Craig Skinner and the Kentucky Volleyball team are on the precipice of a National Championship and they’re as focused as ever ahead of the biggest day in program history.
Yesterday, Coach Skinner and National Player of the Year Madison Lilley spoke to the media about the upcoming title game.
As you would expect, Skinner expressed how proud he was of his team’s accomplishments so far but pointed out that they’re not done yet:
“I don’t sense that we’ve settled and we’re ok with where we are. There’s still more to do. So, I think the adrenaline wore off over the night and we went back to trying to make it a business trip and get after it today and start focusing on Texas.”
Maintaining focus has been a strength of the Wildcats over the course of the season, but it’s been a long year for this team. The SEC was one of only a few conferences to play a fall slate before taking a two-month break ahead of the spring, so these girls have endured an extraordinarily long season, but have played at an elite level in both halves of the year.
Skinner believes playing some games in the fall was a “distinct advantage:”
“We had several really good freshmen and new players. We had to find out what our lineup could look like and what type of options we had, and there’s still several things that we’ve practiced that we can use at any certain time that we wouldn’t have known if we didn’t play in the fall.
“Once you get into a season and roll, it’s hard to make changes. But to have two separate seasons, it gave us time to reflect and see where we were and evaluate.”
Another distinct advantage the ‘Cats have is the togetherness of their team and the chemistry they play with on the court.
“There is no question that we wouldn’t be where we are today if it wasn’t for our roster,” Skinner added. “I’m talking 1 thru 15. Everybody has made an impact on this team this year, on results this year, whether that was stats in the box score or preparations prior to the match. There is an immense amount of respect between our team, within each other because of the value each of them brings to the team.
“It’s not about volleyball, it’s about people.”
Kentucky has special players and special people, and none who embody that combination better than senior Madison Lilley, who also got a chance to speak to the media and expressed that she “isn’t taking no for an answer” and has her “eyes set on making history.”
“We’re competing with each other, we’re playing hard. We’ve always been doing that. I think now it’s a lot more heightened because now we have the attention of the nation and the volleyball world, which makes it a lot more fun.”
She also shared her thoughts on the unique “double season” Kentucky has experienced this year.
“Physically, it’s tough,” Lilley said. “This is double what we’re used to playing and especially after we got done in the fall, just taking care of our bodies and also staying in really good shape in November and December and coming back in January ready to hit the ground running. We hold each other accountable as much as we can.”
The head coach and team captain are laser-focused on bringing history home in the form of a national championship. They’re already the most accomplished group in program history–the first to make a Final Four, the first to play in a National Championship game, they won the SEC four straight years, and they have the player and coach of the year.
The only trophy missing is that National Championship.
Tonight, at 8 p.m., Coach Skinner, Madison Lilley and the Kentucky Wildcats look to bring home the title. In a dark time around the university over these past few days, this volleyball team is the thing fans across the state can cling to and rally behind to bring back some of that joy of pulling for the blue and white.
For those of you that have followed our volleyball coverage all season, it’s been an absolute joy to follow this team and their journey to the title game. Let’s cheer on these girls as they take on the Longhorns and try to bring this state another National Championship.
Tune in at 8 on ESPN2 and let’s GO CATS!!