Volleyball reloads in spring

The UK volleyball team concluded its 2011 spring season with an impressive 4-2 win-loss record as it focuses on continuing the program’s success, trying new strategies and filling the holes of its departed seniors.

“Spring has really been about getting our systems foundation in place for the fall and working on some new things,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We want to be successful, but winning and losing isn’t the most important part. It’s how well we develop and how we integrate some of those news things into what we want to do.”

UK kicked off its spring schedule in late March when they hosted the Dayton Flyers at home to compete in a live interactive offensive and defensive coaching situation session at the 2011 Kentucky Coaches Volleyball Clinic.

The spring schedule continued, taking the Cats to Louisville, where they swept Notre Dame and Morehead State in straight sets, 2-0. The Cats put up a good fight against Purdue, an NCAA Elite Eight member from last season. However UK fell to Purdue in a 2-1 battle.

UK traveled north to Columbus, Oh. to face off against the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Cats posted wins in the first, second and third sets to win the match. The Cats then posted another win as they competed in an additional “friendly” set.

The team concluded their schedule at a three-team tournament in West Lafayette, Ind. where the Cats took another win from the Ball State Cardinals before falling once again to the host Purdue.

Seniors Gretchen Giesler and Becky Pavan said the major focus of the spring season was improving individually and condition training more so than the matches they competed in.

“We went down to the basics,” Giesler said. “Every position tried to get better control of the ball. Also, we worked on swing blocking and getting stronger physically. Those were our three main goals.”

UK is also trying out a new defensive scheme within their practices.

“All of us have been trying to improve on our passing and defense,” Pavan said. “We are such a big team that when we play against those little teams, they are so scrappy and great in the back row that we need to work extra hard to keep up with them. So that’s something else we have been focusing on.”

With 11 of its expected 13 roster members for the 2011 fall season competing and training this spring, the expectations for the upcoming season are high. Last season, the Cats added to the program’s success by marking its sixth consecutive season with 17 wins, and the Cats hope to continue the success next season.

UK welcomed two new offensive threats this season: junior transfer Ashley Frazier, who sat out last season because of NCAA rules, and freshman Lauren O’Conner, who enrolled in January after graduating high school in December.

The Cats will add two more freshmen to their fall roster. Jackie Napper is a defensive specialist from Louisville, Ky., and Kayla Tronick is a middle hitter from Hutchinson, Minn.

“What we did last year is good,” Skinner said. “But it’s not where we want to be and our players know that. I just want to make sure that our program and individuals within the program are improving all the time. And I definitely think we got that accomplished this spring.”