By LARRY VAUGHT
Kentucky volleyball standouts Leah Edmond and Madison Lilley were among 17 players that attended the national volleyball team spring training camp in March and coach Craig Skinner knows it was a huge plus for both players — and his team.
“When you are playing with the elite players in the country and everybody is in the top one percent of the players in the country, it forces you to get out of your comfort zone,” said Skinner. “It is a lot easier than the coach telling them they have to play harder or at a higher level. You don’t have to do that against elite competition. Mentally and physically it just gets you to another level.”
Edmond, the 2019 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, said the camp not only was fun let her work with a “whole different group” of players.
“Also in international play you have to be able to pass, so I had to work on that a lot,” Edmond said. “Being around different type of players is good and different opinions from coaches on your game is always good.
“You are only there for a week, so you run their system. You play in a different way. I was passing most of the time. Here I am just hanging out on the back line waiting to hit. It was really challenging and I really enjoyed it.”
Lilley said it was beneficial to be “exposed” to different players and playing styles.
“It was cool just to get used to the way USA gym runs things instead of crazy competition because we were not playing against anyone except ourselves,” Lilley, the 2019 American Volleyball Coaches Association Southeast Region Player of the Year. “It’s strictly USA system. But at the same time I love being in the gym here in Lexington, too.”
Skinner, who took his whole team on a two-week exhibition trip to Brazil, said he could sense a difference in Edmond and Lilley when they returned from the USA workouts.
“They saw a different level that can internally motivate them with a coach telling them to do something. And that presence has an impact on people around them and helps our whole team,” Skinner said.