University of Kentucky pair Leah Edmond and Madison Lilley hope to reach “another level” when their collegiate season starts in August after attending the USA team spring training camp.
The two standouts from the 2018 campaign were among 17 players picked in March, which included Jordan Thompson, Mikaela Foecke and Dana Rettke, who are currently playing in the FIVB Volleyball Nations League.
Edmond, who was named the 2019 Southeastern Conference Player of the Year, reflected on her “challenging” time away in Anaheim, California.
“In international play you have to be able to pass, so I had to work on that a lot,” the outside hitter told Vaught’s Views. “Being around different types 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.”
The #USAVwnt spring training block concluded yesterday with 17 athletes being evaluated for additional summer training with the national team and possible competition roster spots. 10 of the 17 players have remaining collegiate eligibility.
— USA Volleyball (@usavolleyball) March 24, 2019
Lilley concurred with her Kentucky teammate, believing the exposure to different systems and players can only benefit their progression next term.
“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,” said Lilley.
“It’s strictly USA system. But at the same time, I love being in the gym here in Lexington, too.”
The University of Kentucky coach, Craig Skinner, was full of praise for the pair and insists the camp will aid his team as they prepare for the new season.
Skinner’s side were defeated by eventual finalists, University of Nebraska, in the regional semi-finals in 2018.
“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.
“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.”