Volleyball selected to seventh straight NCAA tournament



By Paul Martin

The UK volleyball team has made the NCAA tournament again. This marks seven years in a row that the Cats have been invited to the postseason, a school record.

The official brackets announced Monday for the field of 64 has UK squaring off against the Dayton Flyers. Dayton won the Atlantic 10 conference and comes into the matchup with an overall record of 25-6. Dayton is making its third straight appearance in the tournament. The game will be in College Station, Texas, on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. Eastern time.

“We are real excited to be in the tournament,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I think it’s a wide open tournament this year. It’s a new season, so we are looking forward to getting started Thursday night down at (Texas) A&M.”

UK was also chosen to host of one of the four regionals sites, which will be held Dec. 9 and 10 at Memorial Coliseum.  If UK wins in the first two rounds, it will get to play in Lexington at least one more time.

“We have known that for a long time (about regionals being here); now you have to try and get there, but we have a lot of respect for the NCAA to give us the opportunity to host a regional,” Skinner said. “It’s an exciting time for volleyball in this part of the country.”

Coaches and players joined together Monday evening to soak in the selection show on ESPNU, and they reacted with spirited applause when they saw UK on the board.

“You get chills watching the selection show when it first pops up and you see your name there,” Skinner said. “Regardless of whom you are playing where or what, I am excited for our players because they have put in a lot of time and energy.”

The top four seeds for the tournament are Texas, Nebraska, Illinois and Iowa State.  Texas is the top seed in the Cats’ bracket. Only the top four teams are given seeds. Tennessee and Florida join UK in representing the SEC.

The Cats will face a daunting challenge to get past their first two foes, but Skinner likes the current disposition of his team.

“If today’s practice is any indication, I think we are going to be ready,” Skinner said. “We came in with a lot of spirit and energy and a lot of competitiveness.”

The Cats will be on the road this week, but the SEC slate has prepared them for just about anything. Tough and gritty games away from Lexington have been instrumental in this squad’s maturation.

“We have a hard road, but we believe in ourselves,” junior defensive specialist Stephanie Klefot said.