Jan. 9, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. -
The 2012 edition of the UK volleyball team added continual success to an already budding program among the nation's elite. Under the direction of eighth-year head coach Craig Skinner the Wildcats advanced to a program-record eighth-consecutive NCAA Tournament. UK is one of just 14 teams in the nation to have appeared in each of the last eight national tournaments.
UK hosted the opening rounds of the NCAA Tournament for the third time under Skinner's tutelage and claimed a 3-0 sweep of East Tennessee State to begin another run. The Wildcats then upset No. 14 Ohio State by a 3-1 score in front of more than 1,500 fans for a right to play in the Sweet 16 for the second-straight season and the third time in four years. The second-straight Sweet 16 run marked the first time the Wildcats had captured two matches in the tournament in consecutive seasons since the 1987-88 squads achieved the same feat.
The Blue and White have charted 20 or more victories in five of the last six seasons and have finished no lower than fifth in the Southeastern Conference standings since Skinner's arrival. For his unprecedented success, the head coach inked a long-term contract keeping him in Lexington until at least 2019.
All signs point to Skinner's program continuing to build on a solid foundation of success with room for improvement and goals still yet to reach. The Wildcats capped the season ranked No. 20 in the country and have concluded the year ranked among the nation's top 25 in four of the last five seasons. Following another impressive season it is only fitting to look back at some of the accomplishments of this year's team:
Kentucky had the first trio of teammates to earn All-America distinction in consecutive seasons in Whitney Billings, Christine Hartmann and Stephanie Klefot. Billings was a second-team honoree with Hartmann and Klefot earning honorable mention accolades.
Three players earned All-SEC honors including Klefot who was named the SEC Libero of the Year for the third-straight season, a feat no other SEC player has ever achieved.
UK is one of just 14 teams in the nation to advance to the NCAA Tournament in eight-straight seasons, and one of just nine to move on to the Sweet 16 in both 2011 and 2012.
The Wildcats have hosted a portion of the NCAA Tournament in the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum in five of the last six seasons. o UK is slated to host a 2013 NCAA Regional.
The Blue and White took to the hardwood in historic Rupp Arena as part of the annual Big Blue Madness event for the first time in school allure. o The largest crowd in the Skinner era of more than 5,000 fans watched Kentucky sweep Mississippi State, 3-0, to kick off the festivities.
Kentucky is 102-23 (.816) at home in Memorial Coliseum under Skinner. UK won its 100th match in the venue under Skinner's watch on Senior Day in a victory over Georgia.
Coach Skinner claimed his 100th career SEC victory in a 3-0 win at Ole Miss on Oct. 5.
The Blue and White took the season series from Tennessee for the first time since 2007. Within those two wins saw the first win in Knoxville since 2008, and the first 3-0 win over the Lady Vols since 1995.
For the first time in Skinner's tenure the Wildcats led the SEC in service aces per set (1.45). UK ranked among the nation's top-50 teams in three statistical categories: aces per set (34th), hitting percentage (36th) and blocks per set (44th).
Kentucky began the 2012 campaign ranked No. 12 in the nation which marked the highest preseason rankings in school history.
In the Skinner era the Wildcats have charted an impressive 18-5 record in the opening weekend of action including earning a 3-0 start to the year this season.
The Wildcats played on TV eight times in 2012 including upsetting No. 25 Tennessee in a 3-0 sweep before a national audience on ESPNU.
All 22 of UK's victories came when the Blue and White outhit its opponent.
Four different players led the Wildcats in kills per set this season, while six different players led the team in blocking at least once.
Kentucky racked up seven SEC Player of the Week accolades including Alexandra Morgan (Defensive Player of the Week) and Christine Hartmann (Player of the Week) who both claimed the honor twice.
The Wildcats averaged 1,727 fans at home this season which ranks as the highest single-season total in the Skinner era.
Stephanie Klefot finished her career with 1,924 career digs which ranks second in program history and the fourth-highest total in SEC history.
Klefot is one of just three players in the Skinner era to earn All-Conference accolades in all four seasons in the Blue and White.
Senior Ashley Frazier became the 15th player in school history to amass more than 1,000 career kills combing her two-seasons spent at Alabama and 763 kills at UK.
Frazier was named a finalist for the Senior CLASS award and earned All-America status by the organization which recognizes success of student-athletes on and off the court.
Senior Christine Hartmann capped her career ranking fifth all-time in school history with 3,497 career assists.
Junior Whitney Billings charted a career-high 17 double-double efforts for the season en route to earning second-team All-America distinction. She will begin her senior season just 13 kills shy of 1,000 and 70 shy of 1,000 career digs. Should she reach the 1,000 mark in both categories she will be the first UK player in the 25-point rally scoring era to achieve the feat.
Junior Alexandra Morgan's .347 hitting clip for the season ranked as the seventh-best in UK single-season history. Morgan was one block assist shy (125) for joining the top-10 ranks for a single-season in that category.
Morgan became the first UK player since 2009 to have 10 blocks in a single match when she rejected 10 opponent attempts in a win over Georgia.
Junior Jessi Greenberg earned SEC Community Service team accolades for the first time in her career.
Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder was selected to the All-SEC Freshman team and continues a run of at least one first-year player to be tabbed to the team under Skinner's direction.
Freshman Morgan Bergren earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors after earning a double-double in her first career start against Oklahoma.
Sophomore Lauren O'Conner earned MVP honors en route to leading UK to the Kentucky Classic Tournament title to begin the season.
Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the UK volleyball team. For additional coverage of the volleyball squad be sure and check out CatScratchesBlog.com/volleyball.