UK volleyball found redemption at season’s end


Women’s Volleyball coach, Craig Skinner. Photo by Britney McIntosh

As the UK volleyball team traveled to Indiana for its opening game of the 2010 NCAA tournament against Purdue, thoughts of repeating its 2009 Sweet 16 run lingered.

It wasn’t the same song playing in 2010, as UK fell to Purdue in four sets 25-18, 24-26, 25-17, 25-18 on Dec. 3.

The loss ended a season that didn’t quite live up to its potential.

For the year, UK posted a 17-14 overall record, including an 11-9 record in the Southeastern Conference. UK started off ranked No. 14 in the nation before falling out of the rankings early in conference play.

Still, the Cats reached the NCAA tournament for the sixth year in a row under Coach Skinner by winning three out of their last four matches to get into the tournament when popular consensus was that UK’s slow start had dug them into too deep of a hole to climb out of.

“We as a team didn’t reach our goals for the season, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t have a successful season,” Skinner said. “We have become a lot more consistent as a program. There are less than 20 programs with six straight tournament appearances, and midway through the season a lot of people counted us out. But we got consistent down the stretch and got ourselves a spot in the tournament.”

The team will lose two seniors off their 12-woman roster in Lauren Rapp and Blaire Hiler, who notched 94 career victories and a .729 win percentage as a senior class, which is fifth all-time in the program’s history.

The Cats will return most of their team in 2011, and will add in Ashley Frazier, who sat out the season after transferring from Alabama, as well as another stellar recruiting class.

UK’s young returning players look primed for great things. Sophomore Stephanie Klefot was named SEC Libero of the Year, and will be back to lead the Cats again in 2011. Others, including freshman Whitney Billings and junior Becky Pavan. will also be back and will be using their experience from 2010 to improve their game and continue to move the program forward.

“This year was a rewarding year for us,” Skinner said. “Our seniors can feel proud of the work they did. The team didn’t give up and lose faith, and even though it didn’t end exactly how we wanted we still have a lot of bright young players with a lot of experience now, and we are looking forward to a good 2011.”