since 'Cedie' was there, it's just great to deal with what you know, especially when it's someone as strong as Cedric. It has been a very smooth transition."
The fact that Drada and Kauffmann had both been at Kentucky as coaches and already had a working relationship dating back to 2005 when both were just assistants helped bridge the gap rapidly. Drada and Kauffmann's longstanding work relationship serves just as the surface to a deeply rooted bond that has withstood the test of time and circumstance.
The "old (playing) days"
A giant thank you is in order to Emery. After all, without his help, UK would not have the two tennis coaches that it does today.
Emery is responsible for not only helping Drada and Kauffmann get their jobs, but he's also the one who recruited each of them to play for him at the University of Kentucky. He was not only recruiting future tennis coaches, but elite SEC talent that netted tremendous collegiate careers.
Kauffmann, a native of Montsoult, France, came to Kentucky in 1995 out of the Bollettieri Tennis Academy in Bradenton, Fla. As a player, Kauffmann was a three-time singles All-American and three-time All-SEC performer. His career record of 121-61 is good for the sixth-best in program history.
Drada joined Kauffmann two seasons later at Kentucky. During his four-year career at UK, Drada went 91-56 in singles play and made a run to the NCAA singles title match 2000 during his All-American season.
The roots still reach even deeper.
Not only were they both former Wildcats, but Kauffmann wasn't alone in coming to UK via Bollettieri. In fact, Emery recruited Drada out of Bollettieri before Kauffmann. But Drada, a year Kauffmann's senior, opted to explore his options professionally instead of taking the collegiate route.
"I think he got recruited to come to Kentucky before I did and he decided to play a little pro," said Kauffmann. "Those years you could do that in the old days."
A season later, Kauffmann and fellow Bollettieri graduate Marcus Fluitt decided to take Emery up on the offer that Drada had passed up. The next season, Ariel Gaitan followed Kauffmann and Fluitt to the Bluegrass from the Sunshine State. Due to NCAA amateurism rules of the time, Drada was still permitted to come back and try college if he so chose. Drada then became the fourth player from Bollettieri to join Emery's program.
"It's always easier when you know somebody before coming in," said Kauffmann. "When Marcus and I, the two came first, we kind of had to transition because we didn't know anybody. But when Ariel came, Marcus and I were there. And when Carlos came, the other three guys were there, so I'm sure it was an easier transition for them."
When Kauffmann graduated after 1998, the two long-time teammates continued to stay in contact.
"I know that he's always pulled for me," said Drada of Kauffmann. "When I got into the finals of the NCAA Tournament for example, he was already playing professionally, and he made sure he contacted me and told me how happy he was for me. He was just very excited about me doing well."
Kauffmann has a very special story that he can tell his children and grandchildren for years. While playing professionally in the 2001 French Open, Kauffmann took tennis legend Pete Sampras to the wire in a first-round, five-set classic.
While Drada was still searching for his professional calling, he made sure that he wouldn't miss out on his former teammate's time in the limelight.
"I was super thrilled when he almost beat Pete Sampras," said Drada. "I was working at a bank and I was watching the match online."
Women learning from, not envious of men's success
Drada freely acknowledges that he pulls for the men's team, especially now that one of his dearest friends is at the helm. Even though Drada is in his seventh season and Kauffmann is just in his first, no jealousy stems from the fact that Kauffmann's team is further along in the process. If anything, Drada wants his women to be more like the men.
"They are doing so well that we just want to emulate them," said Drada of the men's team. "It's good because it's not a rivalry, but we just want to keep using each other's success to represent the University in the best possible manner. It's like a family atmosphere here."
Evidence of the aforementioned family atmosphere is clear as day while walking through the tennis complex on the south side of campus. Players from both teams can be seen chatting, joking and watching each other on a daily basis, provided both teams are in town.
And it's easy to see why. Drada describes Kauffmann's players with words like "hard-working" and "humble." With that type of attitude and selflessness as an example, why wouldn't Drada want his team to be just like Kauffmann's, even if the results aren't there just yet.
"There's no arrogance; there's confidence," said Drada. "When you see that kind of attitude where people are thinking more about their team than themselves, (Eric) Quigley and (Alex) Musialek were a great example of that last year, and then this year they are taking that role and becoming more mature because of that, I think it's more natural. Success is attractive and people want to gravitate toward success and successful people."
Even though Kauffmann's team is considered one of the best in the country at the moment, he's not complacent when it comes to coaching. That's why when he's out in the stands watching Drada coach his players, Kauffmann is not only there for support, but he's looking to pick up extra techniques that he can implement into his own program.
"If I see something or he sees something that we're doing pretty well, or they are doing something that we aren't doing, then I'm going to ask what drill is that or what is it for," said Kauffmann. "I guess what both of us are trying to do is evolve.
"We're both trying to get better and better either on the recruiting front or on the practice court. I think coaches get better with age a little bit, so if I see him doing something better than I am, then I'm probably going to ask him a question."
Kauffmann compares the tennis situation to basketball on the north side of campus - without comparing himself to men's basketball coach John Calipari - and believes that the success of the men's basketball program has helped the women become a national and conference presence. He sees no reason why the same can't happen at Kentucky, and he wants to help make sure that happens.
