Vicky Graff Photo
After winning the 2020 national championship and then going out in the second round this season when it was the No. 7 overall seed, Kentucky coach Craig Skinner thought his young team could again be a national championship contender next season.
Yet I cannot imagine that coach Craig Skinner thought he would be putting together a team next season without Madi Skinner. She played a big role in UK’s national championship year as a true freshman and was probably Kentucky’s best attacker last season.
However, Madi Skinner has put her name into the transfer portal, a move UK officials confirmed to me on Christmas Eve.
Madi Skinner would have been UK’s top returning player next season and an obvious All-American candidate.
She was ranked No. 2 in her recruiting class and was the highest rated recruit Craig Skinner had ever brought to Kentucky.
Earlier another sophomore, Sophie Fischer, also announced she was transferring. The 6-5 middle blocker will play at Georgia next season. However, in two seasons she had played in only 18 matches and her departure made sense considering her lack of playing time.
But Madi Skinner was a star at UK and was only going to blossom more with the graduation of Alli Stumler, the SEC Player of the Year. Madi Skinner led UK in total kills and kills per set last season even with Stumler on the team. She also had the best hitting percentage on the team.
What makes this a bit more perplexing is that Madi Skinner’s older sister, Avery, transferred from UK after the national championship season. She was also an All-American but chose to continue her graduate studies at Baylor — the sisters are from Texas — and helped Baylor reach the Sweet Sixteen this season.
If Madi Skinner had transferred with her sister, one might assume it was for family reasons or to get closer to home. Instead, she stayed put at UK and now is transferring when Craig Skinner would have been counting on her as his team leader next season.
Kentucky will still have talent. Freshman Emma Grome was SEC Setter of the Year and freshman Elanor Bevin improved steadily at libero. Sophomore Reagan Rutherford will be UK’s most experienced returning attacker after finishing fourth on the team in total attacks last season.
A rising star could be freshman Erin Lamb. She played only sparingly this season but when Madi Skinner was injured, Lamb played so well against Tennessee that she was named SEC Player of the Week.
Craig Skinner has also signed another talented recruiting class and he will have the option of doing what coaches Mark Stoops and John Calipari have done — fill holes with seasoned transfers. However, the UK coach has not shown any propensity for doing that yet.