On a team whose underclassmen are often the ones in the spotlight, it was the seniors who stole the show during the Cats’ victory over the Alabama Crimson Tide on Friday (25-15, 23-25, 25-21, 25-20). With the win, the No. 10 Kentucky volleyball team improves to 13-2 on the year and 4-0 in the SEC.
The seniors were led by middle blocker Emily Franklin, who recorded a career-high 14 kills and another career-best of six digs. Kaz Brown had some success out of the middle as well, logging 10 kills and tying Franklin with a match-high five blocks. Senior Darian Mack had another solid performance in the starting lineup, as the outside hitter hammered down eight kills on 18 swings. Mack also had an impressive defensive performance with four digs and two blocks.
“Our seniors have been playing very well in practice and the last couple of matches,” said head coach Craig Skinner. “They are very composed and know how to prepare themselves throughout the day prior to matches and it’s showing with their play.”
Kentucky started the game on fire offensively. In the first set alone, the Wildcats recorded 16 kills with just two errors for a hitting percentage of .412. Much of that success was because of freshman Avery Skinner, who had six kills on eight swings, good for a .625 hitting clip. Skinner finished the match with a career-best 19 kills.
The Crimson Tide rebounded after the first, however, and stole a 25-23 set two victory over UK thanks to some strong serve-receive.
“I thought we actually served really well in that set and they received serve pretty flawlessly. And so you saw their offense just was clicking and our defense didn’t adjust very well,” said coach Skinner.
However, after the second set, UK never looked back. Following the second, Alabama didn’t hit above .125 for the rest of the match, due mostly to Kentucky’s imposing defensive performance.
No one had a more impressive defensive presence than Leah Edmond, though. Offensively, Edmond had just 11 kills on 39 swings with eight errors. But while Edmond certainly didn’t have her usual numbers offensively, it was her all-around game that impressed coach Skinner the most. The outside hitter had three aces, four blocks and a career-high 17 digs.
“You can impact the game so many different ways and Leah found several ways to do it tonight,” said Skinner.
“Sometimes when one part of your game isn’t working you gotta elevate the other parts. So I knew my hitting wasn’t where it usually is so I decided to focus on my defense and my serve receive and my serving and let the hitting come,” said Edmond.
Freshman Madison Lilley secured another double-double in the win with 54 assists and 11 digs. Lilley also added a pair of aces and an ace after resorting to a jump-serve mid-way through the match.
“Craig likes the jump top (serve) and Leah’s (Edmond) been pretty consistent with hers so we’re trying it out.”
The Wildcats will be back in action on Sunday when they take on the Auburn Tigers in Memorial Coliseum. The Tigers currently sit at third place in the conference, just a spot behind Kentucky. First serve is set for 2:00 pm.