Not only are the coaches helping one another, but the players are spreading the word as well. Just as Kauffmann and Drada came to Kentucky via the same high school, men's freshman Kevin Lai trained with women's freshman and No. 1 singles player Nadia Ravita. That relationship likely played a factor, even if just a small one, in delivering the talented freshman to Drada's doorstep.
"If I have high-caliber recruits and he has high-caliber recruits, they are probably going to know each other," said Kauffmann. "Kevin Lai and Carlos's No. 1 know each other from high school. They trained in the same spot. When Kevin committed here, maybe it helped Nadia to see that Kevin is going there, 'Maybe I can go there?' "
Two teams, one goal
With one team in the top 10 nationally and coming off of an unbeaten run to an SEC championship, and the other working to get back into the NCAA field, it wouldn't be out of the realm of possibility to see the women's team as a bit envious of the men's achievements.
That's not the case at UK. Far from it, in fact.
Maybe it starts with the leadership. Maybe it starts with the fact that Drada and Kauffmann are close friends as well as colleagues. Or maybe each has been effective in creating an environment through recruiting that promotes the symbiotic relationship between the two programs.
Whatever the case may be, the teams are working together to elevate Kentucky tennis as a whole.
"I think it's always good when two cultures are good," said Kauffmann. "I think it's good when the women's team and the guys' team are good. They see our practices; we watch their practices a little bit. We always overlap.
"They're friends and I'm friends with Carlos. We want them to do well and he wants me to do well."
So much so that Kauffmann and Drada are pursuing improvements that will help both programs together, not fighting one another for resources. Just recently, Drada and Kauffmann came together to make a purchase that would benefit both teams.
"I think what we're trying to do, Carlos and I, our program is a little bit special," said Kauffmann. "Let's find ways together to make this program more attractive to recruits.
"We just made a deal three or four weeks ago where we're adding live feeds of four courts. We shared costs from out of our budgets to share the costs on the videos feeds so people can watch our indoor matches live. We have to do things together. If I have an idea, I'm going to bounce it off him to see what he thinks."
That's all in order to make Kentucky not just a great men's program or a highly successful women's team. Though Kentucky is traditionally called a "basketball school" with football seemingly on the rise, Drada and Kauffmann have other ideas in mind.
"Is it good for a girl to come here and see the guys' team and think, 'Wow, both teams are in the top 15? This is a tennis school?' " said Kauffmann. "We want this to become a tennis school, and maybe it changes the minds of recruits."
The combination of their efforts to make each team elite programs nationally. It's hard for just one person to do it and believe in the program, but with the help and support of a friend and colleague, the process is a little bit more enjoyable.
"I know in the past when we were doing really well," said Drada, "The men's team was really excited about that, so the way that it helps is that we just have more people pushing for each other instead of dividing.
"We're all pushing in the same direction and representing the University the right way and being in line with what (Athletics Director Mitch) Barnhart wants us to do, which is to represent the University with class and to win."
Men's basketball - Kentucky captured a pair of critical home victories this week including an overtime thriller against Missouri. - Senior Julius Mays poured in a team-high 24 points in the win over Missouri on Saturday. He launched four 3-pointers and has now connected on at least one shot from long range in 16 straight games. - Freshman Willie Cauley-Stein notched a career-high 20 points to push UK past Vanderbilt earlier in the week. He followed that performance with a career-high tying 12 rebounds against Missouri to go along with a career-best seven blocked shots. - Alex Poythress scored 21 points, while Archie Goodwin notched 18 - all coming after the half in the win over Missouri.
Women's basketball - Kentucky split road games last week, defeating No. 10/13 Texas A&M 70-66 in College Station on ESPN2's Big Monday before falling at LSU on Sunday in Baton Rouge 77-72. - Against the Aggies, junior center DeNesha Stallworth flirted with a triple-double as she charted 12 points, 12 rebounds and a school-record seven blocks. . - Mathies netted a team-high 20 points at LSU, passing former Wildcat great Victoria Dunlap as UK's No. 2 all-time leading scorer with 1,863 career points.
Gymnastics - Kentucky recorded its best score of the year at Florida on Friday. The Wildcats finished with a total score of 196.075, dropping the meet to the Gators' score of 196.975. - UK's score was good for the sixth best in program history. - The Wildcats used season-high event scores on vault and beam to reach 196 for the first time this season. - Audrey Harrison also notched her sixth all-around title of the season and fourth in a row, scoring a 39.225.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team finished second at the Great America Rifle Conference over the weekend, shooting a 4690 over the course of the weekend. - Freshman Connor Davis won the GARC individual air rifle title, shooting a 596 before winning with a 105 in the Final. - Senior Henri Junghanel placed second overall individually with an aggregate score of 1179.
Softball - The UK softball team continued its winning ways over the weekend with a 3-0 record, taking down Georgetown, Howard and USC Upstate. - Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner led the Wildcats offensively with a .583 (7-for-12) average with two doubles, two homers, eight RBI and four runs scored. - Pitchers Ellen Weaver, Katie Henderson and Kelsey Nunley all recorded wins, while Weaver going five strong innings, allowing only one hit and no runs against Georgetown and Henderson allowing only one hit over five innings against Howard. Nunley threw the final nine innings against Upstate to get the win.
