On the same day Kentucky Volleyball plays in its first-ever Final Four, the Cats’ head coach and star player have received major honors. The American Volleyball Coaches’ Association (AVCA) named Craig Skinner National Coach of the Year and Madison Lilley National Player of the Year. This is the first AVCA national award for both, and the first-ever for an SEC player.
Skinner, now is in his 16th season at Kentucky, was also named the SEC Coach of the Year by the SEC coaches, and the AVCA’s All-Southeast Region Coach of the Year by the head coaches in the AVCA’s Southeast Region. Since taking over at Kentucky in December 2004, he has built the program into a national power and become its all-time winningest head coach. Under his leadership, Kentucky has gone to 16 consecutive NCAA Tournaments – a feat only nine other schools in the nation have achieved – seven Sweet Sixteens since 2009, two Elite Eights, and won back-to-back-to-back-to-back SEC titles in 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2020-21. This season, Skinner guided the Wildcats to a 19-1 overall regular season record, and a fourth-straight SEC Championship, something that has never been done in the history of Kentucky Volleyball. Inside the win streak, UK won 38-straight sets against its opponents and won three matches against top-10 teams.
Lilley, a senior setter from Overland Park, Kansas, was also named 2021-21 SEC Player of the Year, AVCA All-Southeast Region Player of the Year, and First Team All-American. She is the school’s all-time leader in assists and averaged an SEC-high 12.1 assists per set this season, with just under one kill per set, 2.36 digs per set and 0.65 blocks per set. She was named SEC Player of the Week four times this season and the league’s Setter of the Week on seven different occasions.
Tonight at 7 p.m., Kentucky plays No. 6 Washington in the national semifinals. The match will air live on ESPN with Paul Sunderland, Salima Rockwell and Holly Rowe on the call from the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska. Yesterday, Skinner called in to the show to give us a preview; if you missed it, check it out below.
UPDATE: The video of the team finding out the news is awesome.
“You’re only as good as the people around you. Never forget that.” – ?@UKCoachSkinner?
— Kentucky Volleyball (@KentuckyVB) April 22, 2021