Volleyball coach Craig Skinner spoke to the media Monday afternoon before the weekly football news conference. The UK volleyball team is off to a 15-4 start and plays host to Ole Miss and LSU this weekend.
?It?s definitely an exciting time to be here at UK, especially with the home football game this weekend against LSU. Coach Brooks is doing a phenomenal job. We?re having a great start, and at 15-4, it?s our best start since 1993. At 6-2 in the SEC, it?s our best start since 1996, and most importantly to the coaching staff, we?re 3-1 on the road in the SEC. We only won three conference matches all of last season on the road. Florida was a very tough loss, but they are a great team, obviously ranked sixth in the country. You think if you hit around .300 that you have a pretty good shot to win, but Florida hit a lot better than that. I think this is the best Florida team we?ve seen since we?ve been here. We?ve got another shot at them November 11 and I can?t say enough about the resiliency of this group, because they think that they can beat anyone. I think that showed on Sunday at South Carolina. We had a tough call in the first game, where we ended up losing that game. We won the second and playing in the third, Nicole Britenriker went down with an ankle injury and we still were able to comeback from a 17-11 deficit to win the third game. We did the same thing to win the fourth game too. We have a lot of freshmen and sophomores out there contributing that made a difference in that match. It says a lot about the character of this group, the respect they have for each other and the leader Nicole. I?m very excited to have won that match because it was a great team effort. The usual suspects are getting it done for us. Queen Nzenwa is in near the top in both hitting and blocking in the SEC. I believe she?s one of the top middle players in the country. Nicole is having an outstanding year also, ranking in the top-10 in some of those categories. She had a great night against Florida, hitting close to .600 against a top-ten ranked team, which is a heck of a night. Lauren Rapp has been SEC Freshman of the Week three times so far, so that?s a great accomplishment for her. Our hitting percentage is almost 100 points higher than it was last year. Brooke Bartek, a transfer from Nebraska, has also been playing great for us lately. She had a tremendous match against South Carolina on Sunday. You have to attribute that to our quarterback or setter Sarah Rumely. I?m really excited about this week. LSU is in the top-20. We play them on Sunday on CWKYT television at 1:30. Ole Miss had two wins this weekend against Alabama and Mississippi State, so it?s another tough week in the SEC, but we?re looking forward to the challenge.?
On the status of Nicole Britenriker after her ankle injury against South Carolina?
?She?s been walking. She?s doing okay but she?ll get it x-rayed this afternoon and will meet with the doctor. We?re hopeful that she?ll be able to play on Friday night, but again we?re not 100 percent on that, so she is day-to-day basically.?
On the high school talent in the Louisville area?
?Well it?s very, very good. You can judge that based on Assumption and Mercy being ranked in the top-25 in the country in the high school polls. Assumption was just out in Las Vegas, playing in a big tournament out there. They lost to the number-one ranked team in the country. Louisville generally produces great defensive players and we have two of them in BriAnne Sauer and Alisa Pierce. In the last couple of years, they have only put out two or three top-20 front row players, taller, athletic players that can play the net. In terms of playing volleyball at the very highest level though, they are very, very good.?
On what that talent can be attributed to?
?The coaching is fantastic and their club programs are very successful on the national level. But it starts with coaching and the passion for the game at a young level, which filters into the high schools. The high school volleyball in that area is very competitive and they compete all year round and it?s a very successful environment. To be honest with you, it?s trickling down here as the two clubs are emerging here in Lexington, so I?m very excited about that.?
On what he learned about his team from the Florida match?
?To be honest with you, we got smoked in the first game. But from that, they never wavered their commitment to the game-plan and playing together. I?m not sure that, even if we played great, we could have beaten Florida on that particular night. I think we have a chance to beat them November 11th and I think our team now realizes that to beat the top teams in the country, you have to be unbelievably competitive and hard-nosed. You?ve got to play exceptional and not let one or two points get away from you. We did that early in the first game and it trickled down a little bit.?