With just a little more than five months until the season opener, fans of the Kentucky volleyball program will have the opportunity to get a sneak peek at the 2016 squad beginning this week as the Wildcats host a pair of spring matches in Memorial Coliseum. UK begins its spring slate with a date against Xavier on Thursday at 7 p.m. Kentucky will then welcome Louisville to Memorial Coliseum on Sunday for a 4 p.m. tilt.
Fans are encouraged to attend the home dates against the Musketeers and Cardinals. Admission is free to all patrons and the doors to Memorial Coliseum will open one hour prior to first serve.
The Wildcats concluded 2015 with a 21-10 mark, finishing second in the Southeastern Conference at 14-4 in league play. Kentucky made its unprecedented 11th-consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament boasting four players who earned All-SEC recognition. Three of those recipients return in 2016 in Kaz Brown, Ashley Dusek and Brooke Morgan.
Dusek and Brown are coming off historic seasons for the Cats. Dusek was named SEC Libero of the Year. The Wildcats have now won the award in five of the last six seasons. Brown became one of the most prolific middle blockers not only in program history, but also nationally. In only her second season, Brown ranked in the top five among all players with a 1.61 blocks per set average.
Kentucky will also see the return of outside hitter Darian Mack who led UK with 3.24 kills per set in 2015. Anni Thomasson will anchor the outside and will begin her final season with a chance to set numerous records in the 25-point rally scoring era including being just 194 kills shy of 1,000. Emily Franklin returns to the middle having started 27 matches a season ago and totaling 1.78 kills per set while also contributing 1.01 blocks per frame. Sophomore Olivia Daily will shift from a defensive and serving specialist to run the offense at setter.
The Xavier Musketeers went 18-12 in 2015, falling to Villanova in the semifinals of the Big East Conference Tournament, where junior Abbey Bessler was named to the all-tournament team.
The Louisville Cardinals finished up their regular season with a 25-7 record and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, falling to No. 21 Illinois. The Cardinals have three returning All-Region selections.
For the latest on the Kentucky volleyball team, follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and on the web at UKathletics.com.
University of Kentucky
Assistant Media Relations Director