UK Volleyball celebrates SEC Title, has eyes on bigger prize
UK won its fourth straight SEC regular-season championship
On Thursday night, the Kentucky volleyball team cruised past Alabama in three sets, winning for the 19th time this season in 20 tries. The Cats celebrated a fourth straight SEC regular-season championship after the win, and while there was the traditional donning of championship hats and t-shirts, the celebration overall was joyous but perhaps a bit muted.
Perhaps it was the fact that UK has now won four SEC titles in a row. Perhaps it was relief after a long regular season and dealing with COVID-19.
Or, it could be that the Cats have bigger goals in mind.
”We’ve had a goal to compete for a national championship all year,” said UK head coach Craig Skinner. “So, yes, the SEC championship is a big deal, but I think this group is competitive enough and has proven themselves enough to go for it. It’s going to be tough, and there’s a lot of really good teams we’re going to have to go through to get to that point. But they want to go for the stars.”
But before contending for a national championship, Kentucky was able to celebrate the most unique of its four straight conference titles.
”Feels amazing,” said senior Gabby Curry. “I think this year was probably one of the hardest years of my life with all of the COVID stuff. But I honestly couldn’t pick a better team, staff, and program to fight through all of that kind of stuff with. So, it just makes this one the best and the sweetest.”
Skinner agreed.”It’s pretty darn sweet,” Skinner said. “That feeling doesn’t get old. Just really proud of these guys. I can’t tell you how many ups and downs we’ve been through.”
Sophomore Azhani Tealer thinks it’s important to celebrate championships while still keeping an eye on what’s to come.”It’s definitely a big celebration,” Tealer says. “I think any time you win a championship. It’s something to celebrate. We definitely celebrated, but we have our eyes on a bigger championship for sure.”
The Kentucky volleyball senior class has done a lot of winning during their four years in Lexington, especially at Memorial Coliseum. So, it was fitting that the regular season came to close inside the venerable building on Thursday with, what else, another UK victory. Kentucky has compiled a 99-17 (.853) record (so far) the last four seasons. That includes a 53-6 (.898) mark inside Memorial Coliseum and a 70-4 (.946) record in SEC play.
UK won its fourth straight SEC regular-season championship, meaning that seniors Curry, Madison Lilley, Kendyl Paris, and Avery Skinner have never NOT won the SEC during their UK careers. The thing that impresses Craig Skinner about this group is that they continue to hone their craft.”They’re all getting better,” Skinner said of his seniors. “They all did something better tonight than they did last week. They came in with goals, and they’ve met so many of them to this point. To be excited for them and give them credit is an understatement.”The SEC championship is in the books, and now the Cats can turn their attention to the NCAA Tournament.
UK will be visiting Omaha, Nebraska, for the entire tournament. The Cats are hoping to make their first run to the Final Four and beyond. And if that happens, there will be another huge celebration within the Kentucky volleyball program.