Six sports to keep an eye on this fall

Kentucky Wildcats outside hitter Alli Stumler (17) hits the ball over the net during the UK vs. Ole Miss game on Saturday, March 13, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-1. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Barkley Truax

Classes are back in session, students are moved into their dorms, and it’s time to focus on what’s really important in Lexington.

Fall at UK means more than just football when it comes to athletics. Here are the six other fall sports that are featured on campus to begin this semester.


The reigning, defending, undisputed volleyball national champion Kentucky Wildcats are still reeling from their victory. The short off-season has the girls on their heels ready to become the first NCAA team in history to win two national titles in the same calendar year.

After the season ended last April, Kentucky lost three of arguably their best players in AVCA Player of the Year Madison Lilley, Gabby Gurry and Avery Skinner. Head coach Craig Skinner has compensated by bringing in a top-five recruiting class headlined by the No. 8 recruit in the nation, Jordyn Williams.

“It’s such an amazing feeling to just get after it. It’s really exciting and I’m having a great time,” Williams said about being around the program.

The No. 3-ranked Wildcats boast one of the toughest schedules in the country, facing multiple top pre-season ranked teams including: @ No. 2 Wisconsin (Sept. 10), @ No. 13 Louisville (Sept. 15) and No. 21 Stanford (Sept. 19) at home.

“This team knows how to work and get after it,” senior outside hitter Alli Stumler said about the strength of schedule. “We always say it about ourselves, we’re going to be the hardest team we play.”

Their season tips off Friday morning at 10:20 a.m. against Texas State in Dayton, OH. 

Women’s Soccer:

The only sport that has kicked off their season thus far, the Kentucky women’s soccer team battled Purdue to a draw (1-1) in their season opener last Thursday and a victory in their home opener against Marshall on Sunday.

They are slated to play Louisiana Lafayette Thursday night at 7 p.m. in game three of their 2021 season at the Wendell & Vickie Bell Soccer Complex in Lexington. 

Kentucky is led by star junior forward Jordyn Rhodes, who scored the first hat trick of her career in Sunday’s victory over Marshall. 

Rhodes is coming off an impressive sophomore season in which she received First-Team All-SEC honors after leading the conference in points with 21 on 10 goals and ranked first in the SEC with 3.78 shots per game.

Rhodes was also named to the 2020-21 MAC Hermann Watch List and 2020 USCA All Southeast-Region Team.

Kentucky only won one game last season but with Rhodes at the helm, expect the women’s team to take a leap forward, even if it’s a tiny one, in 2021. 

Men’s Soccer:

Ranked No. 14 in the preseason United Soccer Coaches poll, Kentucky kicks off their season Thursday night at No. 25 Coastal Carolina after playing two exhibitions last week.

Kentucky drew a tough matchup in the second round of the 2020 NCAA Championship tournament against then No. 4 Wake Forest, losing to the Demon Deacons 2-1 and capping their season at a respectable 12-5-2. 

The ‘Cats are returning the majority of their scoring core from last season in fifth year midfielder Bailey Rouse, sophomore forward Eythor Bjorgolfsson and senior forwards Daniel Evans and Brock Lindow. The four were responsible for 16 of UK’s 31 (.52) goals in 2020.

With a team-high .48 shot on goal percentage, Bjorgolfsson is poised for a breakout sophomore season. The six-foot-two Norwegian native also led the team in minutes played with 1,165 in 16 games, of which he started all but one. 

On top of their season opener, Kentucky is also set to battle the reigning national champions, the No. 1 ranked Marshall Thundering Herd away on Sept. 25. Their only other ranked matchup other than the season opener is against No. 18 Charlotte in North Carolina on Oct. 30. 

Cross Country:

The cross country team will feature in six meets prior to NCAA’s on Nov. 20. Their regular season will begin on Sept. 3 and continue until Oct. 15, Kentucky running on every other Saturday this fall.

Their regular season meets include: Missouri Opener (Sept. 3), Commodore Classic (Sept. 17), Notre Dame Invitational (Oct. 1) and Pre-Nationals (Oct. 15). Their post-season begins with the SEC Championships (Oct. 29) followed by the NCAA Southeast Regional hosted by UK on Nov. 12; this will be UK’s only home meet this season.

Swimming and Diving:

The one sport that will span for the entire academic calendar year, the UK Swimming and Diving team’s season is set to begin Oct. 6 against Indiana and Indiana State in a Tri-Meet in Bloomington.

The men’s unit is led by sophomore freestyle swimmer Max Berg, who was a member of the French Junior National Team prior to joining UK’s squad. He placed No. 1 in 200m free, No. 1 in 200m IM and No. 9 in 100m free last season.

In the women’s lane it’s senior freestyle/butterfly competitor Riley Gaines, who just competed in the Olympic Trials over the summer. Her accolades from last season include an NCAA Silver Medal in the 800m Freestyle Relay, SEC Gold Medalist in 200m Freestyle and 800m Freestyle Relay, SEC Bronze Medalist in 200m Medley Relay and 400m Medley Relay on top of being named an All-American in the 200m Freestyle and 800m Freestyle Relay and an All-SEC First Team selection, all in 2021 alone.

Women’s Golf:

Headlined by 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion Jensen Castle, UK’s women’s golf team is poised to have a stellar 2021 campaign.

“Our team is so special. The team dynamic is crazy good. There’s no drama, we all get along great,” Castle said. “We all love to see each other succeed. There’s no jealousy. I’m not going to say we’re going to have any expectations. We’re still going to focus on the same thing we have, just one tournament at a time.”

Kentucky also brings back SEC All-Freshman selection Laney Frye, who’s coming off one of the best seasons in UK history. She averaged 73.5 strokes per round in 11 appearances, which is the fifth-best mark in program history.

She led the Wildcats in stroke average, top-10 finishes, top-20 performances and rounds of par or better. Her 13 rounds of par or better is the second-most in a season in UK history.

They will also bring back Casey Ott, Rikke Svejgård Nielsen, Maria Villanueva Aperribay and Marissa Wenzler, all of whom played pivotal roles for Kentucky’s success last season.

Their season will tee off at the Wolverine Invitational on Sept. 13.