With the baseball and softball teams earning NCAA Tournament berths over the weekend, UK athletics’ continued success under Mitch Barnhart is drawing some serious praise as the 2013-14 seasons wind down. Almost all 20 of UK’s athletic teams are performing at new heights, while the one that is most notably down, the football team, is rebuilding unlike ever before.
So tonight, join me in celebrating the success of UK athletics with a rundown of how the teams performed in their 2013-14 seasons. Basketball and football get all of the attention, but the secondary, non-revenue sports need some love, too.
It has been a great year across the board athletically, and academically.
Coming off an SEC Tournament Final Four run that included a win over top-seeded and regular season champ Florida, the UK baseball team earned an NCAA Tournament berth, its eighth in school history.
The Cats enter the tournament with a total of 15 wins over top 50 RPI teams, the third-best total in all of college baseball. UK also went 11-9 against the top 25 and 7-4 mark versus the top 10, with wins over No. 1 Virginia, No. 1 South Carolina, No. 5 Vanderbilt, No. 8/9 Louisville, No. 12/7 Florida, No. 24 Alabama and No. 17 Mississippi State.
The NCAA Tournament begins this Friday with a 2:00 p.m. matchup against Kansas in Louisville.
Junior A.J. Reed led the NCAA in home-runs, slugging and OPS, and was named SEC Player of the Year. He is the second player in UK history to earn POY honors.
The men’s basketball team needs no introduction to you guys; we all know how its season ended. Thanks to Aaron Harrison and arguably the two biggest game-winners in school history, the Cats reached the Final Four for a 16th time and earned a fourth runner-up trophy.
The 2014-15 Wildcats are the favorite to return to the title game with one of the deepest and most-talented rosters ever.
UK women’s basketball made its school-record fifth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament in 2014, and was selected to host the first and second rounds of the tourney for the first time in school history.
UK Hoops also reached the SEC Tournament Championship for a second consecutive season and its fourth time in five years.
The Cats were 6-3 in the regular season versus top 25 opponents and 4-3 against teams in the top 10.
UK women’s cross country star Cally McCumber was named All-American for a second consecutive season in 2013. The senior finished 13th at the NCAA Championships for her second straight top-15 finish. The UK women’s team posted a third place performance at the SEC Championships, two better than the fifth place finish in 2012.
On the men’s side, junior Matt Hillenbrand picked up Second-Team All-SEC honors as the Cats finished fifth overall at the SEC’s, one spot better than the year before.
Like the men’s basketball team, UK football needs no introduction to KSR readers. We know where the Cats stand and the lofty expectations for the future.
Mark Stoops’ first season didn’t finish the way we had hoped in the win column, but there is no doubt excitement is at a level unseen in a long time and recruiting has never been better at the University of Kentucky.
The facilities are getting a much-needed makeover, too, as money pours into the program unlike ever before.
UK men’s golf just completed a 17th place finish at the NCAA Tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, its first time in the NCAAs since 2006 and eighth appearance in school history.
The Cats placed in the top five of eight of their 11 tournaments prior to the 17th place finish in Kansas.
UK women’s golf reached the NCAA East Regional.
For the second consecutive season, UK gymnastics broke the school record NCAA Regional score with a 195.925 to place fourth.
Senior Audrey Harrison qualified for the NCAA Championships, where she finished tied for 18th among 45 competitors. Only 10 other Wildcats have qualified for the national championships in the program’s history.
The rifle team finished second in air rifle and third overall at the 2014 NCAA Championships, while sophomore Connor Davis won the individual air rifle title, becoming the first Wildcat to win an individual air rifle championship since 1994.
UK men’s soccer’s season fell short in the Conference USA semifinals with a 1-0 loss to Charlotte. UK reached the NCAA Tournament in 2012 for the first time since 2003.
UK women’s soccer fell to No. 2 UCLA in the second round of the 2013 NCAA Women’s Soccer Championships, 3-0. The Cats won 14 matches and finished in the top five of the SEC for the second year in a row, while hosting an NCAA Tournament match for the third consecutive season.
Kentucky softball is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in school history after defeating No. 3 UCLA twice over the weekend. UK’s best season ever continues against Louisiana-Lafayette in the double-elimination NCAA tourney in Oklahoma City on Thursday.
Swimming & Diving
Senior diver Greg Ferrucci earned All-America honors for the seventh time in his career at the NCAA Men’s Swimming and Diving Championships in March. The Wildcats finished the three-day championship in 37th place and one of 48 schools to score at least one point.
The women placed 23rd overall for the school’s best finish 2008.
Not only did UK men’s tennis produce KSR’s first intern, Tom Jomby, but the Cats had quite a season on the court, too. Cedrick Kaufmann’s squad finished third in the SEC and advanced to the semifinals of the 2014 SEC Tournament, before falling to No. 2 Oklahoma in the school-record fifth straight Sweet 16,. The Cats were without Jomby, the team’s No. 1 player, against the Sooners after he suffered a foot injury in the round before.
UK women’s tennis saw senior duo Caitlin McGraw and Cece Witten reach the NCAA Doubles Championship, while the 32nd ranked Cats fell to Virginia in the NCAA’s second round.
Track & Field
UK women’s track and field finished fourth at the SEC Outdoor, its best finish since 1983. In the men’s team standings, UK finished sixth, the highest placing since 1996.
Four Wildcats won a total of five individual SEC Championships over the course of the SECs: Kendra Harrison, 100 and 400 meter hurdles; Raymond Dykstra, javelin; Andrew Evans, discus; and Keffri Neal, 1,500m.
UK volleyball made its ninth straight NCAA appearance and hosted a Regional as the tournament’s 15 seed. However, No. 20 Michigan State knocked off the Cats in Memorial Coliseum to earn a spot in the Sweet 16, also held in Lexington.
Senior Whitney Billings became UK’s first-ever three-time All-America honoree as Kentucky concluded the season with a No. 20 ranking, its fifth top 25 finish under Craig Skinner.
In The Classroom
UK’s student-athletes combined for their best academic season since 2002-03, the first year complete grade information was available. The Cats combined for a 3.218 cumulative GPA, marking the fourth consecutive semester with a 3.0 or better.
Women’s cross country, men’s golf and men’s tennis received NCAA awards for their APR scores, placing in the top 10 percent of Division I schools in their respective sports.