Thanks to yet another strong offensive performance from its hitters, the 10-seeded Kentucky volleyball team defeated Murray State in straight sets (25-18, 25-17, 25-19) Friday to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for a matchup with Purdue.
“A lot of respect for Dave (Schwepker) and his program and what they’ve done,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “So congratulations to them and on their season. I thought we did a really good job of siding out, receiving serve and scoring when Murray was serving. They have some different serves that, you know, they serve from way off the court that are bombed which took a little bit to get used to, but for us to have 51 kills in that match is impressive defensively. And I thought we could’ve done a better job slowing them down, but hats off to them and the way they played the game.”
Sophomore Madison Lilley once again made her case as one of the best setters in the country, dishing out a match-high 43 assists and directing the offense to a hitting clip of .398. The setter also added three kills and a trio of digs in the winning effort.
Leah Edmond continued her stellar season, recording 17 kills with just five errors for a .324 attacking clip. Freshman Alli Stumler contributed 12 terminations of her own with just one error on 31 swings. The SEC Freshman of the Year also added 15 digs, good for her fourth career double-double. Senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan added 10 kills on a .667 attacking percentage.
Defensively, Kentucky was led once again by sophomore Gabby Curry, who recorded 16 digs to go along with four assists and a service ace. Freshman Lauren Tharp record eleven digs, while Morgan added seven.
With the victory, the Cats improve to 25-4 on the season and are currently riding a 22-match winning streak. They will take on the Boilermakers Saturday evening for a chance to head to the Sweet Sixteen. Stumler is excited for the unique challenge that the physical Boilermakers are sure to pose against the Kentucky hitters.
“I think it’s just going to be a different kind of match for us,” Stumler said. “We’re gonna have to do some different things to win but I’m so confident in the team that we can do those things. Obviously we don’t have a ton of time to prepare for that, but it’s nothing that we can’t do.”
Purdue finished the season ranked 12thin the AVCA Coaches Poll, and have wins over Alabama, Penn State and Michigan State. First serve is set for 7 pm inside Memorial Coliseum.