By LARRY VAUGHT
The first time Alli Stumler met future University of Kentucky teammate Gabby Curry was when UK came to Floyd Central (Ind.) High School for a preseason match against Purdue.
Stumler was a star player for Floyd Central and Kentucky signee.
“I didn’t know her at all,” Stumler said. “I messaged her after the game, ‘Good game, excited to play with you.’ She was so sweet.
“When I got to campus, I was a little intimidated. She was top dog, the cool girls. She has grown to be one of my best friends on the team. She wants to see you succeed more than she wants to see herself succeed.
“She is just an awesome person. So uplifting and encouraging. On the court and off, she takes care of business. She’s an awesome teammate and player and better off the court than on.”
That leadership/inspiration from Curry, the Southeastern Conference Libero of the Year the last two seasons, has helped Kentucky reach the Final Four in Omaha where it will play Washington Thursday night at 7 on ESPN.
Curry was at her best Monday when UK (22-1) overcame a slow start to sweep Purdue in three sets in the Elite Eight. Curry had 16 digs and six assists but seemed to be all over the floor diving for balls, especially in the first set when UK fell behind 17-12 before rallying to win the set 25-23. UK took the next two sets 25-20 and 25-16.
“She is just in control,” said UK coach Craig Skinner. “She is always composed and people play well around her.”
Skinner said she “anticipated really well” against Purdue and was ready for the setter attack the Boilermakers tried.
“She just continues to have a confident, composed demeanor about her and that is why she is able to make plays at a high level in a match like this,” Skinner said.
Stumler, a junior who had 16 kills and 10 digs against Purdue, said it was no surprise Curry seemed to be getting to every ball Purdue put over the net.
“She demands the ball every single time,” Stumler said. “Free ball or whatever, you always hear Gabby (calling for the ball). She’s controlling traffic and wants to be perfect. If she’s not perfect, she is mad.
“She is awesome as a leader and libero. She’s an awesome senior leader on the floor and on my side. She wants to do her job the very best and that’s what makes us very good is having a libero like her.”