Seniors helped mold UK’s best 4-year winning record

By Paul Martin

The last four years, UK has compiled 96 victories in volleyball. The senior class has been through it all and helped navigate the Cats to the best four-year winning percentage in the history of the program.

As the regular season winds down in the next seven days, this UK squad is on the hunt for an SEC championship. A title would be a way to cap these four seasons for the senior class, which consists of Becky Pavan, Ann Armes and Gretchen Giesler.

“They bought in from day one,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “When they stepped on campus they made a huge commitment to help this program reach levels it has not reached before. All of them have been major contributors, not just on the court but off the court as well.”

UK hosts LSU Friday night, followed by a Sunday afternoon tilt with Arkansas. Before the Sunday game, the senior day activities will take place.

“The four years here have been really special,” Pavan said. “We have had many firsts for the program. We made the Sweet 16 one year and beat Florida for the first time in 18 years. We have also been in contention for the conference championship most of the time. We have become a very consistent program.”

Pavan, a middle blocker, arrived from Kitchener, Ontario, to play volleyball for UK. It was a big decision for her at the time, but looking back, she said she doesn’t regret it.

“The volleyball and people here are fantastic. Kentucky has embraced this team and me as an athlete,” Pavan said. “I can’t say enough about how much I appreciate that.”

Giesler is also a senior middle blocker and has had a solid career at UK. The St. Charles, Ill., product will be remembered as having one of the best hitting percentages on the team, along with her intensity on the court.

“She is a workhorse and a fierce competitor,” Skinner said. “Her work ethic is unparalleled in the gym. Her commitment and passion for winning is very contagious. Each year she has had an impact.”

Being a senior inevitably means that the end of the college career is almost over. Pavan explained what she will miss the most.

“Walking into Memorial every Friday night and Sunday and playing in front of the fans,” she said. “The support and love that I feel every single time that I am playing is something that is so special to me.”

The team still has unfinished business. The two games this weekend are critical to UK having a shot at the title. The last game of the year is Tuesday at Tennessee, which currently has a tight grip on first place in the conference.

High standards are what this senior class is all about.

“The SEC championship is a high priority right now,” Giesler said. “We have been through a lot together, and our goal is to maintain a high standard of play.”