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What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me: A Look Back

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To count down the days to the start of the 2014 season, the UK volleyball team and coaching staff talked about what Kentucky volleyball means to them as part of the Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball.

For head coach Craig Skinner, it's "a culture of great people that are striving to be the best." Junior Morgan Bergren added that playing for UK is about "being part of something bigger than yourself," while freshman Ashley Dusek said UK volleyball means "passion."

Comments from the student-athletes ranged from "family" and "commitment" to "determination and pride" and "the opportunity of a lifetime." Each answer was a different opinion of what makes UK volleyball a special program to be a part of and such a great place to play.

As the Wildcats prepared for the upcoming season, the daily feature, which coincided with updates on the team throughout preseason practice, gave the team a chance to reflect on what being a part of Kentucky volleyball and the UK community is all about. It was also an opportunity to look forward, as several student-athletes also talked about the opportunity to win a championship as they set their sights on the season.

An archive of  "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason can be found here. Each day, a UK student-athlete was featured as part of the countdown, in correspondence with their uniform number in addition to the coaching staff.

The countdown also included updates, news and notes from UK's preseason practices. From preseason national rankings to the release of a feature film about the team's trip to China earlier this summer, it was an eventful month leading up to the 2014 season-opener.

For additional updates on the UK volleyball team, follow them on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball: 24 Hours

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The 2014 season is 24 hours away. At 6:30 p.m. ET, Kentucky will kick off the new season against Wichita State in Memorial Coliseum.

For a complete preview, Bluegrass Battle schedule, match notes, TV and live results information and more, check out UKathletics.com: Volleyball Hosts Bluegrass Battle to Open Season. The preview also includes video from Tuesday's media day and a feature on Cat Scratches, written by UK's Guy Ramsey.



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For an archive of  "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


2 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Craig Skinner

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SKINNER_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. The final feature is head coach Craig Skinner:

"Kentucky volleyball is a culture of great people that are striving to be the best.  Our staff and players over the years have created an environment of achievement and success.  We collectively work daily to be elite and become better than yesterday.  Each year, athletes join us who are willing to embrace that concept."

Head coach Craig Skinner enters his 10th season at the helm. With 202 career victories in Lexington, Skinner sits just eight wins shy of becoming the program's all-time winningest coach. He has led the Wildcats to a school-record nine consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances, a feat only 12 other schools in the nation have achieved. He has directed UK to three Sweet Sixteen appearances since 2009 and was named the 2011 AVCA All-South Region Coach of the Year. Kentucky has won 17 or more matches in each of Skinner's nine seasons, including 20 or more victories in six of the last seven campaigns.

Preseason Team Update: August 27, 2014
Today is the first day of class, and the Wildcats have their last day off of the 2014 preseason. The team will be back in the gym tomorrow, preparing for Friday's season-opener vs. Wichita State.

Cat Scratches, the Official Blog of UK Athletics, has a feature on the team. By Guy Ramsey, the article looks back on the team's trip to China earlier in the summer and how that has helped the team during preseason practice.

Yesterday was media day UK volleyball. Head coach Craig Skinner, seniors Jackie Napper and Lauren O'Conner and junior Morgan Bergren met with the media to preview the upcoming season. Video from the event can be viewed here.


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


3 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Sharay Barnes

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BARNES_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is redshirt freshman Sharay Barnes:

"Kentucky volleyball is all about improving yourself as a person as well as a player. By being in this program, my teammates and coaches have helped me gain confidence in my play."

A redshirt freshman from Swarthmore, Pa., Sharay Barnes did not compete in her first season at Kentucky. A four-year letterwinner for Strath Haven High School, Barnes was a two-time All-State selection and was named Player of the Year as a senior. The middle blocker/outside hitter also competed for Synergy Volleyball Club and was named one of the top seniors by PrepVolleyball.com.

Preseason Team Update: August 26, 2014
Today was media day for several of UK's fall sports, including the volleyball team. Head coach Craig Skinner, seniors Jackie Napper and Lauren O'Conner and junior Morgan Bergren met with the media to preview the upcoming season. Video from the event can be viewed here.


