So you’re new to the Kentucky Volleyball bandwagon now that Craig Skinner has the Wildcats in the Final Four for the first time in school history. It’s OK. Don’t be ashamed. There are several people like you—UK fans who slept on Kentucky Volleyball until the tournament, and then literally slept through the tournament because the matches began way past bedtime on a school night.
You are not alone, young NCAA Women’s Volleyball fan. Big Blue Nation is full of people who overheard Kentucky is in the Final Four and immediately got excited for Thursday night’s match against No. 6 overall seed Washington, without knowing if it’s even called a match or a game.
It’s OK. Don’t be embarrassed. Ryan Lemond was paid real money to do real play-by-play for a real televised volleyball match with real implications, and on KSR earlier this week most of his explanations of the rules of volleyball were completely wrong. This is a man paid to talk about volleyball, and his only volleyball knowledge came from seeing Cast Away.
My point is, there is a whole segment of the BBN that is excited for Kentucky to be in the NCAA Women’s Volleyball Final Four, but they’re completely unaware of what is actually going on. So before we get rowdy for this semifinal, KSR will answer some of the Frequently Asked Questions From Bandwagon UK Volleyball Fans, and again, it’s completely fine to be a bandwagon UK Volleyball fan.
Now let’s catch you up on the excitement. And how volleyball works.
Q: So it’s a match, not a game?
A: Yes, it is a five-set match, and the first team to win three of the five sets, wins the best-of-five match.
What’s a set?
A set is made up of points (each time the ball hits the ground) and the first to 25 points wins each set. One caveat, you have to win by two points. 25-24? Keep playing until you’re up by two.
Here is a look at Kentucky’s scoring breakdown in each of its three tournament matches to date:
Kentucky swept all three opponents?
Kentucky did indeed sweep its way to the Final Four, which is very impressive.
If sets are 25 points then why did Wisconsin beat Florida with only 15 points the other night?
Great question. I left out an extremely important detail: the fifth and decisive set, if needed, is played to only 15 points.
I believe they do this because everyone is tired and wants it to end already, like the Wisconsin-Florida match that pushed Kentucky into the wee hours of the morning.
I couldn’t stay up for that one. I wanted to.
Me too. I tried.
There are six players on each side, right?
That is correct.
Why does that one player have on a different color jersey? Did she lose hers?
The player in the different color jersey is the libero, pronounced li-BEAR-oh. It’s a defensive position on the court, often the team’s best passer, whose main objective is to keep the ball from hitting the floor. In most cases the libero is also the team’s vocal leader as she is responsible for a lot of the team’s communication during play.
Libero is a funny name. Why didn’t they name it something easier?
The word Libero is Italian for “free,” and the libero in volleyball is the only position allowed to move freely. By that I mean the libero does not count as a substitution so she can sub in and out as she pleases without counting against the allotted 15 substitutions per set (another important rule to remember).
The libero’s limitation is she cannot play along the front row, only back and beneath the net. But that’s OK because the libero is usually a shorter player who is conditioned to playing lower, not on the attack. She’s usually first to receive and sets up the return, and is in position for a lot of digs.
What’s a dig?
A dig is when a player keeps an opponent’s attack in play with a pass. So when Washington is on the attack tonight and you see Gabby Curry get under the ball to keep it alive, she will be credited for a dig.
Curry averages a team-best 3.62 digs per set, and had 16 digs in the Elite Eight against Purdue. She’s the SEC Libero of the Year for a THIRD straight season.
Who else should I know?
Madison Lilley is the SEC Player of the Year and arguably the best player in the entire country. Earlier today she was named the National Player of the Year by the American Volleyball Coaches’ Association, while Coach Skinner won Coach of the Year. You need to see the celebration:
“You’re only as good as the people around you. Never forget that.” – ?@UKCoachSkinner?
— Kentucky Volleyball (@KentuckyVB) April 22, 2021
A senior, Lilley is Kentucky’s all-time leader in assists and currently averages 12.1 assists per set this season.
Four other players join Lilley and Curry from Kentucky on the All-SEC team: Alli Stumler, Azhani Tealer, Avery Skinner and Madi Skinner.
Are Avery Skinner and Madi Skinner related to Coach Skinner?
The Skinners are talented sisters from Texas, but they are of no relation to head coach Craig Skinner, only a coincidence. Avery, a senior, is the older sister to Madi, a freshman and the No. 2 overall volleyball recruit in her signing class.
How long has Coach Skinner been at Kentucky?
Skinner is in his 16th season as Kentucky’s head coach and he is in his 15th straight NCAA Tournament, although he’s never been this far before. The all-time winningest coach in school history, he is only two more away from the grand prize.
Are we doing this?
We are doing this. Kentucky versus Washington in the Final Four in one hour on ESPN.