By LARRY VAUGHT
She’s known for weeks that she would be training with the U.S. national volleyball team in Anaheim, Calif., this month in hopes of earning a spot on the team that will play in Peru in July and August.
Kentucky junior setter Madison Lilley has a familiar face — UK libber Gabby Curry — also training and competing. The duo just recently got back from Brazil with their Kentucky teammates after an exhibition trip there.
“I hope to make the roster and do big things. It will be tough not being with my girls here (at UK) but it will be a good experience and I am looking forward to it,” Lilley said. “Hopefully I be there all summer.
“It is definitely challenge. I push in the USA gym just like I push in this (UK) gym. It’s cool to go compete with different people. It is extremely motivating and makes you come in the gym and work harder every day. It’s really cool to go do something like that.”
Lilley and UK teammate Leah Edmond were among 17 players that attended the national volleyball team spring training camp in March. Lilley came back from that and went immediately to coach Craig Skinner to tell him about the drills used in the camp and how she thought they could help UK>
“They are drills that are fun but competitive and we always try to keep our practices competitive here. I always try to bring stuff back,” Lilley said. “I definitely wish I could stay in the gym all day. I text Craig before practice about when are you coming over. He is like, ‘I can’t. I have meeting.’ I am wanting him to get in the gym with me.
“Especially in the spring is a time to nail down things. You can look forward to the fall but the work you put in during the spring really shows. Always reminding yourself of that will motivate you to get to the gym early, stay late, get extra reps. Ultimately in the fall you are going so hard you can’t do that then.
“We run and lift in the spring and we really don’t do that heavy of lifting in the fall. It’s a whole different experience in the spring. We bulk up in the spring and then in the fall we lift light and lean out. It’s a lot more on the court stuff. In the spring we max out and getting big. It’s kind of trick of the trade. It’s interesting to see how different programs approach that.”
Lilley knew how much the exhibition trip to Brazil was going to help Kentucky, which has won the last two SEC championships. The team is loaded with returning talent plus a talented transfer and another terrific recruiting class going into next season.
Lilley noted before doing to Brazil that getting to play and practice together was a huge advantage going into next season when UK hopes to reach the Final Four.
“It will definitely diversity our play. International play is so different,” Lilley said before that trip. “It will good to expose people to that and it will help mature our freshmen coming in. I think it will add a new aspect to our game. Obviously on and off the court will be different because the food is different, housing is different. It will help us come closer together off the court.
“We really are together all the time all year. I think it is more the struggles we will have overseas just because food is so different. You have to be really careful what you eat. Obviously we are going to want to go explore different things. I think just the experience will bring us closer and that will be a really good thing for next year.”
Just like the experience Lilley and Curry are now having with USA volleyball and might have the rest of the summer should be for Kentucky next year.