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


4 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Anni Thomasson

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THOMASSON_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is sophomore Anni Thomasson:

"Kentucky volleyball means that we get the opportunity to play in one of the most talented and competitive conferences in the country. We push ourselves and our teammates to reach our potential and compete for an SEC and national championship."

Sophomore Anni Thomasson had a season to remember in 2013. An All-SEC Freshman Team honoree, Thomasson also was named the SEC Player of the Week and the SEC Freshman of the Week during her freshman campaign. The outside hitter cemented herself in the UK record books with a 30-kill, 22-dig showing in a 3-2 win over LSU to become the first freshman in team history and just the second in UK history to reach the 30-kill, 20-dig plateau. In her first season, Thomasson was second on the team with 242 kills for a 2.24 kills per set rate and third on the team with 251 digs and 19 service aces. A Newark, Ohio, native, Thomasson notched 12 kills in the Wildcats' NCAA Tournament win over Duquesne.

Preseason Team Update: August 25, 2014
Four days before the season-opener, the team enters match week preparation today. Classes officially start Wednesday, the two-a-day practices are over and the focus now shifts to this weekend's opponents, Wichita State, Butler and Virginia Tech.

Yesterday, UK held its annual Blue/White Scrimmage in Memorial Coliseum. A great crowd was on hand to see the 2014 Wildcats in an informal scrimmage a week before the season begins.


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


5 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Ashley Dusek

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DUSEK_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is freshman Ashley Dusek:

"Passion is what UK volleyball means to me. It doesn't matter whether it is on the court, in the classroom or being involved in the community. We set goals and have high standards for ourselves and each other. Coming from a small town in Texas to a team with a huge heart in Kentucky, I know we will do great things. We compete at the highest level against some of the best teams in the country and we have one goal in mind, winning an NCAA championship. Go Cats!"

A freshman from East Bernard, Texas, Ashley Dusek competed for East Bernard High School and was also a member of the Houston Skyline Juniors Volleyball Club before coming to Lexington. The defensive specialist was named a PrepVolleyball All-America selection, one of the site's Top 250 Senior Aces and one of just 13 liberos to rank among the top 150 players. Dusek was named her high school's Most Valuable Player three times in her four-year career and is a four-time Academic All-District Team honoree and a National Honor Society member.

Preseason Team Update: August 24, 2014
Today, the Wildcats host their annual Blue/White Scrimmage in Memorial Coliseum at 5 p.m. ET. Admission is free, and doors to the Coliseum will open at 4 p.m.

Yesterday, the team spent the evening volunteering with Special Olympics Kentucky at the "Big Brown Truck Pull." It was a great night, and the Wildcats got to meet and spend time with Team Kentucky, which represented the Commonwealth at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games.


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


6 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Morgan Bergren

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BERGREN_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is junior Morgan Bergren 

"Kentucky volleyball means being part of something bigger than yourself. It is about coming together as one unit to work towards achieving all of our goals. It is about holding each other accountable day in and day out so we are performing at a championship level each and every day."

Morgan Bergren was named to the Preseason All-SEC Team as she enters her junior season after starting all 31 matches as UK's setter in 2013. The Muncie, Ind., native led the Wildcats with 1,215 assists, was second on the team with 24 service aces and had 192 kills, 130 digs and 77 blocks last season. A two-time All-SEC Academic Team honoree, Bergren tallied 40 assists 13 times in 2013, highlighted by a career-high 66 assists to go along with 11 digs in Kentucky's five-set win over LSU.

Preseason Team Update: August 23, 2014
After a day off yesterday, the Wildcats are back in the gym today. UK will practice twice today, marking the final two-practice day of the 2014 season.

Tomorrow, Kentucky holds its annual Blue/White Scrimmage in Memorial Coliseum at 5 p.m. ET. Admission is free, and doors to the Coliseum will open at 4 p.m.

For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


7 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Kaz Brown

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BROWN_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is freshman Kaz Brown 

"Kentucky volleyball is a dream come true for me. I'm surrounded by coaches who are pushing me to reach my full potential and teammates who are just as competitive as I am. Everyday we're working in the classroom, weight room and on the court towards SEC and NCAA championships."

