Dailey Ready for Her Chance to Shine for UK Volleyball
This is the third of a six-part series of feature stories on the 2016 Kentucky Volleyball team.
For the past three seasons, the Kentucky volleyball team has had a steady presence at the setter position. All-American Morgan Bergren led the Kentucky offense from 2013-2015, becoming one of the most prolific setters in school history in the process.
But Bergren has graduated, and the torch has been passed to her successor, sophomore Olivia Dailey. Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner believes Dailey is more than up to the task.
“Olivia has had a ball in her hands probably since she was in the crib,” Skinner said. “She’s a very skilled player. She’s been in the gym for countless hours her entire life training to be at this level and beyond.”
Dailey’s mother was a collegiate volleyball player at UAB and later coached her daughter in club volleyball. What was it like for Olivia playing for her mother?
“It was interesting,” Dailey said with a laugh. “(My mom) was very tough on me. I think it definitely helped. She’s awesome.”
Dailey, a 5-10 sophomore from Trussville, Alabama, had a chance to watch and learn from the All-American Bergren last season, something that she says has been invaluable.
“I learned so much (from Morgan),” Dailey says. “Just being able to watch Morgan and get reps with her helped my game so much.”
Skinner also knows that Dailey benefitted from her time with Bergren.
“Not being a starting setter and being around a player who was an All-America, there’s no question you learn ways and techniques that allow you to be effective,” he said.
But being the competitive person she is, Dailey simply couldn’t stand on the sidelines and just watch last season. She needed to find a way to be on the court. And she did so by adapting her game.
“You learn how to excel at a role that’s not your primary position,” Skinner said. “She was one of our best servers last year. She had a lot of matches where she scored a lot of points for us last year with her serve. Broadening her perspective of the game was certainly a learning experience.”
Dailey simply wanted to play.
“I tried to do anything I could to get on the court,” she said of last season. “I knew it was going to be tough setting with Morgan there, and she was an All-American. But I wanted to do what I could to get on the court.”
Dailey, known as “Liv” to her teammates, will now return to the position she grew up playing. And she’s ready for the challenge.
“I’m really excited, I missed setting,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much I missed running the court and running the offense.”
Dailey has already made a big impression on her teammates.
“I think Liv brings a lot to the team,” says junior Kaz Brown. “She is a natural setter. She’s really smart, her volleyball IQ is through the roof. I think a lot of people are going to be surprised by what she can do. She’s a really good team player and likes to see other people have success. I think she’s going to do a lot of good things for us this year and I’m excited to play with her.”
Senior Anni Thomasson agrees.
“Olivia is, honestly, the real deal,” Thomasson said. “She is legit and she puts the ball on a dime from any side of the court. She’s so accurate and works so hard every day. She wants to work hard with you and she’s really receptive to what other people are saying.”
Sophomore Brooke Morgan is also looking forward to playing with Dailey.
“Olivia is really good at reading the blockers,” Morgan said. “She may have one bad set, but she knows she’ll get it right the next time. She’s very consistent with her sets. It will be fun playing with her.”
Skinner believes that Dailey is ready to lead the team.
“She’s focused and determined and competitive and you see that in different ways,” Skinner said. “Her teammates have full confidence to rely on her to get the job done. She’s got a great relationship and great rapport with her teammates. She’s played so much volleyball in her life, she’s ready for the moment.”
And that moment is now for the new Kentucky setter.