In volleyball, it’s important to have two things with a team on the court at all times: talent and good connections.
Talent obviously goes a long way in helping teams win, as the top teams in the country are loaded with talent. With no lack of talent at the NCAA Division 1 level, the thing that often allows a team to go above and beyond is how connected teammates are, and that’s something Kentucky is working on this year.
“We’re really working on small things right now to just improve our connections across the court,” sophomore Madison Lilley said at UK volleyball’s Media Day. “There’s always room for improvement but it’s definitely going to get better and just working perfect the small things.”
As the setter, it’s important for Lilley to have the strongest connections with her teammates, as her main job is to set her teammates up for kills.
As a freshman, Lilley had great connections with Leah Edmond, Avery Skinner and others as she recorded 1,445 assists to her teammates, which is the second best single season mark in Kentucky’s 25-point rally scoring era.
Lilley was third in the NCAA and first in the SEC in assists per set, and she finished the season as an AVCA Second Team All-American.
Lilley admits to being more confident heading into her second season, and she believes she has some room to grow.
“The relationships that I have with my hitters on and off the court is definitely built a lot more than it has last year,” Lilley said.
One of the relationships Lilley has invested time in is with UK’s star, Leah Edmond.
In Lilley’s first year, the two underclassmen connected on many exciting plays that ended in a point for UK. It can be difficult for a freshman setter to find the sweet spots for a player of Edmond’s caliber, but Lilley performed well and is trusted by the team’s biggest offensive weapon.
“She’s going to put the balls where I need them, I really trust her,” Edmond said.
Another thing that makes Lilley and Edmond’s connection strong is how much both athletes push each other in practice and in the games.
“She definitely pushes you and she will definitely tell you, ‘Hey, you got to pick it up, we need you right now’ and I really like that,” Edmond said. “I like being so secure with my setter and knowing that she has my back, I got her back.”
With a year’s experience and a stronger relationship, expect the Lilley-Edmond connection to be even better during this season. The two have already teamed up for numerous kills this season, and will continue to do so as they chase their goals for the 2018 season.