Kaz Brown enters her first season with the Wildcats after a memorable high school career at Cedar Falls High School. The Waterloo, Iowa, native owns the school record for kills, kills per set, kill efficiency, blocks and blocks per set. Brown was a four-time All-Metro and All-Conference honoree and led Class 5A in blocks and blocks per set en route to earning a spot on Iowa's Senior All-Star Classic. A middle blocker, Brown helped her club team, the Six Pack Volleyball Club, to a USAC national title in 2012 and was named MVP of the All-Tournament team.

Preseason Team Update: August 22, 2014
A week before the 2014 season begins, the Wildcats have their last day off of the preseason today. The team will be back on the practice court Saturday before they host their annual Blue/White Scrimmage Sunday at 5 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.

On their day off, the Wildcats spent part of the afternoon helping their fellow University of Kentucky students move in to the dorms across campus.


Tonight, the 2014-15 UK Athletics season officially gets underway in Seattle, when the women's soccer team faces Washington. Good luck to head coach Jon Lipsitz and the Wildcats!


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


8 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Darian Mack

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MACK_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is freshman Darian Mack: 

"Kentucky volleyball is the opportunity to establish lifelong bonds with my coaches and teammates. Being on a team means that somebody always has your back and you're able to rely on each other. With UK volleyball, you have the opportunity to become SEC champions and receive a quality education."

Freshman Darian Mack comes to Kentucky from Raleigh, N.C. The outside hitter was the captain of her high school team and led Wakefield High School to a North Carolina High School 4A State Championship while earning MVP honors. A two-time all-conference selection, she also competed for Triangle Volleyball Club, where she helped the team reach Nationals in 2012. Mack was also named to the AVB Honor Roll and the National Achievers Society and won the Triple A Award, recognizing athletics, academics and attitude.

Preseason Team Update: August 21, 2014
Yesterday, the feature film documenting UK's two-week trip to China was unveiled on UKathletics.com. The 20-minute film was produced by UK's Sports Video department, and takes fans on the cultural, educational and competitive journey with the team. The video can be found on UKathletics.com or below.

Yesterday after practice, the team celebrated the release of the feature film with a Chinese dinner. Stories were shared as the team looked back one last time to a memorable two weeks.

Additionally, the team's trip was featured on the SEC Network, which has been archived on SECsports.com.




For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


9 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Sara Schwarzwalder

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SCHWARZWALDER_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is junior Sara Schwarzwalder: 

"To me, Kentucky volleyball means we are always evolving. In the gym, in the classroom and in the weight room our team puts in the effort and focus needed to get better each day on and off the court. We have an extremely talented team that can play multiple girls in each position and still have the confidence and opportunity to win."

Junior Sara Schwarzwalder is a two-time All-SEC Academic Team honoree and a member of the 2012 All-SEC Freshman Team. The North Royalton, Ohio, native played in 27 matches last season with 26 starts. Schwarzwalder was second on the team with 95 blocks and tallied 143 kills to hit .299 in 2013. The middle blocker registered a career-best nine blocks in UK's win at Arkansas and had a career-best 14 kills at Georgia. As a freshman, Schwarzwalder had eight blocks three times, with her eight in a win over Lipscomb marking the most by a freshman in one match since 2010.

Preseason Team Update: August 20, 2014
Today, the feature film documenting UK's two-week trip to China was unveiled on UKathletics.com. The 20-minute film was produced by UK's Sports Video department, and takes fans on the cultural, educational and competitive journey with the team:


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


10 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Shelby Workman

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WORKMAN_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is junior Shelby Workman: 

"UK volleyball means determination and pride. We are determined each day to become a better team and to perform like a champion on and off the court. We take pride in representing the University of Kentucky and the Big Blue Nation!"

Junior Shelby Workman played in all 31 matches last season with 10 starts. The opposite hitter from Overland Park, Kan., tallied 109 kills and 89 digs with five service aces in 2013. Workman had a career-high 13 kills against Long Beach State and a career-best 11 digs against Illinois last season as a sophomore. In a five-set win over LSU, Workman notched 11 kills, seven of them coming in the final two sets.