Baseball - No. 8 Kentucky continued its season-opening six-game road trip with the Caravelle Resort Invitational, hosted by Coastal Carolina in Myrtle Beach. S.C., picking up wins over CCU and Elon and suffering its first loss of the year to Kansas State in the opener on Thursday. - UK finished the weekend with a ninth-inning win at Coastal Carolina, 2-2. - UK has hit .314 as a team through six games, slugging .435 and reaching base at a .311 clip. UK has stolen 12 bases and on the mound, owns a 3.57 ERA, with 16 walks and 42 strikeouts in 53 innings.
Track and field - The women's track and field team finished seventh in the SEC Indoor Championship team standings with 34 points, and the men finished 10th with 30. - Cally Macumber led all Wildcats with 15 points earned throughout the meet. Matt Hillenbrand led the men with 11.25. Macumber won the women's 3,000 meters SEC championship. - Hillenbrand won the SEC mile championship with a time of 4:01.55. Hillenbrand's time was a new personal best, and the seventh-fastest in school history. The junior became the first Kentucky athlete to win the SEC men's mile since David Freeman took home the title in 2004.
Men's tennis - The No. 6 men's tennis team traveled to Birmingham, Ala., this weekend and collected two wins in a doubleheader with Samford University and Jacksonville State, both by a score of 5-1, to move to 12-2 on the season. - No. 90 Anthony Rossi picked up his 93rd and 94th career wins in a UK uniform on Sunday with wins in both matches for the Wildcats. - Also picking up wins in both ends of the doubleheader for the Wildcats were Beck Pennington, Kevin Lai and Juan Pablo Murra.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team defeated the Miami (Ohio) RedHawks 5-2. - Freshman Nadia Ravita improved to 7-1 in the No. 1 singles slot after defeating Christiana Raymond 6-1, 6-2. - Senior Jessica Stiles and sophomore Stephanie Fox won their singles matches in straight sets, with Stiles winning 6-4, 6-3 and Fox taking the No. 6 singles point 6-3, 6-1. - The Wildcats moved into the rankings for the first time this season, landing in the No. 63 spot.
Men's golf - The Kentucky men's golf team opened up its 2013 spring season, placing 10th out of 16 teams in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate. UK finished 37-over-par with a final score of 901. - Senior Chase Parker was the low golfer of the week for the Wildcats, finishing tied for 16th overall at 4-over-par. - Junior transfer Ben Stow made his Kentucky debut, placing tied for 27th at 6-over-par.
Swimming and diving - The UK men's and women's swimming and diving teams competed in the 2013 Southeastern Conference Swimming and Diving Championships last week with both the men (368.5) and the women (452.5) finishing in ninth place. - Junior diver Greg Ferrucci earned two second place finishes on the 1-meter and 3-meter springboard events and earned an eighth place on the platform. He broke the program record on the platform in the preliminaries with a 435.5. - Junior swimmer Lucas Gerotto broke multiple program records at the Championships including the 200-IM (1:47.20) and the 100-backstroke (47.29).
Thursday, Feb. 28 Women's basketball at Ole Miss - 8:00 p.m.
Friday, March 1 Softball vs. Illinois - 11:30 a.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Women's tennis at Arkansas - 1:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Arkansas - 1:00 p.m. Softball vs. USF - 2:00 p.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Baseball hosts Akron - 4:00 p.m. Track and field at NCAA Qualifying (South Bend, Ind./Fayetteville, Ark.)
Saturday, March 2 Baseball hosts Akron - Noon Softball vs. Loyola Marymount - 12:15 p.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Softball vs. Central Michigan - 2:45 p.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Baseball hosts Akron - 3:00 p.m. Men's basketball at Arkansas - 4:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at Last Chance Meet (Knoxville, Tenn./Athens, Ga.) Track and field at Last Chance Qualifier (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Sunday, March 3 Softball vs. Western Michigan - 9:00 a.m. (Tampa, Fla.) Men's tennis hosts LSU - 1:00 p.m. Women's tennis at LSU - 1:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Ball State - 1:00 p.m. Baseball hosts Akron - 1:00 p.m. Women's basketball hosts Tennessee - 3:30 p.m. Men's golf at USF Invitational (Tampa, Fla.) Swimming and diving at Last Chance Meet (Knoxville, Tenn./ Athens, Ga.)
Men's basketball - The Kentucky men's basketball team dropped an 88-58 loss to Tennessee on Saturday. Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer led the Cats with 18 points and six rebounds. - Senior Julius Mays scored 12 points and has logged 10 or more points in five straight games. - Junior Jarrod Polson contributed a career-high 11 points.
Women's basketball - Kentucky has won its last three games and looks to keep its winning streak alive when it faces No. 11/13 Texas A&M on ESPN2's Big Monday in the second meeting of the season between the teams. - The Wildcats charted their 10th SEC win last week with an impressive come-from-behind victory over No. 16/14 South Carolina. Trailing by 16 points early in the second half, the Wildcats used a four-guard set to chip away at the Gamecocks' lead and win 78-74 - the largest comeback in the Matthew Mitchell era. - Four players scored in double digits led by redshirt sophomore point guard Jennifer O'Neill with 19.
