Kentucky’s Madison Lilley represented her teammates in the NCAA’s National Championship press conference on Friday. The recently named National Player of the Year spoke for 15-ish minutes about leading UK to its first Final Four berth, what to expect in tomorrow’s national championship, her plans for the future, and how life has been while bubbled in the tournament.
Below you’ll find five quotes that stood out from her media appearance plus the full-length video at the bottom of the page.
1. She’s not coming back for another season.
Let’s get the big news out of the way: Madison Lilley’s career will end Saturday night in the NCAA championship game. She confirmed her plans to move on to the next phase of her life during Friday’s press conference when asked if she will take advantage of the free year rule.
“I am moving on,” Lilley told reporters. As for where that will be, she said she is focused on the championship and, “after that, debriefing and enjoying the college life and enjoying time with my roommates. That’s at the top of my priority list: bask in everything.”
The One! More! Year! crowd will be disappointed to read this news.
2. “This is why I came here, why I chose Kentucky.”
Lilley has been a Wildcat for much longer than her four seasons on the volleyball team. A Kansas native, Lilley has been traveling to camps in Lexington since middle school, and committed to Craig Skinner’s program as a freshman in high school.
24 hours before her final match, she summarized the journey by saying, “I’m 22 and in my last season at Kentucky, after making history. This is everything I planned to do. This is why I came here, why I chose Kentucky, and I think the reason it was the perfect fit and has been everything I wanted and more, is because of the people, because of our coaching staff.
“The way everyone really treats it like a family is the reason I chose to come here and I knew that if the people I’m around every single day are people I love and want to play for and play with, then everything else will fall into place. And I can say sitting here right now the day before the national championship, that will forever hold true.”
3. “This is a team of competitors… we’re not taking no for an answer.”
Kentucky has been very good at volleyball during Lilley’s time in Lexington. In fact, UK won four straight SEC championships in the four seasons she’s been on the team. But this group is more competitive than the others, she said, which explains why they were in the program’s first ever Final Four and now the first championship.
“This is a team of competitors,” Lilley said of UK’s squad. “I’ve never been a part of a group that loves competing like we do. We’ve been putting ourselves in these situations for eight, nine months now, so now that we’re finally here, we’re soaking it in but also we’re not taking no for an answer.
“We’re competing with each other, playing hard. We’ve always been doing that but I think now it’s a lot more heightened because we have the attention of the nation and the volleyball world now, which makes it a lot more fun.”
4. “I don’t think teams can play with us in transition.”
Lilley called Washington a good serving team in the semifinal match, and it threw Kentucky off their game for awhile. She called it a “wake-up call” that caused the team to regroup to get back to what they do best.
Asked to describe what she expects from the title fight with Texas, Lilley said, “Texas is going to serve tough, they’re going to be a big block… I love our transition game. We play hard, we play fast, and I think that’s in our advantage. I don’t think that a lot of teams can play with us in transition and that’s a huge strength and we’re going to try to play to that as much as we can tomorrow night.”
5. She’s excited to get a W.
In speaking about the unique season and the bubbled tournament, Lilley said she wished there had been some matches in Lexington, but being together in Omaha has actually strengthened the group.
“I can’t imagine it being any different now, we’ve adapted really well and created more memories than we would in a normal year,” she said.
“But I’m excited to leave here with a dub tomorrow night.”