Preseason Team Update: August 19, 2014
As UK's preseason practice nears the halfway point, it's a light day for news. If you missed it yesterday, the annual Blue/White Scrimmage will take place this Sunday, Aug. 24 at 5 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. Additional information can be found here.

Additionally, single match tickets for the 2014 season are now on sale. Reserved tickets are $5 each, while general admission single match tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for seniors (65+) and youth (6-18). Children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge in general admission seating.

Single match and season tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 800-928-CATS, while more information about season tickets is available here.

The film documenting UK's two-week trip to China will premiere tomorrow on UKathletics.com. The 20-minute film was produced by UK's Sports Video department, andfans can get a glimpse of UK's journey with this trailer ahead of tomorrow's unveiling:


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


11 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Emily Franklin

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FRANKLIN_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is redshirt freshman Emily Franklin: 

"UK volleyball is the opportunity of a lifetime. I'm surrounded by teammates who will always have my back no matter what and an amazing coaching staff. Being from Arizona, I'm 2,000 miles away from home, so having people that are always there for you is something you won't find every day. Kentucky Volleyball is my second family!"

Emily Franklin is a redshirt freshman from Mesa, Ariz. The middle blocker did not see game action in her first season as a Wildcat in 2013 after an impressive high school career. Tabbed as the No. 47-rated player in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com, Franklin was a two-time All-State honoree and earned the best blocker award in 2010. She was an honor roll student and a member of the National Honor Society while attending Red Mountain High School and also competing for Spiral Club.

Preseason Team Update: August 18, 2014
After back-to-back days with two practices each day, the Wildcats had one practice Monday afternoon. The team also filmed the intro video and other video elements for the video board this season in Memorial Coliseum.

Also Monday, it was announced that the annual Blue/White Scrimmage will take place this Sunday, Aug. 24 at 5 p.m. ET in Memorial Coliseum. Additional information can be found here. The announcement also included information about single match tickets, which went on sale today. Tickets can be purchased by calling the UK Ticket Office at 800-928-CATS, while information about season tickets is available here.

Finally, earlier this summer, the team took a two-week trip to China. The cultural, educational and competitive trip was an experience of a lifetime for the team, which has been documented into a 20-minute film by UK's Sports Video department. The film's world premiere will be Wednesday, but fans can get a glimpse of UK's journey with this trailer:



For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


12 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Lauren O'Conner

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OCONNER_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is senior and Kentucky native Lauren O'Conner: 

"To me, Kentucky Volleyball means commitment. Commitment to the program, the university and to each other. Committed to making each other better in order to reach our goals, which are to win the SEC and the national championship."

Senior Lauren O'Conner, one of two players from Kentucky, is a three-time All-SEC Academic Team honoree and was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in 2011. The outside hitter played in 30 matches last season with 13 starts and amassed 220 kills, the fourth-highest total on the team to go along with 51 blocks and eight service aces. From Taylor Mills, Ky., O'Conner's 2013 highlights included a career-high-tying 18 kills on .389 hitting in UK's upset win over No. 4 Minnesota in addition to a career-best six blocks, a season-high five digs and 11 kills in Kentucky's win at Alabama.

Preseason Team Update: August 17, 2014
The Wildcats welcomed some of their season ticket-holders to an open practice and picnic this afternoon. After the two-hour practice, the team hosted a question-and-answer session and invited the fans to their post-practice team dinner.

It was a great opportunity for the student-athletes and staff to connect with some of the most loyal members of the Big Blue Nation and thank them for their support. The fans had fun too, getting an inside look at how the team is training for the upcoming season and getting to know the team off the court.


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


13 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Kayla Tronick

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TRONICK_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is junior Kayla Tronick: 

"Kentucky  Volleyball is family, since I'm from Minnesota and don't get to see my family very often. I have relied on my teammates and the coaching staff the past couple years, they are a sense of security. Everyone that is part of UK volleyball is always looking out for each other.  Another thing I would have to say about Kentucky Volleyball is the determination to win.  When we lift, run and practice there is no doubt in our minds that we can win."