Gymnastics - Then-No. 17 Kentucky defeated Missouri 194.250-194.125 on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. - Audrey Harrison was the lone all-around competitor posting a 39.3, which tied her career-high set last week. - The junior also won balance beam, and shared the honors on uneven bars and floor exercise. - The Knoxville, Tenn., native now has 12 individual event honors this season and 19 in her career. - Her five all-around wins in 2013 have all come against Southeastern Conference competition. - Shannon Mitchell tied Harrison for the floor title, her second of the season and the third of her career.
Rifle - The Kentucky rifle team shot a 4697 on Saturday at the NCAA Qualifiers. - Sophomore Elijah Ellis and senior Stacy Wheatley delivered personal bests in smallbore, with Ellis posting a 583 and Wheatley shooting a 586. - Senior Henri Junghänel led the team in smallbore and air rifle, shooting a 588 in smallbore and a 594 in air rifle.
Softball - The No. 22/24 UK softball team continued where it left off last weekend by defeating another ranked team en route to a 4-1 record in the 23rd Campbell/Cartier Classic in San Diego. The Wildcats posted wins over No. 16 Washington, San Diego State - who is receiving votes in one poll - Cal Poly and UC Riverside. - Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess paced the Wildcats throughout the weekend at the plate, blasting two homers for a .500 average (8-for-16) at the event with five RBI. Cumbess also went 1-0 in the circle, while freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley went 3-0 with a 2.21 ERA over the weekend. Nunley defeated San Diego State and Washington, throwing a complete game shutout against the Aztecs allowing only three hits. - UK has now defeated three ranked teams this season in then-No. 3 Cal, No. 16 Washington and No. 20 Stanford. Coach Rachel Lawson and Co. have also taken down Oregon State and SDSU, who both were receiving votes when UK posted wins against them. After two weekends of play, UK is 8-3 with its only losses coming to No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 3 Arizona State and unranked Portland State.
Baseball - Kentucky began the season 2-0 with wins over UNC Asheville and Niagara in Spartanburg, S.C. UK wraps up play at Wofford on Monday against USC Upstate. - Junior second baseman J.T. Riddle set a new program record with a 6-for-6 game at the plate and starter Jerad Grundy tied a career-best with nine strikeouts in six innings in the win over Niagara. - Sophomore All-America southpaw A.J. Reed worked five innings on the mound and went a career-best 4-for-5 at the plate with three RBI, leading No. 8 Kentucky to a 9-2 season-opening win over UNC Asheville.
Men's tennis - Kentucky advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 ITA National Team Indoor Championships this weekend in Seattle, recording wins over No. 10 Mississippi State (4-0), and No. 6 Georgia (4-2). - UK's No. 90 Anthony Rossi went 2-0 in singles action, defeating No. 12 Raymond Sarmiento of Southern Cal and knocking off No. 21 Nathan Pasha of Georgia 6-4, 7-6 (7) on Sunday. - With the wins this weekend, UK recorded their seventh win of the season over teams in the top 25 of the ITA rankings, as the Wildcats are now 3-1 versus teams in the top 10. - Tom Jomby also went 2-0 in singles play this weekend, collecting two straight-set wins. On Friday, Jomby ran past No. 43 Malte Stroppe of Mississippi State 6-2, 6-0 before giving UK a crucial point in its match with UGA, collecting a 6- 4, 6-4 win over No. 92 over No. 92 Ben Wagland at the two slot.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team knocked off No. 55 Ohio State and No. 54 Indiana throughout the course of the week, taking both matches 4-3. - Freshman Nadia Ravita recorded two singles win in the No. 1 slot to go along with two doubles wins in the No. 1 slot, paired with junior Caitlin McGraw. - Senior Jessica Stiles went 2-0 on the week in the No. 2 singles spot, taking both matches in straight sets.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team began their 2013 spring season with an eighth place finish in the 15-team field at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic Feb. 10-12. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht was the low finisher for the Wildcats, tying for 14th at 7-over-par. - Junior Liz Breed and freshman Sarah Harris were tied for 28th at 12-over, while freshman Cylia Damerau placed tied for 34th at 13-over.
Upcoming schedule Tuesday, Feb. 19 Women's tennis hosts Miami (OH) - 4:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas) Men's golf at Mobile Bay Intercollegiate (Mobile, Ala.)
Wednesday, Feb. 20 Men's basketball hosts Vanderbilt - 8:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas)
Thursday, Feb. 21 Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas)
Friday, Feb. 22 Baseball vs. Elon - Noon (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Softball vs. Presbyterian - 2:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Gymnastics at Florida - 7:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College, Station, Texas) Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Saturday, Feb. 23 Softball vs. Georgetown - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Women's tennis at Kansas - 1:00 p.m. Softball vs. USC Upstate - 2:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Baseball vs. Coastal Carolina - 3:00 p.m. (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Men's basketball hosts Missouri - 9:00 p.m. Swimming and diving at SEC Championships (College Station, Texas) Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.) Rifle at GARC Championships (Oxford, Miss.)
