The Tennessee volleyball team has been nothing short of dominant this season. A key part of the Lady Vols’ success has been senior outside hitter and team captain Lily Felts.
Felts, who wears No. 15 on the court, is a passionate player and is the most valuable player on Tennessee’s roster. The four-year starter has grown into a true leader and is a crucial part of the Lady Vols’ offensive efforts. The Knoxville native is truly unique since she has climbed the volleyball ladder solely in East Tennessee.
Felts has a long history with the game of volleyball, as she got involved at a young age. She has played the sport for the majority of her life and has never looked back.
“I’ve played volleyball since I was 8 years old,” Felts said. “My dad was a semi-professional sand volleyball player in Clearwater, Florida, and when the first volleyball club in Knoxville opened called K2 Volleyball, me and my dad both joined immediately.”
Felts and her father Cory went through middle and high school as a father-daughter duo. She even played in club volleyball in the Knoxville area under her father’s coaching. In 2017, she won a state championship at Berean Christian School.
Felts committed to the University of Tennessee right out of high school. Felts noted that playing under her father was an integral part of making her the player she is today.
“Getting to play for my dad taught me a lot,” Felts said. “He held me to a much higher standard than I think I would have been held to under another coach. Coach's kids are always expected to do more, be more. So I was held to a really high standard, and he expected a lot of me. But he did it with love and I think it put me in a really good position to grow as a player.”
Felt’s effort on the court is not only seen in her game, but she has elevated her teammates as well. Senior setter Natalie Hayward, who is having a career year this season, has brought home four SEC Setter of the Week awards and two SEC Players of the Week awards. She credited Felts for her success.
“You know those awards have my name on it but it doesn’t happen without people like Lily,” Hayward said. “She is a big part of my success and the team’s success.”
Felts is grateful for her time at Tennessee and has appreciated every minute of being a Lady Vol.
“This experience has meant more to me than anyone could ever know,” Felts said. “I grew up a Lady Vol. I idolized Pat Summit and Kelsey Robinson, who played here and just won an Olympic gold medal. I was a ball girl when she was playing, and I used to throw balls back to her in Thompson-Boling."
“Being able to play here and be part of that Lady Vols legacy really means a lot to me. There are hundreds of other little girls just like me in Tennessee and Knoxville that want to be in my place. For them to look and be able to see that I was once them, I think it means a lot to the community and it means a lot to me.”
There’s no doubt that Felts is a true Vol for life and an inspiration to girls in the Knoxville area and Tennessee as a whole. Felts is currently in her senior year, and this could be her last season with the Lady Vols if she chooses not to use her extra season of eligibility the NCAA granted due to COVID-19.
Despite the uncertainty, Felts wants to give back to the community that raised her.
“I don’t know what the future holds,” Felts said. “After I graduate I plan on coaching a lot at the club that raised me, at K2. I plan on getting involved there and after a year, who knows where I’ll be.”