(LEXINGTON, Ky.) – Poor Craig Skinner. The UK Volleyball coach can’t catch a decent break. After six tough games on the road against quality competition to open the season, his team finally returned to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum. But instead of the hoped-for packed house on a weekend night, the powers that be who make up the schedule put the kibosh on the season home opener.
Kentucky (5-2) played Cleveland State (2-5) at noon today. You read that right—AT NOON! Who in their right mind schedules a game at noon on a regular workday? It’s bad enough that it’s Cleveland State, but are you intentionally not wanting people to come? Are only retirees and the unemployed welcome to attend? Even if you showed up, how in the world are you going to find on-campus parking at that time of the day?
That’s not all. In this round robin format, the volleyball team will have to share the big stage with big brother and sister. Kentucky will play Florida Gulf Coast University at 8:30 pm tonight, right after an exhibition game by the softball team a couple of hours earlier. Tomorrow it’s Kentucky versus Indiana in a marquee matchup at 4 pm. Unfortunately, fans will need to choose between football tailgating at Kroger Field or watching the IU red menace in a stifling hot Memorial Coliseum.
I know these Bluegrass Battles require some odd start times. But for a program on the rise, playing an exciting and fast-paced sport, competing for an elusive national title, featuring elite athletes and a coach at the top of his game—you’d think they’d deserve a little more love.
“I’ve seen worse,” Coach Skinner deadpanned, when asked to assess the opening-day crowd. “Ten a.m. matches isn’t great. It was nice to at least have the band there to spark something. I told the team ‘you’re going to have to create some of your own energy because it is a noon match, and we’re not going to get the people who have to work during the day.’ To be able to play at an efficient high level was more important than the energy.”
Fortunately for Coach Skinner, his team put the kibosh on Cleveland State. Behind Leah Edmonds’ 14 kills and Madison Lilley’s 38 assists, the Wildcats overwhelmed the Vikings in three straight sets (25-17, 25-19, 25-9). Duke transfer, Leah Meyer, is a force up front. I’m telling you right now—she’s a gamechanger!
Oh yeah, one final thing. Can anyone turn up the A/C in Memorial Coliseum? It sure was hot in the building today, but I promise you this—volleyball action will be heating up even more in the weeks to come.
Dr. John Huang is a columnist for Nolan Group Media. If you enjoy his writing, you can read more at www.huangswhinings.com or follow him on Twitter @KYHuangs.