Sunday, Feb. 24 Softball vs. Howard - 10:00 a.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Men's tennis at Samford - 10:00 a.m. Baseball vs. Kansas State - 11:00 a.m. (Myrtle Beach, S.C.) Men's tennis vs. Jacksonville State - 2:00 p.m. (Birmingham, Ala.) Women's basketball at LSU - 3:00 p.m. Track and field at SEC Championships (Fayetteville, Ark.) Rifle at GARC Championships (Oxford, Miss.)
Freshman Nadia Ravita has helped Kentucky get off to a 4-2 start heading into their match with No. 54 Indiana this weekend. (Chet White, UK Athletics)
Like the autumn leaves, change in the UK women's tennis team started last fall.
Kentucky tennis players were fed up. They would no longer accept losing as an option.
"At the beginning of the year, we laid out our goals for the season and we fell short a little bit," said sophomore Grace Trimble. "Now that we are holding each other accountable, we know that we can perform at the level to beat teams like Ohio State on their home court and beyond that."
The Wildcats are off to 4-2 start including a win over No. 55 Ohio State on the road last weekend. In the not-so-distant history of this program, a win over the No. 55 team in the country would be routine, but as head coach Carlos Drada looks to rebuild this program, last weekend's victory served as a byproduct of all the hard work his team has put in.
"That was kind of a game-changing win," said Drada. "It's going to help our momentum. I can see our ladies; they've never played against that kind of adversity."
That adversity was sparked by their loss of the doubles point at the beginning of the match, placing themselves behind the eight ball from the start. And playing on the road against a higher-ranked, more experienced team with a raucous crowd on top of them.
The Wildcats would need four singles victories to come back and clinch a win.
And they did, 4-3.
"They were able manage all that adversity and everybody on the court competed," said Drada. "We had chances to win all six singles matches, and that is rare when you're the underdog and are going against a more mature team."
While Kentucky's attitude had changed going into the season, the win helped validate the efforts that they Cats have made in the preseason and in these first six matches of 2013. Drada has talked extensively about bringing constant and consistent effort and focus to the practice court every single day.
Now, especially after seeing the fruits of their labor manifest on the court against Ohio State, UK players are starting to buy in to what Drada and the staff are selling.
"It's great to see that everyone is invested into what we're doing," said Drada. "In years before, they were not buying into it fully, but right now, just from their actions, they don't mind asking what they can do to get better. Some of them are asking that for the first time.
"It's just a great feeling. I know it's early in the season, but they are going to do what they can to have the best season possible for this team."
Part of the attitude adjustment can be directly attributed to the talent adjustment on the roster. Drada brought in a couple of highly touted freshmen to come in and compete immediately.
Nadia Ravita and Kirsten Lewis have been consistent performers for the Wildcats so far in their rookie seasons and have made immediate contributions. Ravita, the No. 67 player in the country, took down Ohio State's No. 53 Kelsey Dieters in the top match of singles competition. Their early play and ability to buy into the program has provided for a seamless transition.
"Nadia and Kirsten have added so much," said Trimble. "We know that when they step on the court, they are going to give 110 percent and come out with a win. Nadia has been wonderful, and Kirsten has too, to our team dynamic and they have just brought us all to a higher level."
The push to change hasn't only been an effort from Drada, but it's been a mission of the players to hold themselves accountable for their actions. Times are changing in Lexington, even if that means the Cats are looking for the type of success this program has had in the past.
"We are starting to develop a culture on our team where it's about winning and about doing it for our teammates," said Trimble. "It's happened in our relationships with each other and how we push each other to hold each other accountable, and that has made the difference."
What might be most impressive and most important to Kentucky's culture is that this is a very young team. With just one senior and three juniors on the squad, UK doesn't have to rely on the way things used to be, but more the legacy the Cats want to leave for the future. The leadership hasn't come primarily from upperclassmen, but it's been a collective effort that's helped create the change for UK tennis.
"We have captains on our team, but everyone is acting as captains," said Drada. "Right now, we have two freshmen, and they're still very young, but they're committing to what we're trying to do and they're really following through on the court, and we're hoping they can maintain that constant focus because they're doing a great job with that."
As players continue to buy in and success follows, results like last weekend will continue to happen. Since that win, Drada can already sense a change in the environment around his team on the practice courts. The challenge now is to maintain that same focus heading into this weekend's matches with Indiana and Northern Kentucky.
The Wildcats can't spend too much time being excited about one win over Ohio State with No. 54 Indiana waiting in the wings.
"We cannot just celebrate and (the season's) done," said Drada. "You celebrate that one day for a bit and then you're ready to move forward and get better."
If Kentucky has moved on from last weekend with the intent of carrying that momentum back home, the Wildcats will give themselves a chance for more big victories this spring.
"Our players, if they perform to their capabilities, we're going to have the best chance to do well," said Drada. "Having a real crowd this weekend is going to help us a lot. What I'm looking for is that focused energy that is going to help us give our best effort."
