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Volleyball seniors leave impressive legacy

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The Kentucky volleyball senior class has had many good times during their four years in Lexington. Unfortunately, Saturday night’s game against Illinois in the second round of the 2021 NCAA Women’s Volleyball Tournament was not one of those moments.

Kentucky fell 3-1 to Illinois in Saturday’s second round, ending the season for the Cats. UK finished 25-5 less than eight months after winning the national championship.

seniors Cameron Scheitzach, Alli Stumler and Lauren Tharp may have played their last game at Memorial on Saturday, though each will be eligible to return and play another season due to NCAA rules about seasons lost due to COVID-19. None of the three has announced their decision.

After the game, British head coach Craig Skinner talked about how important this group has been to the Kentucky program.

“Just really proud of this group,” Skinner said. “We knew at some point that the season was going to end. We didn’t think it would happen tonight.”

This senior class is one of the most influential groups in the history of the program. In their four years at Lexington, the 2021 senior class has won 100 games, four SEC championships and a national championship.

The team faced unprecedented challenges this year as last season ended in April. Skinner was proud of how the team was able to run, adapt and move forward with great success.

“I’m so proud of this group because to come back and do what we did, with people like Emma (Grome) and Eleanor (Beavin) and Erin Lambo and Jordyn Williams added to the group,” said Skinner. “It’s hard for teams to cheer in such a short amount of time. It was certainly a challenging year, but at the same time, how rewarding it is that we can do what we do and win at the pace we’ve won over the past 12 months.”

Stumler left a lasting influence on the program. During the 25-point rally score era, Stumler is third in British history in kills, second in attack attempts, second in aces, third in points and ninth in digs.

After Saturday’s game, she struggled to describe how special her time in Lexington was.

“I don’t know if there are words. I had no idea it would end like this and be like this,” said Stumler. “Competing for national championships, winning the SEC four times in my career. It’s been an incredible ride and it makes it a lot better when you have cool people and people who care about others and really care about the sport. It couldn’t have been Despite what happened tonight, I couldn’t have wished for better.”

After the game, Scheitzach, Stumler and Tharp returned from the dressing room to thank the British fans and let the Big Blue Nation greet them for their performance. That moment was emotional for Stumler in several ways.

“I think my words were, this stinks awful. It’s clearly phenomenal to have the fan base that we have,” said Stumler. “I say it every day, the Big Blue Nation is no joke. Our fans really are the best. It was great to experience it one last time with them.”

Scheitzach was the epitome of “team player” during her time in Lexington. She played behind All-American Madison Lilley for three years and behind Grome, the SEC Setter of the Year, this year. Although her time on the field was limited, she made an impact on the practice floor every day.

Tharp has made significant contributions to the rear during her career in the UK, collecting over 700 digs. She also proved to be a very powerful server during her career in the UK with 63 service aces.

While the 2021 season did not end the way Scheitzach, Stumler and Tharp had hoped, they will bring many fond memories, including the 2020 National Championship.

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