Photo courtesy of Lauren Tharp
Mercy Academy senior Lauren Tharp has been a Kentucky Wildcat fan for as long as she can remember. As a fan of the Wildcats, she has watched and cheered on a number of athletes at the University of Kentucky. Tyler Ulis, Andrew Harrison, and Aaron Harrison are three of her favorites to wear the blue and white, but soon enough, she will get her shot to wear Kentucky across her chest. However, instead of shooting a ball through a hoop, she will be flashing her defensive skills as a libero for the Kentucky volleyball team.
Tharp, who committed to Kentucky as a sophomore, immediately knew that Lexington was the place for her.
“I knew Kentucky was the place for me when I went on my visit,” said Tharp. “The coaches and staff made it feel like home and the girls on the team create such a welcoming atmosphere, really stressing that we’re all family.”
Tharp is a four-year varsity player for Mercy Academy, where she was named All-District in 2015 and All-Region in 2016. During her career at Mercy, Tharp led her team to a state championship during her freshman season, before falling just shy of a state title last season, losing to Henry Clay in the state semi-finals.
Growing up a Kentucky fan, playing in Memorial Coliseum has been a dream for Harp, but her goals go well beyond just putting on the blue and white.
“It has always been a dream of mine to play for Kentucky and compete for a title,” said Tharp.
Although she knew Kentucky was the place for her, Harp received interest from some of the best programs in the country. Programs such as Auburn, Louisville, Nebraska, North Carolina, and Ohio State all extended offers to the Kentucky native, before she ultimately chose the Wildcats in March 2015.
Tharp’s position on the floor is libero, which is a player with outstanding defensive skills. A libero stands out on the floor, because they were a contrasting jersey color from the other members of the team. Tharp’s specialized defensive skills earned her the Defensive Dandy award in 2015 and 2016.
Tharp understands the strengths and weaknesses of her game, which she will try to improve upon before arriving to campus in the summer of 2018. She is able to read hitters well and she thrives under pressure, something Coach Skinner will welcome to the club next season. Amongst all the strengths, Tharp’s only weakness is her ability to communicate loudly on the court, something she is striving to improve.
“My weakness is my ability to communicate loudly on the court,” said Tharp. “It’s definitely something I’ve been working to improve.”
The UK volleyball program has emerged into one of the best in the SEC and an annual top 25 program nationally. Talented players like Tharp are the reason Coach Skinner has turned the program into one of the best. Wildcat fans become accustomed to hard working players taking the court at Memorial Coliseum and the same can be expected of Tharp.
“Fans can expect to see relentless defense and a lot of passion for the game out of me,” said Tharp.