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Serving Leads Cats to Dominant Win Over No. 11 Florida

Memorial Coliseum was packed with 2,717 fans during the match against Florida on Wednesday, October 31, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated South Carolina 3-0. Photo by Hunter Mitchell.

When the Florida Gators come to town to take on the Kentucky volleyball team, the energy inside Memorial Coliseum is always a little bit more palpable. Every point seems to be worth more and the crowd seems to hold their breath a little longer each time the ball sails over the net. And in Wednesday’s match in front of a rowdy crowd of 2,717, that fact proved to be even more true.

“I definitely think we can go on three point runs and we can extend them to five, six points with the crowd and everything,” sophomore setter Madison Lilley said. “And when we get in ruts and they’re going on runs the crowd can step in and it kind of gives us the push we need. It’s really fun and it’s cool to have this exposure to our sport.”

The No. 12 Wildcats dominated No. 11 Florida in all facets of Wednesday’s game, sweeping the Gators (25-15, 25-18, 25-20) in large part due to a serving performance that kept Florida out of system for nearly the entire match.

Offensively, Kentucky was once again paced by junior outside hitter Leah Edmond, who hammered down 16 kills on a .244 hitting clip. Freshman Alli Stumler added eight, and Brooke Morgan and Kendyl Paris each contributed five a piece.

“Madison (Lilley) is a very smart setter. She’s a very good setter,” Edmond said. “Any set that she gives anybody is going to be good.”

Lilley led the Cats to a .274 hitting percentage as a team, dishing out 33 assists to go along with nine digs and a pair of kills.

The Gators came into Wednesday’s match as the best blocking team in the Southeastern Conference, averaging 2.8 blocks per set. In fact, at Ole Miss earlier in the season Florida set a new program record for most blocks in a game after recording 23 team blocks. And in the very next match against Missouri, the Gators set a new program record with 23.5 blocks. Against the Wildcats, however, Florida managed just two rejections on the night, opposed to the six that Kentucky sent back.

Edmond led Kentucky defensively as well, recording 10 digs for her second double-double of the season. Libero Gabby Curry and Lauren Tharp each added nine, and Stumler contributed seven.

It was the serve, however, that proved to be the difference. The Cats served up five aces as a team, and their ability to keep Florida from running an effective offense drastically improved the back line’s ability to keep the ball off the floor.

“Obviously, the serving pressure we applied kept their middles out of the match as much as possible,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “And you can tell – when they did pass – they were able to get their middles involved. Our team did a really good job. I loved our composure, focus and intensity. Our team has been ready to go for the last couple of days and it showed tonight.”

With the win, Kentucky firmly establishes its place atop the SEC, leading Florida and Missouri by two games with just seven matches left in the conference season. The Cats improve to 17-4 on the year and 11-0 in the league, and have now won 14-straight matches, matching the longest winning streak of coach Craig Skinner’s career with the Cats. Kentucky will be back in action on Sunday when they travel to Oxford, Mississippi for a matchup with the Ole Miss Rebels. First serve is set for 1 pm.

 

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