UK volleyball preparing for successful season after earning No. 5 pre-season ranking

Junior Outside Hitter Leah Edmond celebrates with teammates during UK’s game against Utah on Friday, August 25, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

Another season of UK volleyball is right around the corner, and this season projects to be another exciting year.

Last year was arguably the most exciting for the Cats as they posted a 29-4 record to claim the first SEC title in the Craig Skinner era, the first since 1988. UK also advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in program history in the modern era of the tournament.

There will be both new and familiar faces on the court this year as the Cats continue to chase for trophies. All-Americans Kaz Brown and Ashley Dusek graduated after last season, but UK brought in five new players in hopes to fill the holes and make this team as competitive as last season.


Last year, offense was UK’s strength, and a majority of the firepower from that offense returns this year looking to wreak havoc on opposing defenses.

Sophomore Avery Skinner and junior Leah Edmond led the Cats last year in points, kills and kills per set. Edmond had 539 kills, a season school record in the 25-point rally scoring era.

Edmond also led the Cats in kills as a freshman and will once again be the all star for UK this season.

Skinner played a big role as a freshman last year for the Cats and will come back this year with more experience to help her and the team. Skinner led UK in terminations six separate times last season and proved to be a great additional piece next to Edmond.

Both Edmond and Skinner were named to the preseason All-SEC team because of last season’s success along with sophomore setter Madison Lilley.

Lilley was an excellent setter as a freshman, leading the SEC in assists with 1,445 helpers. Lilley had the third-best assists per game rate in the nation last season.

The trio of Edmond, Skinner and Lilley will look to lead the Cats offensively, along with the help of senior Brooke Morgan and newcomer Caitlyn Cooper.

Cooper spent the last two seasons playing for Iowa Western Community College, where she accumulated 1,066 kills. Cooper was an NJCAA First-Team All-American in both her seasons at Iowa Western.

Freshman Alli Stumler is also someone who could earn some playing time after leading all Indiana high school volleyball players last season in kills.


While the offense has plenty of experienced returners, the defense has a lot of production to replace, especially at the net.

Last season’s duo of Emily Franklin and Brown made it difficult for opposing teams’ offense, as they combined for 261 blocks. UK was fourth in the SEC last season in blocks, largely due to the efforts of Franklin and Brown.

Unfortunately for UK, Franklin and Brown both graduated after last season, leaving a big hole for the Cats at the net.

Freshman Gabby Goodard was UK’s lone middle blocker in its 2018 class, and she could immediately step into a defensive role. Morgan, who is the tallest player on the team at 6-5, recorded 39 blocks last season and figures to help out more at the net.

Away from the net, the Cats also have a big hole to fill with Dusek’s departure. Dusek was the SEC’s Libero of the Year for three consecutive seasons and led the Cats last year in digs.

The libero is the heart of a defense, so replacing one of the program’s best liberos won’t be easy. Senior McKenzie Watson is someone who could fill that void after finishing with the fifth-most digs for UK last season.

Watson was a libero at Assumption High School in Louisville, Kentucky.

Also returning on defense is sophomore Gabby Curry, who started as a libero in nine matches last season. Curry was second on the team in digs last year behind Dusek.


With the balance of experienced returners and key additions, UK is expected to have another successful season, as they were named the preseason favorite to win the SEC title.

UK received eight first place votes while Florida received the other five. The Cats are also the only team to have multiple players appear on the preseason All-SEC team.

UK also received recognition nationally, as they were ranked No. 5 in the AVCA preseason poll, which is the highest the Cats have ever been ranked in the preseason poll.

However, the road won’t be easy, as the Cats will face a difficult schedule once again. After opening with an exhibition against a 2017 NCAA Tournament team, the Cats will play 10 more teams who participated in last year’s NCAA Tournament.

The Cats will start the season in Los Angeles for the USC Tournament, where they will face No. 10 USC, No. 13 Creighton and Northern Iowa.

The following weekend will be UK’s home opener, when they will face College of Charleston on August 31 to kick off the Bluegrass Battle.

The schedule also includes some highly anticipated home games, including the big one against Florida on Halloween. Nonetheless, it should be another exciting season at Memorial Coliseum.