Lilley part of big changes for UK volleyball coaching staff

Published 3:30 pm Friday, July 7, 2023

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Playing professionally overseas for two years was “tough” in some ways for Madison Lilley, the former national player of the year who led Kentucky to the 2020 national volleyball championship.

Now the Kansas native is back in Lexington on coach Craig Skinner’s staff.

“It’s a great chance to take a break from playing professionally, and playing in Europe, to give me a sense of direction if I miss playing or not and if I don’t, that’s okay,” Lilley said. “This is really a good way not to just cut volleyball cold turkey and give me a good idea for what I envision for my future.”

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Lilley said winning the national championship in April and then being in Germany in August to start her professional career was a little different than she expected.

“There were ten nationalities on my team. Six languages were spoken. The first week at practice everyone was speaking all those languages at once,” she said. “I was one of two Americans on the team. I took Spanish in high school, but that was it.

“The coach was from Spain. He stopped practice and said we were either speaking English or Serbian because we had three Serbians on the team. I thought in what world could this happen. I quickly realized this is serious. That was all just crazy to me.

“It was a gigantic adjustment period but it was also kind of funny. Things happen over there that would never happen here.”

Kentucky volleyball also faces an adjustment period this year. First, Anders Nelson, Skinner’s associate head coach for seven years and staff member for 11 years, is gone. He’s now the head coach at Vanderbilt, while Ben Josephson is UK’s new associate coach after a 16-year stint as the head coach of the Trinity Western men’s team.

“It’s different for sure. Ben is awesome and adds so much value to us. He looks at things differently,” Lilley said. “He is awesome with our team. The players really respect him. Sometimes adding things and wording things differently helps and our girls will be volleyball players because of things they learn from him.”

Kentucky also won’t be playing in Memorial Coliseum this season because of renovations being made to the facility. Instead, UK will play its home matches at Rupp Arena.

“I am excited for it. Memorial will be brand new and better. Not all change is bad,” she said, “Our team is ready to take the challenge. We will be on the road a lot. This is an opportunity to kick things into high gear as we change our identity the next couple of years not playing in Memorial.”