Brooklyn DeLeye Shines in Postseason Debut
Kentucky volleyball freshman Brooklyn DeLeye had a magnificent season for the Cats. In her first season of collegiate volleyball, DeLeye showed steady improvement and, by the end of the season, was the team leader in kills and points.
DeLeye earned Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year honors, was named first-team All-SEC and is likely to earn some of the upcoming All-American honors.
Still, she had never played in a postseason match until Thursday night’s NCAA first round matchup with Wofford. Would there be nerves or a drop in production for DeLeye?
The simple answer on Thursday night was a simple no.
DeLeye registered a game-high 13 kills, with just two errors, on 31 swings (.355 hitting percentage) as Kentucky swept Wofford at Rupp Arena. DeLeye added nine digs and a block assist in her first career postseason match. The freshman took a veteran approach to Thursday’s match.
“I think we just went into this game like it was our last,” DeLeye said. “I think just going in together and playing as a team really helped.”
UK head coach Craig Skinner liked the approach that DeLeye, and the entire team, took this week in practice leading up to the NCAA Tournament opener.
“The team convinced us every day this week that they were ready to compete,” Skinner said. “The demeanor didn’t change in practice. Like we told them, there should be some nerves. You’re competitors and and this is the NCAA Tournament, so embrace it and compete.”
One of the things that DeLeye has developed this season is the ability to kill the ball from the back row. That was evident on Thursday night on multiple occasions when setter Emma Grome set DeLeye, who terminated the ball from the back row. It’s something that continues to improve, according to Skinner.
“It’s been an evolving thing throughout the season,” Skinner said. “The connection that Emma has and knowing where to set the ball and Brooklyn’s alignment to where Emma is located on the floor has gotten really, really good. She can kill the ball and she makes very few errors out of that. It’s speed, it’s efficiency but the ability for Emma to feel her timing and the ability for Brooklyn to align herself is a huge piece of it.”
Kentucky now faces a quick turnaround, facing Baylor less than 24 hours after beating Wofford. For DeLeye, playing on consecutive nights will be new, but it’s nothing she can’t handle.
“I haven’t been here before, so I’m up for the challenge,” DeLeye said.
It’s that attitude, in addition to a continued improvement, that has allowed DeLeye to become a leader for this Kentucky volleyball team. The Cats will need DeLeye to continue to be her best throughout the NCAA Tournament. The pressure of the postseason did not phase her on Thursday.