Kayla Tronick played in 14 matches in 2013 with five starts as a sophomore. The outside hitter/middle blocker notched 19 blocks for a 0.54 blocks per set rate that ranked fifth on the team to go along with 41 kills last season. In UK's NCAA Tournament win vs. Duquesne, the Hutchinson, Minn., native hit a season-best .500 with five kills, one dig and one block. In her first start of the season, in a win over South Carolina, Tronick tallied a season-high nine kills on 3.53 hitting with three blocks.

Preseason Team Update: August 16, 2014
After a day off yesterday, the Wildcats are back at it today with two practices. Saturday's two practices mark the beginning of the second week of preseason practice, and 13 days until the season-opener in Memorial Coliseum.


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


14 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Assistant Coach Anders Nelson

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ANDERS_TWITTER-FACEBOOK2.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is second-year assistant coach Anders Nelson: 

"Kentucky Volleyball to me is a program that provides endless support and encouragement while constantly challenging you to be your best.  We're a family.  Those involved are expected to reach their potential as a complete individual.  I'm thankful every day for the opportunity to work with these people and coach these athletes."
 
Anders Nelson begins his second season as an assistant coach at Kentucky. Last season, Nelsen helped guide the Wildcats' defense to an SEC-best 2.88 blocks per set in league competition. Three players ranked in the top 15 in the SEC for individual blocking, with two in the top five. A Saint Croix, Falls, Wis., native, Nelson also served as a volunteer assistant with the Wildcats during the 2011 season. He is a 2011 graduate of Ball State University and helped lead the Munciana Volleyball Club for two seasons, including to the 2011 AAU 18 Open National Championship with a 66-2 record.

Preseason Team Update: August 15, 2014
Yesterday was a busy day for the Wildcats, with an appearance on the SEC Network's inaugural show, photo day and a big announcement from the SEC Network. Be sure to check out Thursday's team update and feature on senior Jackie Napper here.

Today, two weeks until the season-opener, the Wildcats have their first day off since the preseason began on Saturday. They'll return to the court tomorrow for two practices. Across campus, move-in is this weekend for all students living in the dorms. The team helped the freshmen move in this morning before volunteering at Cardinal Hill this afternoon.


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


15 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Jackie Napper

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NAPPER_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is senior Jackie Napper: 

"It's a home away from home, my second family. I know my teammates, coaches and staff will always have my back. We all have different personalities, but together we make up a team that has one goal in mind, to win a championship. We like to have fun and get our laughs in, but most importantly we love to compete and WIN!"

A senior, Napper started at libero in all 31 matches for the Wildcats in 2013. The Louisville, Ky., native earned All-SEC Academic team honors and led the team with 443 digs for a 3.99 digs per set rate to go along with 111 assists, the second highest total on the team during her junior season. Napper tallied a career-best 24 digs in UK's upset win over No. 4 Minnesota and had a career-high nine assists vs. VCU, both last season.

Preseason Team Update: August 14, 2014
From a morning yoga session to picture day and an appearance on the SEC Network's inaugural show, Thursday was a busy day for the Wildcats.

Picture day is another sign that the season is just around the corner. UK's staff photographer, Brittney Howard took a team photo in addition to headshots and select other group photos. Kentucky Wildcats TV was there to document all the action:


Also Thursday, with the SEC Network's launch just hours away, it was announced that 27 of UK's 31 matches will appear on the SEC Network +, the digital platform of the SEC Network. All of Kentucky's home matches and every home and road SEC match will air nationwide on SECNetwork.com and WatchESPN, which is available to all SEC Network subscribers. More information and a full schedule, which includes eight matches already announced to be broadcast on the SEC Network and ESPNU, can be found here.

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Finally, after practice and a team dinner, the Wildcats participated in the launch of the SEC Network. In the three-hour kickoff show, the team was involved in a live look-in as they watched the show from the team room.


For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and practice reports, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


GRAY_TWITTER-FACEBOOK.jpgLeading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Next up is assistant coach Lindsey Gray-Walton: 

"Kentucky volleyball is an opportunity of a lifetime. To be a part of the Big Blue Nation is something special that not everyone gets to be a part of. It's an exciting time to see our dreams and goals come true."

