LOS ANGELES, Calif. – Following a solid preseason, the fifth-ranked Kentucky volleyball team will open its 2018 campaign on Friday
Creighton went 26-7 last season and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Bluejays won the Big East conference regular-season and tournament titles. Creighton returns three honorable mention All-Americans in Jaali Winters, Taryn Kloth and Brittany Witt. Witt also won Big East Libero of the Year last season. The Bluejays were picked to finish second in the Big East in the 2018 Big East Coaches Poll and is ranked No. 13 in the nation.
USC is ranked No. 10 in the preseason AVCA poll after going 25-10 and 14-6 in the PAC-12 a season ago. The Trojans earned the No. 10 seed in the 2017 NCAA Tournament and defeated Central Arkansas and No. 9 San Diego to advance to the Sweet 16. Southern Cal swept No. 7 Minnesota before falling to No. 2 Florida in the Regional Final. USC returns first-team AVCA All-American Khalia Lanier, who averaged 4.86 points per set last season. Senior libero Victoria Garrick returns as well, who recently became the 17th Woman of Troy to collect 1,000 career digs.
Northern Iowa was 27-9 overall and 15-3 in the Missouri Valley Conference last season. UNI qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 21st time in program history and was picked as the favorite for the MVC for 2018. The Panthers return two AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans in Piper Thomas and Karlie Taylor. Thomas hit .360 and averaged 4.00 kills per set while Taylor added 3.87 kills per set.
EDMOND APPROACHING MILESTONE
Entering the 2018 season, UK’s most consistent offensive threat for the past two seasons is nearing a career milestone. Leah Edmond who has averaged 4.40 kills per set during her first two seasons with the Wildcats, has 989 career kills and is closing in on becoming the program’s 16th player to amass 1,000 career hammers.
PICKED TO WIN THE LEAGUE
Kentucky received eight of the league’s 13 first-place votes and finished atop the SEC Preseason Coaches Poll with 140 points. Florida garnered the remaining five first-place votes and finished in second with 137. Missouri trails both schools with 116 points, while Georgia and LSU round out the top five.
Leah Edmond, Madison Lilley and Avery Skinner were named Preseason All-SEC. No school other than Kentucky placed multiple athletes on the preseason All-SEC team. Edmond makes her second appearance on the preseason list after garnering All-SEC honors in each of her first two seasons. Lilley, a first-team selection a season ago, and Skinner, an All-SEC Freshman Team pick last year, were selected for the first time in their careers. All 13 of the league’s head coaches vote in each poll.
Head coach Craig Skinner, already the program’s career wins leader, hit the 300-win plateau late in 2017. With an opening-round NCAA Tournament victory over ETSU, Skinner picked up his 300th career victory. Skinner enters the 2018 season with 302 all-time victories as UK’s head coach.
‑ GO CATS –