UK played a variety of opponents including wins over Tennessee and Purdue
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 2017 spring volleyball season served as the 13th under Kentucky’s all-time winningest coach, Craig Skinner. And for the 13th time, the Wildcats showed marketed improvement.
During the spring, UK faced a variety of teams at the KIVA tournament in Louisville, played Purdue at a well-attended match on a neutral site, hosted a Blue-White scrimmage and traveled to Tennessee. The matches proved to be great opportunities for the Wildcats to begin formulating a blueprint for success for the fall season. Highlighted in the four spring dates was the first action for newcomers Merideth Jewell and Gabby Curry in a Kentucky uniform.
Kentucky saw action in 14 sets against opposing teams this spring. Leah Edmond, Darian Mack and Brooke Morgan led the team in kills. Ashley Dusek and Curry paced the Wildcats in digs, while Emily Franklin and Edmond led the way in blocks.
“This was the best spring we’ve ever had here at Kentucky,” Skinner said. “The critical part is using it as a springboard to have a great summer. Without a great summer it will wash away the progress we’ve made in the last couple months. We can’t wait to get back in the gym in August to start training.”
The Cats also hosted their annual season-ending banquet to celebrate to successes of the 2016 campaign prior to the Blue-White scrimmage.
Kentucky took time to remember seniors Anni Thommasson and Sharay Barnes at the banquet who won more than 90 matches in their four-year careers. Olivia Daliey won the Breakout Athlete award and Dusek was tabbed the Player’s award recipient. Both are voted on by either staff members of teammates.
Dailey was a 2016 All-America Honorable Mention selection after finishing fourth in the country in assists per set at 11.78. The Trussville, Alabama, native was also a member of the American Volleyball Coaches Association all-region team and All-Southeastern Conference after helping the squad rip 14.23 kills per set, good for 20th in the nation.
Dusek took home her second All-America Honorable Mention award of her career and repeated as the SEC Libero of the Year in 2016. Teams worked around Dusek last season, but she still managed to average 4.78 digs per set, good for second in the SEC. Her numbers improved in league play at 5.02 scoops per frame.
Kentucky is slated to return 91.9 percent of its leading kill production, including its top five terminators in Edmond, Kaz Brown, Mack, Franklin and Morgan. Defensively, UK returns 97.8 percent of its blocking numbers and 84.5 percent of its dig production. Brown, who already holds numerous 25-point rally scoring era records, is UK’s leading returning blocker with 151 rejections a season ago. Dusek has posted more than 200 digs in all three seasons with the Cats.
UK is set to begin the 2017 season with eight players who participated in at least 25 matches a season ago, with seven starting at least 13 contests.
Jewell, a two-time Ohio Valley Conference first-team selection, will join one of the most heralded recruiting classes in program history as newcomers in 2017. The 2017 season schedule will be released in the coming weeks.