We are eleven days from the start of the University of Kentucky Volleyball season. The Wildcats are scheduled to open at Memorial Coliseum with an exhibition matchup vs. Western Kentucky.
The program’s longest tenured head coach, Craig Skinner is entering his 13th season with the Wildcats. Skinner has led the Wildcats to 12 consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances. That number should increase to 13 with so much talent and experience returning for the Wildcats, along with the best recruiting class in program history.
Under the leadership of Skinner, the program has reached three Sweet Sixteen’s since 2009 and has totaled 17 or more wins in all twelve seasons, including 20 or more victories in nine of the last ten seasons. Through twelve seasons, Skinner has an overall record of 250-101, which gives him the most wins by a head coach in program history.
Coach Skinners Wildcats enter 2017 looking to build on their 2016 campaign, which saw them finish with an overall record of 23-8 while posting a 15-3 record in SEC play.
The Wildcats received a total of 138 (6) votes in the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll, finishing just behind preseason favorite Florida at (139) (7) votes.
Kentucky may have finished second in the pre-season voting, but the Wildcats are widely represented on the Preseason All-SEC Team with three players being recognized. Seniors Kaz Brown (Waterloo, Iowa) and Ashley Dusek (East Bernard, Texas) made the list of ten, along with sophomore Leah Edmond (Lexington, Kentucky).
Brown, a 6-4 MB, led the team in blocks with 151 in 2016, 29 short of her record breaking total of 180 in 2015. The Waterloo native ranked 15th in the nation and 3rd in the SEC, averaging 1.42 blocks per set. Brown has totaled a number of accolades during her time at UK. She was a 2014 All-SEC Freshman Team selection and a two-time All-SEC Team honoree (2015-2016). Brown also earned consecutive AVCA All-Southeastern Region Team (2015, 2016).
Dusek, a 5-7 DS, is coming off a season where she was recognized as the SEC Libero of the Year for the second consecutive year. Dusek averaged 4.78 digs per set, which was highest on the team and second best in the SEC. She enters the 2017 season 7th on the UK all time list for digs with 1,169 through three seasons. Her strong season led to her being named to the 2016 All-SEC Team, along with being a named AVCA All-Southeastern Region and All-America Honorable Mention.
Edmond, a 6-2 OH, emerged into a star for the Wildcats last season. A native of Lexington, Edmond became a fan favorite from day one last season and her strong play only elevated her popularity. Edmond was an eight-time SEC Freshman of the Week and two-time SEC Player of the Week winner. She led the team in kills with 450 and kills per set at 4.25, which ranked second in the SEC and 33rd in the nation. Her 503 points ranked 5th in the SEC. Edmond was named the SEC Freshman of the Year while being named to the SEC All-Freshman Team, All-SEC Team, and an AVCA Third-Team All-American.
The Wildcats open the non-conference portion of the schedule vs. Arkansas State on August 25th, while SEC play begins with a trip to Missouri on September 20th.