UK Volleyball: A Look Back at the 2011 Season
Dec. 16, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 2011 Kentucky volleyball team saw Craig Skinner's squad return to the forefront as one of the nation's best teams. The Wildcats tallied a 28-6 overall record and appeared in the NCAA Regionals for the second time in three seasons.
UK knocked off three top-25 ranked opponents throughout the season, while setting new standards in a program that is just one of 16 teams in the nation to advance to the NCAA Tournament in seven consecutive seasons. The season was not marked with one success story, but rather a group of 14 individuals who truly became a team.
"This group is just an absolute team," Skinner said following a win over Arkansas. "They will each other to win. They want each other to do well and they are not worried about who gets credit." That testament defined the 2011 team.
The 2011 Senior Class
The senior class of Ann Armes, Gretchen Giesler, and Becky Pavan will go down in the record books as UK's all-time winningest class. The trio racked up a 100-31 (.763) career winning clip which ranks as the best mark in school allure.
Armes concluded her career earning the Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year award, while Pavan became one of just four players in school history to tally 400 or more block assists in a career. Giesler closes out her career ranking among the school's all-time top-10 in career hitting percentage.
Kentucky tied a program record with three players earning All-America status and five capturing All-SEC honors. Junior Stephanie Klefot was named a second-team All-America selection and was the SEC Libero of the Year for the second consecutive season. She set a new school record with 608 digs in 2011, and is the only player in school history to amass 600 or more digs in a single season.
Junior setter Christine Hartmann and sophomore Whitney Billings were All-America honorable mention honorees and both joined Klefot on the All-SEC first team.
Junior Ashley Frazier was honored as an All-SEC second team member and was also named to the NCAA Regional All-Tournament team. Freshman Lauren O'Conner became the seventh first-year player under Skinner to earn All-SEC Freshman team accolades.
Skinner was also awarded AVCA All-South Region coach of the year accolades for the first time in his career.
The NCAA Tournament featured break-out performances, a five-set thriller, an upset in the form of a sweep and the best match of the season.
Frazier became the first Wildcat to top 20-or more kills in a match with 20 in a win over Dayton, while O'Conner set a career-high with 18 kills to lead UK in a win over Dayton. UK rallied back from two match-points to score the final four points to survive and advance.
Kentucky then took on the tournament's 16-overall seed Texas A&M on the Aggies home floor. Led by a season-high 17 kills from Billings, the Wildcats swept the Aggies to return to Lexington for the NCAA Regionals.
UK's Memorial Coliseum was transformed into a volleyball venue with the traditional blue and white sport court to host some of the nation's most prominent volleyball programs in UCLA, Texas and Penn State. Kentucky fought the No. 1 overall seed Texas in a tough four-set loss to the Longhorns. Texas won by a combined three-points in the match.
The Big Blue Nation was captivated by the Cats, though, as a record-breaking crowd of 4,022 fans witnessed the Wildcats and Longhorns do battle for a spot in the Elite Eight. UK's Memorial Coliseum will again host the NCAA Regionals in 2013.
It's all about the balance
The balance of the Kentucky attack proved to be a major difference for the Wildcats in 2011. Six different players recorded between 2.11 and 3.22 kills per set. All six of those players led the team in kills in at least three matches this season.
UK's offensive output ranked in the top-two in the SEC in both kills per set, assists per set and hitting percentage.
Despite the Wildcats having a potent offense, UK was equally as dangerous defensively. UK led the league with 2.56 blocks per set with seven players averaging .50 rejections per set or more. Klefot led the conference with 4.83 digs per set.
A major part of the Blue and White's success hindered on a 7-0 record in five-set matches. Kentucky earned three five-set wins at home, two on the road, and two on neutral territory. Kentucky also upset three top-25 ranked opponents in five-set thrillers.
Kentucky picked up its first five-set win in the opening weekend of action against No. 23 Tulsa. UK won 15-13 in the final set behind sophomore Elizabeth Koberstein's record-breaking 70 assists.
UK then snapped a five-match losing streak to No. 18 Tennessee with a 15-13 final set win at home before a nationally-televised audience in mid-October. The border state rivals met on ESPNU for the third consecutive season, with the Wildcats prevailing in a thrilling match.
Kentucky traveled to Auburn and fought the Tigers to a 15-12 final set win. Hartmann had a career-high eight blocks to lead UK in the win.
The Wildcats then knocked off No. 13 Florida behind its most dominating fifth set in a 15-9 final frame win. A season-high 28 digs from Klefot propelled the Blue and White past its Eastern Conference rivals.
A feisty Ole Miss squad gave UK a tough-test in Mississippi in mid-November. Kentucky eventually prevailed with a 17-15 final set win after Billings notched a double-double in the win.
On senior day, the Razorbacks of Arkansas needed a marquee win over a top-25 ranked team and came to Lexington on a mission. Arkansas led the match 2-0 before UK rallied to win the final three sets including a 15-13 fifth set to remain undefeated at home in conference action.
UK's final five-set win came in the NCAA Tournament against Dayton to conclude the season with a perfect 7-0 mark in five-set matches. Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the UK volleyball team and all of Kentucky's 22 teams.