By: Sean Cartell
SEC Digital Network
When the University of Kentucky volleyball team opens its 2013 home slate this weekend, fans will notice an Olympic feel to Memorial Coliseum, where the Wildcats averaged more than 1,600 fans last season.
Kentucky, which previously played on the same hardwood court as its women’s basketball program, will now utilize a volleyball-specific Gerflor Taraflex surface – the same floor used for volleyball at the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
“We’ve always had a great volleyball venue, but now we have more of a volleyball feel when you walk in the building,” said UK head coach Craig Skinner, the 2005 Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year. “It is just another cushion for landing in the sport of volleyball. The very top layer is a form of vinyl and underneath is a spongy, hard, composite-type material. You can slide on it like kind of like a wood floor, but underneath there is some cushion, which is pretty significant in our sport with all of the landing and pounding on the floor.”
The Wildcats are one of only a few collegiate volleyball programs nationally that utilize the Taraflex surface, including national powers Hawaii and Nebraska.
Skinner says that Kentucky’s players are enjoying the new surface in their home facility.
“They love it,” he said. “When you walk into a building, it feels like a big NCAA Volleyball event. It’s a great surface for the actual jump and landing, and going to the floor on it. On hard courts and even sport court, there is a little bit harder feel. For them, they don’t pay attention to that as much as just when we walk into Memorial, it feels like we are playing in a venue for volleyball.”
Creating a significant home-court environment and advantage has been central to Skinner’s process since being named the program’s head coach in advance of the 2005 season.
“I think it’s an important piece; volleyball has become a big event in Lexington,” Skinner said. “Adding this definitely makes the crowd feel like they are in a volleyball-specific facility supporting a great volleyball team. We have the added level of appreciation from our administration, which feels that our sport is important.”
The Wildcats (1-2) will play host to the Kentucky Classic beginning Friday in Memorial Coliseum, featuring East Tennessee State, Liberty and Virginia Commonwealth.