Snow might be flying around Lexington, but the University of Kentucky softball team need not worry.
The Wildcats are off to sunny Southern California where they'll open their 2012 season Thursday in the Stacy Winsberg Memorial Tournament on the campus of UCLA.
Kentucky enters the year ranked in the pre-season top 25 for the first time. UK is No. 13 in the National Fastpitch Coaches Association poll and No. 18 in the ESPN.com/USA Softball Collegiate poll.
UCLA, ranked No. 19 and No. 13, plays host to UK at 9 p.m. EST on Thursday.
This marks the third consecutive season the Wildcats will begin their season on the road against a ranked opponent. UK knocked off Ohio State a season ago and Arizona State in 2010.
Kentucky, led by fifth-year head coach Rachel Lawson, advanced to the NCAA's super-regional round of 16 last season, which was also a first for the UK program.
Fifteen letter winners return from that squad, including the entire pitching staff. Seniors Chanda Bell and Rachel Riley form the winningest pitching tandem in UK history.
Senior Brittany Cervantes already owns the Wildcats' career home-run record with 35 in three seasons and is on pace to shatter the school's RBI record.
Junior Kara Dill and sophomore Emily Jolly were All-Southeastern Conference performers last season.
After opening with UCLA on Thursday, Kentucky plays a pair of games on Friday — vs. Pacific at 5 p.m. and UCLA at 9 p.m. On Saturday, Kentucky plays UCLA at 5:30 p.m.