UK attempts to forget road woes


UK Volleyball vs South Carolina in Memorial Coliseum Sunday September 19, 2010. Photo by Ian Hamilton

Memorial Coliseum has been kind to the UK volleyball team this year. The Cats post an 11-3 record at home so far this season. The road, however, has been tough sledding for UK, which is 2-8 outside the state of Kentucky.

This weekend, the Cats look to improve their road record and boost their resume for an NCAA tournament bid with road battles at Mississippi State and Alabama. UK defeated both teams just three weeks ago and now looks to put on a repeat performance on the road this weekend.

“We did really well against them two weekends ago, but we still want to improve,” junior Becky Pavan said. “We want to go out there and show them what we are made of again and show them that we are Kentucky.”

UK head coach Craig Skinner echoed Pavan’s thoughts.

“Each team is going to be a little bit more familiar with each other going into this weekend, so it’s important to be efficient and execute well,” Skinner said. “Even though they might know what you’re doing to you still need to score points. Also, we can throw in a couple new things that maybe they haven’t seen before. We just have to keep getting better.”

UK is coming off another successful weekend at home in which the team defeated Southeastern Conference rivals Georgia and Auburn without dropping a set. The Cats (13-11, 7-7 SEC) have six games remaining in their regular season, three of which are on the road. If UK wants to earn a spot in the postseason, it will need to go on a run to finish its season, and that includes winning on the road.

“I think we have to do a better job of focusing on what we are supposed to be doing right now,” Skinner said. “Too many times we get caught up in thinking about what just happened or ‘if this happens or if that happens,’ but the only thing you can control is what’s happening at the present time. Staying in the present needs to be a factor for us.”

UK played solid defense in both of its victories over Georgia and Auburn. Against Georgia, UK racked up 15.5 blocks in only three sets and followed that performance with another 11.5 blocks in three sets against Auburn. To win on the road, UK will look to continue its defensive success and control the net.

“Our team typically enjoys blocking a lot so I think they get motivated when they do start to block more,” Skinner said. “We do commit to working on blocking every day. Blocking is a very difficult skill to master and if you don’t work on it every day then you just can’t do it at a high enough level to compete, so we have committed to working on it and it paid off over the weekend.”

The Cats’ biggest asset when competing on the road this weekend may be their speed. UK has positive energy, and to compete with top competition on the road in the SEC it will need to use its speed to its advantage.

“We have really been focusing on playing fast,” Pavan said. “We can play a lot faster than most of our opponents and we have really started using that to our advantage and working on it in practice every day, so I think the speed has really helped.”