Lindsey Gray-Walton begins her fifth season as an assistant coach with the Wildcats after being hired in January of 2010. A native of Olathe, Kan., Gray-Walton serves as the Wildcats' recruiting coordinator. Each of her four signing classes have ranked among the top-25 in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com The 2012 squad was tabbed as the 15th best in the nation. Gray-Walton is a 2008 graduate of Georgia Tech, where she was a member of three 20-plus win teams and earned All-SEC Second Team honors in 2006.

Preseason Team Update: August 13, 2014

For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and practice reports, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


17 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Alyssa Gergins

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Leading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. Yesterday, Kelsey Wolf got it started. Next up is senior Alyssa Gergins: 

"To me, Kentucky Volleyball means family. We're always pushing towards the same goal together and working hard as a team. The next thing I would say is hard work and love of the game."

A native of Murrieta, Calif., Gergins earned All-SEC Academic team honors in 2013.  A transfer from Master's College, the junior saw action in two matches in her first season in the Blue and White and averaged 1.00 assists per set and 0.50 digs per frame Gergins made her first career appearance in UK's win over Ole Miss and logged one assist. She also recorded a dig and an assist against South Carolina.

Preseason Team Update: August 12, 2014
Today, the SEC announced its preseason awards and preseason coaches' poll. The league's coaches voted the Wildcats to place second in the conference, while junior setter Morgan Bergren was named to the Preseason All-SEC Team.

A setter from Muncie, Ind., Bergren started all 31 matches for the Wildcats in 2013 and led the team with 1,215 assists. She was second on the team with 24 service aces to go along with 192 digs, 130 kills and 77 blocks.

UKVB Preseason SEC
For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


18 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Kelsey Wolf

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Leading up to Kentucky's season-opener on August 29, we asked each member of the team what Kentucky Volleyball meant to them. First up is redshirt sophomore Kelsey Wolf: 

"Kentucky Volleyball to me means passion and community. We always have each other's backs on and off the court. Everything from matches and training to the classroom, we do with passion."

Wolf, from Cincinnati, Ohio, earned All-SEC Academic Team honors and played in 16 of UK's 31 matches with 12 starts last season. The defensive specialist had 83 digs for a 1.60 digs per set rate, the fifth-best total on the team as a redshirt freshman in 2013. In a win over Texas A&M, Wolf logged a career-best 12 digs and one service ace, while she tallied nine digs in UK's NCAA Tournament Second Round match vs. Michigan State.

Preseason Team Update: August 11, 2014
The AVCA Preseason Poll was announced today, and for a program-record third consecutive year, Kentucky will begin the season ranked in the preseason top-25 after the Wildcats earned a No. 19 ranking.

UK's spot in the top 25 poll marks the fifth time in six years the Wildcats have earned a place in the preseason poll, all under 10th-year head coach Craig Skinner. Before 2009, Kentucky's first time in the preseason top-25 under Skinner, UK had been ranked in the preseason poll just three times dating back to 1982. The poll also features five teams UK will face in 2014, four of them at home.

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For an archive of previous "What Kentucky Volleyball Means to Me" entries and team updates throughout the preseason, follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


19 Days to 2014 UK Volleyball: Day Two of Practice

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Kentucky had its second day of practice Sunday, 19 days before Aug. 29th's season-opener. After two high-energy practices to open the season Saturday, it was more of the same for the Wildcats on Sunday. The day was capped by a dinner and team activities at the UK men's basketball team's Coal Lodge.


Tomorrow as the countdown continues to Aug. 29, we'll begin a daily feature with each member of the UK volleyball team. Each day, the student-athletes and coaches will share what Kentucky Volleyball means to them. First up Monday will be sophomore Kelsey Wolf.

Follow along with the full Countdown to 2014 UK Volleyball here, leading up to the August 29 season-opener. Additional updates throughout preseason practice can be found on Twitter at @KentuckyVB and on Instagram at @KentuckyVolleyball.


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