Vicky Graff Photo
Why does this Kentucky volleyball team have so much fun during matches, especially during this current 18-match win streak going into Thursday afternoon’s NCAA Tournament third-round matchup with Arkansas?
“I think we are all goofy people and love just being with each other,” said senior Reagan Rutherford. “(Coach) Craig (Skinner) recruits people who enjoy the sport. We have amazing athletes who want to celebrate every point.
“We are just a goofy group and that’s what we will be remembered by.”
Another senior, Azhani Tealer, says she has never been part of a “goofier” team and both she and Rutherford were on UK’s 2020 national championship team that got to celebrate a lot.
“Sometimes we are preparing and I feel like we are not focused but that’s just how this team is,” Tealer said. “We focus but we are really loose and sometimes it works to our advantage.”
Skinner says if it is not his goofiest team, it has to be close.
“I mean the personalities on this team are – you also recruit characters. You want people you look forward to being around and humor is a huge part of happiness,” Skinner said.
“You strive for fulfillment and the execution of playing the game at the highest level and teaching and getting better, but if you don’t have some humor involved then it gets tough for them because they work their asses off all the time and for us because of the hours that we put in to try and be better. So, humor is a huge piece. I’m so glad we’ve got some characters on this team.”
Tealer explained after Friday’s NCAA sweep over Baylor that the team knew Skinner would come into the locker room, slam his clipboard, and yell, “Let’s go,” because he always does that.
“He walked in and we were all just silent,” Tealer said. “Then we all jumped on him. We just have a lot of fun and stay really loose.”
They know playing at Nebraska will be a difficult environment. UK lost 3-1 at No. 1 Nebraska earlier this year.
“We are playing with a chip on our shoulders anywhere we go and feel like we have something to prove,” Rutherford said. “We have had big crowds (at road matches) and we are used to that. We are just getting started.”
Tealer says UK normally has a target on it wherever it plays.
“We trust in each other and the coaching staff to get it done. We have been leaning on each other to get it done and have done really well,” Tealer said.