Thanks to coach Craig Skinner’s quickness, I survived Harper Hempel’s try at knocking me out of media day

Senior Harper Hempel, center, had to laugh at how close she came to hitting me with a serve Monday — and so did coach Craig Skinner. (Shawn Smith Photo)


Thankfully I survived Kentucky volleyball media day.

No, it was not like UK men’s basketball media day or SEC football media day where the sheer number of media members is overwhelming. No, it was not a case of having one or two stories to have finished almost immediately after media day ended. No, it was not having to fight to get a specific interview.

This time — thanks to volleyball coach Craig Skinner — I survived a brush with death. Okay, that might be a bit of an embellishment, but it seemed that way at the time.

I had finished two terrific interviews with senior Ashley Dusek and freshman Gabby Curry. Skinner and I were standing on an empty court talking about each player and the team’s upcoming season.

All of a sudden I heard someone yell. Then Skinner miraculously reached out and deflected a bullet serve from senior Harper Hempel that was headed right for my head. It was the best save of Skinner’s coaching career — or at least it was to me.

Hempel said she was “so sorry” and was not trying to hit me.

I was not fooled. She might have this sweet, innocent look and smile, but I knew she was a killer. She was giggling — or maybe just outright laughing.

“Oh, she knew what she was doing,” Skinner said. “Her brother played quarterback at Harvard. They hit what they are aiming at.”

She tried to say she was getting things set up for the media skills competition. Or at least she made some excuse.

But she’s played in 30 matches at UK, a top 25 team, the last two years. She was a four-year starter at Ryle High School in northern Kentucky and three-time all-state selection. Don’t tell me she doesn’t know where she’s hitting the ball.

Now if had been a media member like Cameron Mills, T.J. Beisner, Curtis Burch, Alex Risen, Lee K. Howard or Bradley McKee I might have thought it was a fluke. Then again, if it had been one of them I would have had more than enough time to move out of the way.

No, someone had to have put Harper up to that mischievous serve and thankfully her coach was there to save my life — and hopefully make her run extra or do extra push-ups when practice did end.

1 comment

  1. Larry, you could have her charged with wanton endangerment. (Just kidding, of course.)

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