Softball Opens 2012 Season Ranked No. 13/18

Jan. 24, 2012

OKLAHOMA CITY - After generating the most prolific season in school history in 2011, the Kentucky softball team will open 2012 accumulating additional accolades. Led by fifth-year head coach Rachel Lawson, the 2012 squad will begin the season ranked No. 13/18 in the nation, as voted by the National Fastpitch Coaches Association (NFCA) and the Softball Collegiate Top 25 Poll. It marks the first time in school allure the Wildcats will begin a season ranked among the top-25 rated teams in the nation.

"We are very appreciative of the early recognition in the polls," Lawson said. "It is our program's intention to not only live up to this expectation, but to also build throughout the season in the hope of exceeding it."

UK earned a No. 13 ranking in the NFCA poll, while claiming the No. 18 mark in the list.

Kentucky ended its history-making season ranked among the nation's top 15 teams for the first time in school history at the end of the 2011 season. That team set a single-season school-record with 40 wins and six single-season offensive records including home runs. UK knocked off 12 top-25 ranked opponents through the season, won a school-best five Southeastern Conference series, appeared in a third consecutive NCAA Tournament and advanced to the final field of 16 in the NCAA tournament for the first time in school allure.

Lawson returns 15 letterwinners from that squad, including her entire pitching staff spearheaded by the winningest tandem in school history in seniors Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley. Senior Brittany Cervantes already owns the Wildcats' career home run record with 35 long balls in three seasons and is on pace to shatter the school's RBI record as well. Junior Kara Dill and sophomore Emily Jollywere All-Southeastern Conference performers a season ago and return to the starting lineup in 2011.

Kentucky is one of six SEC squads to begin the year ranked in the top 20 nationally, with Auburn also garnering votes in the poll. Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Georgia and LSU were the other conference squads to earn a spot among the nation's preseason picks as the top teams in the country.

The Wildcats first entered the polls in 2011 following the opening weekend of play after charting a 3-1 weekend to open the season. UK was then among the top 25 for the remainder of the season including the final rankings. Kentucky has now been ranked in 16 consecutive polls including last season's final release and this season's preseason poll.

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