Following an emotional victory over the No. 1 team in the country the week before, UK head coach Craig Skinner was worried about his team’s energy heading into Sunday’s match against the Tennessee Volunteers.
“I was a little worried about that,” said coach Skinner. “You know, it was a week long and it seemed like forever since we competed.”
Luckily for him, his No. 6 Kentucky Wildcats had no problem defeating the Tennessee Volunteers in straight sets (25-21, 25-18, 30-28) in front of 2,422 fans in Memorial Coliseum for its 12-straight victory.
“I’m glad we came out and got the job done,” said coach Skinner. “I think it was another test for our team to know how you handle coming off of a big victory and then still perform at a level capable of beating a Tennessee team who is very difficult to play against. They provide a lot of challenges. I’m proud of the team for responding.
Sophomore Leah Edmond led the way for the Cats offensively, recording nine kills in the first set alone, and 19 for the match while hitting .372. The outside hitter also added eight digs, a service ace and one block in the victory.
Middle blocker Kaz Brown made UK history in the match, becoming UK’s all-time leading blocker in every category of the 25-point rally-scoring era after tallying six blocks for the game. Her two solo stuffs moved her total to 56 in her career, surpassing the previous record of 55 from Becky Pavan. Brown had a solid game offensively as well, hammering down 13 kills on a .370 attacking clip.
Madison Lilley had yet another fantastic game, dishing out 48 assists to an offense that tallied 55 total kills, matching the school’s three-set record set last year against Ole Miss. The freshman also added six digs, two blocks, a pair of kills and an ace.
“We were passing really well. Our defense was on fire and we’ve been working a lot on that in practice so it really showed through,” said Lilley.
Defensively, senior libero Ashley Dusek led the Wildcats with 15 digs, while junior McKenzie Watson and freshman Gabby Curry each contributed seven.
Senior Darian Mack added another spark offensively for UK, recording seven kills on a .200 attacking clip. Her leadership to the freshman, however, proved invaluable against a team that dashed UK’s hopes of a share of the SEC title last year.
“Well reminding them of what happened last year,” said Mack. “You know, going down to Knoxville and they took it to us. Just letting them know that we play them once so we have to take this opportunity and show what we can do.”
With the win, UK improves to 17-2 on the year and 8-0 in the SEC. The victory also marks the 13th season where Kentucky has won 17 or more matches under Craig Skinner. The Wildcats will be back in action on Friday when they take on the LSU Tigers at the Maravich Center, where the Tigers are a perfect 6-0 this season. First serve is set for 8:00 pm.