Despite having not played a match since the season finale against Alabama on March 25, Easter Sunday proved to be a busy day for the No. 2 Kentucky women’s volleyball team as the 2020-21 NCAA Tournament bracket revealed the 48 teams competing for a National Championship this April. Among them was the Wildcats, who received the No. 2 overall seed in the Big Dance, the highest mark in program history.
With the No. 2 seed, Kentucky will have a first round bye before playing the winner of Illinois St./UNLV in the second round. That match will be held on April 15 at 7:00 pm.
“Our players have persevered and prepared and been resilient and had enthusiasm and effort all year long,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I think they’ve earned the opportunity to get in the Tournament and see what we can do.”
But that wasn’t the only news of the day, as several Wildcats took home SEC Honors after yet another Championship season.
After dishing out a league-high 11.98 assists per set this season, senior Madison Lilley took home the highest honor of the conference, winning SEC Player of the Year. The setter also recorded a team-high 24 service aces and averaged 2.32 digs per set. Lilley was a seven-time SEC Setter of the Week and five-time SEC Player of the Week through the Cats’ 20 matches. This marks the third-straight season that a Wildcat has taken home SEC Player of the Year honors, the previous two being won by outside hitter Leah Edmond.
For the third-straight year, senior Gabby Curry was named SEC Libero of the Year after leading the Cats in the backcourt with 3.62 digs per set. Curry was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week twice, but it was her passing ability that inevitably put her over the top. With the win, Kentucky has had an athlete take home the award seven-straight times and ten out of the last 11 years.
Head coach Craig Skinner received SEC Coach of the Year honors for the fourth time in his career after leading the Cats to a program-record fourth-straight SEC Championship. Skinner split the award with Arkansas head coach Jason Watson, who led the Razorbacks to 14 conference wins, the most since 2003.
Also of note, Avery Skinner, Madi Skinner, Alli Stumler and Azhani Tealer, along with Lilley and Curry, were all named to the All-SEC Team. The Wildcats had the most athletes named to the 18-member squad with six. Madi Skinner was also named to the All-Freshman Team.
The Cats will have ten more days to get ready for postseason play before their first match in Omaha, Nebraska. Illinois State vs. UNLV will play April 14 at 7:00 pm before the winner takes on the Cats on the 15th.