Men's basketball - Kentucky earned a hard-fought 72-62 win over visiting Auburn on Saturday to push its win-streak to a season-long five games. - The Wildcats received another double-double effort from freshman Nerlens Noel who posted 10 points and a game-high 12 rebounds. - Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer led five players in double-figures with a team-best 14 points. Sophomore Ryan Harrow and freshman Willie Cauley-Stein both notched 12 points, with senior Julius Mays pitching in with 10.
Women's basketball - Kentucky improved to 21-3 overall, 9-2 in the SEC with hard-fought road wins at Arkansas and Vanderbilt last week. - Against the Razorbacks, the Wildcats rallied from an 11-point first half deficit for an 80-74 overtime win. Sophomore guard Bria Goss scored 16 of her team-high 17 points in the second half and overtime after not starting the game for the first time in her career, a stretch of 57 consecutive starts. - On Sunday vs. Vanderbilt, A'dia Mathies put on quite the show by charting a season-high 28 points on 10-of-17 shooting, including 5-of-9 from beyond the arc. She also dished out a game-high five assists and three steals. She has now reached double figures in 22-of-24 games, including 15 in a row. The 28 points moved her up to No. 3 on UK's all-time scoring list with 1,815.
Gymnastics - No. 18 Kentucky tied No. 6 Georgia 195.825 on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. - The team score was a season-high for the Wildcats. - Audrey Harrison won the individual all-around title for the second straight week with a career-high 39.3. - Harrison also won floor exercise, and she now has eight individual titles this season. - Harrison has four all-around crowns this season, and they all have come in SEC competition. - Jill Chappel, Shelby Hilton and Shannon Mitchell all tied or set new event career highs on Friday.
Softball - The UK softball team started its 2013 season in style, going 4-2 against some of the best teams in the nation at the Kajikawa Classic in Tempe, Ariz. UK got the season started fast with a nine-inning, 3-2 victory over No. 3 California in its season opener before defeating No. 20 Stanford in the weekend finale. UK also defeated Oregon State - who was also receiving votes in both preseason polls. - Junior pitcher Lauren Cumbess was the difference in the huge UK victory, pitching all nine innings, allowing only six hits and two runs while striking out six. Cumbess also went 2-for-4 at the plate with two RBI - including the game winner. - Five Wildcats closed the opening weekend with a batting average well over .350, including freshman Nikki Sagermann, who leads the team with a .429 mark. Junior Ginny Carroll leads the team in RBI with six, while senior Alice O'Brien has scored a team-high seven runs. - On top of Cumbess' pitching performance against Cal, freshman hurler Kelsey Nunley was UK's star pitcher on the weekend, going 3-0 with wins against WMU, OSU and Stanford. In all, Nunley threw 17.1 innings, allowing seven earned runs while striking out a team-high 19.
Men's tennis - The Kentucky men's tennis team climbed to No. 7 in this week's ITA rankings, after starting out the season 6-0. The Wildcats dropped their first match of 2013 in a back-and-forth affair 4-3 on Saturday night at No. 19 Illinois. - In the loss, No. 94 Anthony Rossi upped his record to 6-1 on court one singles with a 6-4, 6-4 win, while Charles Minc improved to 4-0 on the season with a 6-3, 6-3 win on court five. - The Wildcats won the doubles point for the seventh time in seven tries with wins on courts two and three.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team fell to No. 59 Tulane 6-1 on Saturday in New Orleans. - Freshman Kirsten Lewis recorded Kentucky's lone win of the match, defeating Caroline Magnusson 0-6, 7-6 (1-0) (7). - Freshman Nadia Ravita lost her first match of the season, falling 6-0, 6-4 to Klara Vyskocilova in the No. 1 slot.
Track and field - Cally Macumber won the 3,000 meters at the Husky Classic on Saturday. - Macumber's time of 8:59.98 set a new indoor school record. - Chelsea Oswald took eighth with a PR 9:06.64, third-fastest indoor time in school history. - The rest of the Wildcats spent the weekend competing at the Tyson Invitational on the Arkansas campus. - Bradley Szypka finished second in the shot put with a PR-tying throw of 18.50m/60-08.50. - Keffri Neal took second in the men's 800-meter final with a PR, team-best time of 1:49.79. - Allison Peare ran a season-best, team-leading 2:09.04 in the women's 800 meters to finish fourth - Keith Hayes produced a season-best time of 7.79 in the 60-meter hurdles finals to place fourth.
Women's golf - The UK women's golf team began their 2013 spring season at the Lady Puerto Classic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico at the Rio Mar Beach Resort River Course. - The Wildcats opened up the invitational on Sunday carding a 13-over-par, 301 and are currently in seventh place. Senior Ashleigh Albrecht recorded the low round for UK with a 2-over-par, 74. - The tournament will resume on Monday at 7 a.m. ET and the tournament is scheduled to wrap up with a final round on Tuesday beginning at 6:30 a.m.
Monday, Feb. 11 Women's golf at Lady Puerto Rico Classic (Puerto Rico)
Tuesday, Feb. 12 Men's tennis hosts Notre Dame - 1:00 p.m. Women's tennis at Ohio State - 4:00 p.m. Men's basketball at Florida - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Eastern Kentucky - 7:00 p.m. Women's golf at Lady Puerto Rico Classic (Puerto Rico)
Thursday, Feb. 14 Softball vs. Cal Poly - 6:30 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Women's basketball hosts South Carolina - 7:00 p.m. Softball at San Diego State - 9:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.)
