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Craig Skinner: Kentucky will have to “play aggressive and play physical” against Michigan

Craig Skinner (Vicky Graff Photo)

By CHANDLER WILCOX

Kentucky swept Southeast Missouri State Friday night (25-20, 25-15, 25-19) in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Volleyball Tournament in Memorial Coliseum to advance to play Big Ten foe Michigan Saturday night in the second round.

Looking forward to the matchup against the Wolverines, UK Coach Craig Skinner said the team will have to stay ready to battle, something he stressed leading into the first round also.

“We’ll have to, again, play physical and play aggressive and expect a back and forth match,” Skinner said.

Michigan, who swept Northern Kentucky in their first round matchup, is a very aggressive team also, led by sophomore outside hitter Paige Jones who is average 3.89 kills per set and senior outside hitter Sydney Wetterstrom who is averaging 2.75 kills per set.

Skinner talked about the fight the Wolverines play with and how effective their hitting has been, saying, “They have a couple good left-sides (hitters) that take rips and they’re an aggressive team.”

Kentucky has not fared well against Big Ten opponents this season, losing to Indiana and Purdue both in five sets in back-to-back matchups in non-conference play early in the season. Senior opposite hitter Caitlyn Cooper feels the team is ready for the challenge.

“We love it,” Cooper said. “We’re that type of team where we want that pressure.”

For senior outside hitter Leah Edmond, and the rest of her teammates that are also seniors, Saturday’s matchup is the last game they will play in Memorial Coliseum most likely.

Edmond feels it is important to not get caught up in the emotions and just playing the game.

The senior outside hitter even believes the idea of the game possibly being her last will have her more ready, saying, “I think it makes me want to play harder knowing it’s my last time playing in here.”

Skinner is not new to coaching in the NCAA Tournament, as he has already been preparing for the possible matchup tomorrow and will continue to get ready.

“We’ve spent all week breaking down all the teams that are here,” Skinner said. “We’ll take some time after the press conference and watch some video of them (Michigan) tonight.”

The Cats will battle the Michigan Wolverines for a spot in the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow night at 7 pm in Memorial Coliseum.

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