Grome, Cats ready for expanded SEC

Published 3:11 pm Friday, March 15, 2024

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All-American setter Emma Grome is glad Kentucky has spring exhibition matches, including one at Transylvania University on April 5 against rival Louisville, to get a head start on next season.

“I am really excited about this season. We have mainly sophomores and seniors, so that is a nice mix of experience and youth,” Grome said. “We also have some really good recruits coming in. We are working on some cool stuff this spring.”

Kentucky has won seven straight Southeastern Conference championships, but that streak will be severely tested next season when Texas and Oklahoma join the SEC. Texas has won consecutive national titles and two of Grome’s former UK teammates — Madi Skinner and Reagan Rutherford — will be playing for the Longhorns. Skinner transferred from the UK after one season and has been on both national championship teams, while Rutherford transferred this summer.

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Texas has also been ranked No. 8 or higher every year since 2006 and has been to the Final Four 11 times during that streak.

“It will be different but an exciting opportunity with the new teams in the conference,” Grome said. “We won’t be playing every team twice next season, I don’t think, but we are always ready for a challenge.”

Kentucky could also get a boost from an overseas trip to Japan in May.

“We will get to play a couple of matches and explore a couple of cities in Japan. I have never been out of the country, so it will definitely be fun and a good team bonding experience,” she said.

Grome will actually make her first trip out of the country next month when she goes to Costa Rica for a NIL opportunity through the W1974 Collective, a group set up to help female student-athletes at Kentucky.

“That should be pretty cool, too,” she said.

The junior setter would like to think another “cool” experience will be getting to play in the renovated Memorial Coliseum again. Kentucky played home matches at Rupp Arena last season due to construction work at Memorial, which never had air conditioning but will when the renovations are finished.

“I am really excited about this. Air conditioning will be so nice even though at times it was so hot it really was a unique home-court advantage for us. Teams would come in and not be used to that heat (in August and September),” Grome said.