UK Tennis wins 13th in a row

Mitch Barnhart might be getting over the Wildcats Elite 8 loss to Michigan State a little easier these days. Not because he may have a soft spot for Tom Izzo, but because several of his athletic programs are playing well above expectations heading into the final months of NCAA spring participation.

And since Mitch won't say it, perhaps we should – ‘he told you so.'

Leading the way and out in front is the University of Kentucky's women's tennis team (19-3, 8-0), which stretched its school record winning streak to 13, after convincing weekend victories at Auburn and at No. 27 Alabama.

"I'm very pleased with the focus and execution from our team," UK Coach Mark Guilbeau said.

UK now has sole possession of first place heading into the final two weekends of conference play. The only team to remain unbeaten in league play, Kentucky has already matched its 19 wins from a season ago and surpassed its 2004 total of six conference victories. The Wildcats improved to 6-1 in road matches and will face its toughest road obstacle yet later this week when the Cats travel to Athens, Ga. to take on No. 3 Georgia, who, with Vanderbilt, sits one game behind Kentucky in the SEC standings.

Not to be outdone, is the Men's Tennis team, which usually wears the pants among the tennis powers on campus.

The No. 18 Wildcats, after struggling from the on-set of the season, have quietly put together an impressive comeback, defeating No. 69 Alabama and No. 43 Auburn over the weekend to improve their record to 15-6 and 5-3 in the conference.

The win was the sixth straight for Kentucky and has helped the Wildcats regain some confidence heading into a weekday match with No. 2 Illinois, set for 5:30 in Champagne, Ill. on Wednesday. The Illini dealt Kentucky a 4-2 defeat earlier this season at the ITA National Team Indoor Championships in Chicago.

Kentucky will resume SEC action next weekend at home against Georgia and Tennessee, two teams they currently are tied with for second place in the SEC East behind unbeaten Florida.

Perhaps the most impressive accomplishment of the past week that gained the least amount of publicity was the UK Men's golf team, which managed to claim its second tournament title of the spring season with a playoff win over No. 12 Augusta State at the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate in Charleston, S.C.

The Wildcats and ASU finished the three rounds of play with identical scores of 866 to force the playoff. Kentucky birdied the first hole to earn the tournament title.

"This was an absolute incredible win for the Wildcats. This was the most fun we've probably ever had in a golf tournament," said head coach Brian Craig. "This was a great field and just a real memorable week for us to win in a playoff in front of a nice crowd on a beautiful golf course on a beautiful day.

The win was most impressive because the field featured seven teams in the top 25, and included traditional SEC powers Auburn, Georgia, LSU, South Carolina, Alabama and Vanderbilt.

The win also helped salvage a disappointing spring where the ‘Cats fell from being a top 5 program to outside the top 25 for the first time in two years.

"John Holmes birdied 18 and then for Mark Blakefield to stick it up there close like he did and wisely roll up for a par to make sure that we won was key for us," added Craig. "It's a great step as we go to Southeastern Conference. Hopefully, we can go down there and keep getting better and have a chance to win at the SEC in a few weeks."

With the continued improvement and their best programs on point heading into the final stretches of the season, UK fans and alumni can only expect the Wildcats to be contending for more national titles this spring. Something Mitch Barnhart had certainly warned us about when he took the job.

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