Friday, Feb. 15 Baseball vs. UNC Asheville - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Softball vs. Washington - 2:15 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Gymnastics hosts Missouri - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
Saturday, Feb. 16 Softball vs. UC Riverside - Noon (San Diego, Calif.) Men's basketball at Tennessee - 1:00 p.m. Baseball vs. USC Upstate - 4:00 p.m. (Spartanburg, S.C.) Softball vs. Oklahoma - 4:30 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Rifle hosts NCAA Qualifier Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
Sunday, Feb. 17 Women's tennis hosts Indiana - 11:00 a.m. Baseball vs. Niagara - Noon (Spartanburg, S.C.) Women's tennis hosts Northern Kentucky - 6:00 p.m. Rifle hosts NCAA Qualifier Men's tennis at ITA National Indoor Championships (Seattle, Wash.)
Men's basketball - Following its most complete victory of the season within SEC action, the Wildcats conclude its two-game road swing through the Heart of Dixie at Alabama on Tuesday. - Sophomore Kyle Wiltjer turned in another 17-point performance, while classmate Ryan Harrow reached double figures for the eighth straight game and dished out a UK career-high eight assists in the win. Freshman Nerlens Noel continued his imposing defensive prowess with a career-high seven blocks to couple with 10 points and nine rebounds. - Alabama enters the matchup following a one-point victory over Texas A&M on Saturday. The Anthony Grant-led Crimson Tide are 11-6 overall on the season and own a 3-1 record within SEC play.
Women's basketball - No. 5 Kentucky improved to 18-1 overall, 6-0 in the SEC with commanding wins over Mississippi State and Auburn last week in Memorial Coliseum. The Cats are now riding a school-record 33-game home winning streak and the nation's longest overall winning streak at 17. - The 100-47 win over Mississippi State was the largest margin of victory over an SEC opponent in school history. Junior center DeNesha Stallworth led four players in double digits with a UK career-high 25 points in just 24 minutes of action. Senior All-America candidate A'dia Mathies followed with 21 points. UK forced 25 turnovers and won the rebounding battle 46-20. - In UK's "We Back Pat" game vs. Auburn, defense was again the name of the game. The Wildcats held the Tigers to just 21 first half points, taking a 51-21 lead at the break. Mathies led the way with 16 points in the opening stanza. She went on to notch her second straight 20-point game with a season-high 24 points on a near perfect shooting night. Mathies hit 8-of-9 from the field, including 5-of-6 from the 3-point line and 3-of-4 from the charity stripe. Gymnastics - The No. 14 University of Kentucky gymnastics team defeated No. 9 Arkansas in convincing fashion in front of more than 5,600 fans inside Memorial Coliseum on Friday. - The Wildcats took the meet 195.5-193.075 while winning every team and individual event. - The Wildcats continued the unprecedented start to the season as Friday's win gave the program back-to-back SEC wins for the first time ever. All four wins this season have come against higher-ranked opponents. - Kentucky is off to the best start in school history as the Wildcats have never before topped 195 in all three meets to begin the season. - Audrey Harrison stole the Excite Night at the Kentucky Classic show winning the individual all-around competition for the second consecutive week. The Knoxville, Tenn., native's season high 39.275 was highlighted by her 9.9 to anchor on uneven bars with a score, which ties for her career high. - Harrison won individual titles on bars and floor exercise (9.85). The junior now has four event titles this year and 11 all-time.
Rifle - Kentucky knocked off two top-15 teams over the weekend in Oxford, Miss., defeating No. 11 Ole Miss (4670 - 4611) on Saturday and No. 10 Memphis (4646 - 4598) on Sunday. - Senior Heather Greathouse led the Wildcats in their win over Ole Miss, shooting an 1176 aggregate score. Freshman Connor Davis delivered a 594 in air rifle. - Senior Ed Ryznar had a strong showing in Kentucky's win over Memphis, shooting a 574 in smallbore and 588 in air rifle. - Sophomore Cody Manning recorded a new personal best aggregate score of 1162 in Sunday's match with Memphis.
Men's tennis - The Kentucky men's tennis team got off to a 2-0 start to the 2013 season with two 7-0 wins over Northern Kentucky and Morehead State. - The pair of wins were the first in the head coaching career of Cedric Kauffmann. - No. 15 Tom Jomby and No. 94 Anthony Rossi each earned singles wins on Sunday, while Jomby and Kevin Lai went 2-0 on the day in doubles. - UK next takes to the court on Wednesday at No. 22 Indiana in Bloomington for the Wildcats first of 15 matches versus ranked teams in 2013.
Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team opened the 2013 season with two dominating wins, defeating Morehead State 7-0 and Belmont 6-1 on Saturday. - Freshman Nadia Ravita opened her collegiate career with two singles wins in the No. 1 spot and two doubles wins paired with junior Caitlin McGraw in the No. 1 doubles slot. - Sophomore Stephanie Fox failed to drop a set in two singles wins on Saturday, taking both contests 6-0, 6-0.
Tuesday, Jan. 22 Men's basketball at Alabama - 9:00 p.m.
