After rolling through the Southeastern Conference en route to a perfect 18-0 record, the No. 11 Kentucky volleyball team learned its NCAA Tournament fate Sunday night in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats secured the 10 seed in the Big Dance and are set to take on Murray State Friday in Memorial.
“Honored to be hosting and being able to stay in our own gym the first couple rounds if we’re lucky to get through,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “It’s amazing how much parody there is in volleyball this year. There’s so many good teams and for us to have a great season so far and be able to put ourselves in position to host is respect. Looking forward to getting started with Murray State on Friday.”
The news came on a day full of achievements for the Cats, as three different players picked up league awards with two more (Brooke Morgan and Madison Lilley) making the All-SEC Team.
“With the success of our team this year, we are honored for the recognition of these players,” Skinner said. “We had so many great individual performances this year, which led to the championship. The power of our 15 players came through with these awards.”
Junior Leah Edmond took home SEC Player of the Year after averaging 4.61 kills per set, good for second in the conference and 14thin the NCAA. Edmond recorded eight matches this season with 20 or more kills and became UK’s all-time kills leader in the 25-point rally-scoring era during the match against Missouri.
“I had no clue,” Edmond said. “I was sitting there doing homework and all of a sudden my phone started blowing up and I was like ‘What is going on?’ And I saw it so I’m very humbled and blessed to be able to get that and I wouldn’t have been able to get that without my team. So that’s really for them.”
Alli Stumler picked up SEC Freshman of the Year, becoming the third-straight Wildcat to secure the award. Edmond picked it up in 2016 and Madison Lilley received it last season.
Sophomore Gabby Curry was named SEC Libero of the Year, becoming the fifth different player in program history to be given the award. Ashley Dusek was given the award three-straight times before graduating last year. Curry led the team with 4.35 digs per set and recorded just 18 service reception errors on 509 season attempts.
Skinner was also awarded SEC Coach of the Year for the second-consecutive year after leading the Cats to their first perfect conference season since 1988 and second-consecutive league title.
Kentucky’s first match of the tournament is set for 7:30 pm Friday.