Kentucky’s freshman volleyball class to quickly step into spotlight


Jordyn Williams (3) stands with her teammates on Fan Day 2021 inside Memorial Coliseum on Aug. 15, 2021. 

Barkley Truax

Just as quickly as three UK volleyball legends leave, four highly-touted freshman have arrived.

According to, Kentucky boasts the No. 5 recruiting class in the country for 2021, which include four Fab 50 selections and one top-10 recruit in Jordyn Williams, who showed exactly why she belonged at Kentucky during the Blue and White scrimmage at Fan Day 2021 Sunday afternoon.

“I’ve thought about this for years,” she said about putting on the blue and white. “It’s such a great feeling, honestly. There’s no words to describe it.” She did eventually use one word, which was “wow,” but who wouldn’t say that coming into a program fresh off their first national championship?

Head coach Craig Skinner is confident in his younger core following the losses of seniors and team centerpieces Madison Lilley, Avery Skinner and Gabby Curry.

“Both the freshman and sophomore classes are very talented in a lot of different ways,” Skinner said. “They bring a lot on the court and I was trying to figure out what the strengths they already have that can help us right away.”

The freshman class includes Williams, who, on top of being the No. 8 recruit in the country, is a two-time national champion with TAV (Texas Advantage Volleyball) and a 2020 first-team All American. Joining her is No. 25 recruit Emma Grome, who was also a first-team All American last season, as well as first-team All Ohio.

They’re joined by the No. 32 ranked Erin Lamb, who was a second-team All American and Eleanor Beavin, a libero and Kentucky native who was a four-time state runner up and three-time KVCA defensive player of the year.

“We’ve been together for about two months,” Williams said about her fellow freshman. “We knew each other during recruiting. I think whenever we came in, we were all super excited; that’s still the feeling now.”

The freshman class have just moved into their dorms together. They all have a great relationship and are excited to learn together from the upperclassmen. “We talk to each other a lot and I think that each day we’re trying to learn from the other girls.”

Skinner was impressed with how his freshman class played under pressure during the scrimmage. The younger team defeated the upperclassmen in a decisive 25-15 first set.

“They seemed more comfortable today than they have been at practice,” Skinner said. Skinner isn’t putting labels on the freshman as of yet because he said that most freshman start off hot, but tend to drop off before they begin to succeed on a regular basis.”

One of Skinner’s points of emphasis for the scrimmage was getting the freshman under the lights in a game-type setting.

“I was very impressed by the freshman’s composure today,” Skinner said. “… Obviously there were things they did really well and things they’re going to keep working on.”

It’s not easy asking four 18-year-old freshman to step into the bright lights of Kentucky volleyball, but Williams believes she’s ready to tackle the challenge head-on.

“I love it,” Williams said about stepping directly into the spotlight as a freshman. “It’s super exciting. This team just won a national championship, it’s honestly such a blessing to even get to be here and get to play, especially with all the crazy things that happened last year.”

She said that the freshman class had no idea what they were coming into because of the pandemic. “It’s such an amazing feeling to just get after it. It’s really exciting and I’m having a great time.”

Right now, Williams is still learning from the older girls on the team. Once change she’s still getting used to is not being the center of attention who won’t get the big kill or block in critical moments, like she has been playing for TAV, where she was a two-time national champion and star of the team.

“(I’m) just trying to be a good teammate and improving the people around me, as well as improving myself.”

For Skinner, putting together a four-player top-five recruiting class is something that he couldn’t have done without the help of the winning tradition he’s brought to Lexington for over a decade now, which includes four-straight SEC championships.

“When you win a national championship and SEC championships, there are a lot of really good players around the country that want to talk to Kentucky,” Skinner said. “It’s probably opened some doors that we didn’t knock on before, but we’ve been able to (recruit well) for a while.” He added that when he took over in 2005, there was a wide range of recruits to go after, but in 2021, that number of recruits has shrunk due to the success of the program.

Williams and the rest of the freshman are looking forward to playing against the top teams in the SEC and all over the country. “It’s all about getting better everyday and finding out who we are as a team.”

Less than two weeks from now, Kentucky kicks off their season in Dayton for a weekend tournament against Texas State. It’s no secret that the freshman class cannot wait to kick-off their collegiate careers by each other’s side.

“We definitely love playing and being together,” Williams said.