Wednesday, Jan. 23 Men's tennis at Indiana - 2:00 p.m.
Thursday, Jan. 24 Women's basketball at South Carolina - 7:00 p.m.
Friday, Jan. 25 Track and field hosts Rod McCravy Memorial - 10:00 a.m. Men's tennis hosts Michigan State - 1:00 p.m. Gymnastics at Alabama - 8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Jan. 26 Track and field hosts Rod McCravy Memorial - 10:00 a.m. Swimming and diving host Louisville - 12:30 p.m. Men's basketball hosts LSU - 4:00 p.m. Men's tennis hosts Texas/South Carolina
Carlos Drada's UK women's tennis team kicks of the 2013 season this weekend. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Carlos Drada is a better tennis coach coming off of a 9-14 season than he was when he last brought his team to the NCAA Tournament in 2009. When Drada took over the women's tennis program at UK seven seasons ago in 2006, he had inherited a Sweet 16 team.
Fast forward to 2013, and Drada is just looking to get his team back into a competitive realm in the Southeastern Conference.
Drada had known nothing but success for his program after spending four years as a UK assistant and reaching five consecutive Sweet 16s. However, after his first four seasons, the program suffered a stretch of setbacks
"It was basically three injuries we had in 2009 and 2010, and they were career-ending injuries," said Drada. "Usually you have one of those every five years, but to have three in a year and a half is just devastating, especially when the players were top of the line."
With the struggles came some transfers out of the program. Drada and his staff were faced with the challenge of bringing in young talent to fill some holes in the program. It's been a gradual rebuilding process up to this point.
The top players lost to injury or transfer were upperclassmen and players that were expected to be leaders to show the younger players the ropes. With them gone, the freshmen and sophomores were placed in the tough position to figure things out on their own at practice and during competition.
This season, Drada is stressing to his team to give "100 percent effort 100 percent of the time." In fact, that's been the Wildcats' motto this season both on and off the court. Teaching freshmen to give that type of effort is a lot more difficult when there aren't others to show them the way.
"When you are a young freshman, you learn by example," said Drada. "You learn from your upperclassmen doing it. When there aren't a lot of upperclassmen doing it, then it's harder than when the majority is. At one point, we had five freshmen, so it was very tough to make that transition."
This season, however, two freshmen could be the key to this season's success. Kirsten Lewis and Nadia Ravita are expected to make a big impact in the starting lineup. Ravita is the highest nationally ranked player on the team at No. 78 joining 117th-ranked junior Caitlin McGraw as the only ranked Wildcats this season. It's the first time that Kentucky has had two ranked players in the lineup since 2006.
That season, Kentucky reached the SEC Tournament final.
Though the freshmen have been impressive in their brief time at Kentucky and performed well in the fall, it remains to be seen just how effective they will be when it comes to team competition.
"I'm just very interested in seeing how our freshmen are going to be able to compete at a different venue," said Drada. "All they've competed in is individual tournaments, so I'm interested to see how they handle that pressure."
Their first challenge comes this weekend in a Saturday doubleheader at the Boone Tennis Center when UK hosts Morehead State and Belmont. But there will be several more difficult challenges, not only for the freshmen, but the collective team down the road.
The SEC boasts six top-25 teams, including three top-10 squads. It has seen the competition level continue to rise year after year. Kentucky's biggest challenge is keeping up with the times while trying to stay competitive in the conference.
Last season, UK only managed one victory in the SEC. The Wildcats were competitive in several of those matches, but time after time they had trouble sealing the deal in the end. Drada's goal is to be at least a .500 team in the conference and go from there.
"We're going to start with that," said Drada. "More than that, I want my players to compete on every court. If they do that, they are capable of beating 70 to 80 percent of the players they play against. But it has to be pure competition every day that they go out there."
Drada has learned more about himself in defeat than he ever had in victory. He has learned more about himself as a person. It's made him better.
"The beautiful thing is that it has allowed me to learn a lot of things about coaching, adversity and having to come back," said Drada. "What I know is that has given me a better understanding of being in the top of the nation and having a high ranking."
Now, Drada feels that he's rebuilt his program with the type of people and competitors that he knows can make a difference for this team. Slowly but surely, Drada hopes to turn the page on the last three years to restore his program to where it was during his first four years on the job.
"The good thing now is that I know exactly what I want and what I do not want," said Drada. "We keep looking for the players that we want to bring into this team and the players who have a better affinity to meet the standards we try to reach each day. We're hoping that by following these standards, 10 years from now they are going to be better at whatever they are doing at that time."
Drada knows that because this program has had plenty of success in the last decade - success that he's helped produce and seen with his own eyes - Kentucky can reach that level again. He knows the Cats have all the tools they need to win at their disposal.
Now, it's time to put it all together and win some matches. Kentucky feels that it's better at every position than it was heading into 2012. The Cats will get an early indication if that's the case this Saturday. Either way, Drada is confident in the future of his program.
"As the level of the SEC has risen, it's tough to maintain that standard, but I know we're going to get there," said Drada. "We're doing really well. Now we know exactly what we need and what we want for this program.
"We're doing a great job in recruiting and it's going to show in the years to follow."