Mix of young and old talent lead UK volleyball into new season

Freshman outside hitter Leah Edmond attacks the ball while her team covers her during the match against LSU on Friday, November 18, 2016 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the match 3-0. Photo by Hunter Mitchell | Staff

Keyera Jackson

UK volleyball’s team last season had an SEC Freshman of the Year, two-time SEC Libero of the Year and four American Volleyball Coaches Association all-region picks on the roster. That group led the Cats to an overall record of 23-8.

Their season opened with a loss to Washington State but the Cats soon found their rhythm by going on a 13-game win streak starting in September and ending in October. During this season, now-sophomore Leah Edmond broke out to become the star for the team, leading the Cats in number of kills with 450, and in points with 503.

Edmond was named SEC Freshman of the Week eight times, SEC Player of the Week twice and overall SEC Freshman of the Year.

Edmond had a good supporting cast behind her, starting with Kaz Brown, who led the team in blocks last season at 151. Olivia Dailey collected 1,202 assists for her team last season, which was the most out of all Cats. Ashley Dusek was given the SEC Libero of the Year honors for the second year in a row.

Despite the talented roster, the Cats’ season ended with a loss to Washington in the NCAA Tournament, who ended up making the quarterfinals in the tournament.

As disappointing as the loss was, the Cats will now chase a deep tournament run themselves as Dailey, Brown, Edmond and Dusek all return to the roster this season that has new talented freshmen as well to add depth.

“We’ll welcome four talented newcomers who make up the No. 5 recruiting class in the country,” Skinner said in a press release. “The four freshmen are; Gabby Curry (Libero), Madison Lilley (Setter), Kendyl Paris (Middle Blocker), and Avery Skinner (Outside Hitter).”

Curry is arguably the most prized freshman out of that group, as she was an Under Armour All-American and a two-time Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year in high school. She won two Georgia state championships and won two Georgia Player of the Year awards.

Lilley and Skinner were also Under-Armour All-Americans, while Lilley was a National Junior Player of the Year, two-time Kansas 6A state champion and Kansas Gatorade Player of the Year.

Skinner won the Texas State Championships in 2015 and 2016, and was rated as the No. 32 Senior Ace by Prep Volleyball.

Paris was a three-time member of the JVA All-National Team and a member of the All-Tournament Team for USA Junior Nationals in 2015.

All of the freshmen had massive impacts on their high school teams and are projected to have a big impact on the upcoming season.

“We’re excited about being back on the floor and getting the season underway as we make a run at a school-record 13th-consecutive NCAA appearance and compete for a league title,” Skinner said in a press release.

The Cats will open their season on Aug. 16 with an exhibition match against Western Kentucky University. The team’s first regular season match is on Aug. 25 at Memorial Coliseum against Arkansas State.