Relentless Serving Leads Kentucky Past Purdue and Into the Sweet Sixteen

Kentucky Wildcats 78, UNC-Greensboro Spartans 61
December 1, 2018
Cameron Mills Radio Show – December 2, 2018
December 2, 2018
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Relentless Serving Leads Kentucky Past Purdue and Into the Sweet Sixteen

The University of Kentucky volleyball team celebrates after a scored point during the second round match against Purdue on Saturday, December 1, 2018 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Purdue 3-0. Photo by Hunter Mitchell.

For the second consecutive year and fifth time in program history, the Kentucky volleyball team has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen. An impressive performance against Purdue in straight sets (25-20, 25-21, 25-14) Saturday sets up a rematch with the seven-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers for a chance to head to the Elite Eight.

“A couple of things. One, it’s unfortunate that two teams ranked in the top 12 have to play in the second round and that one of us has to go home in a tournament like this,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We knew it was going to be a battle and our team really stepped up and made a statement today. I’ve got to give our staff, Anders (Nelson), Carly (Cramer), Jeff (Fiorenza) and Connor (Zimmick) a lot of credit for the game plan that was put together to hold a team like Purdue to only 27 kills in a three-set match. That’s very difficult to do against a top program. A lot of credit to our staff and team for executing the game plan.”

The Boilermakers came into Memorial boasting wins over No. 25 Alabama, and at No. 4 Penn State, but Kentucky’s serve prevented Purdue from getting into any sort of offensive rhythm.

“I didn’t feel like we served great last night,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We knew that was going to be important and our team has been a great serving team all year. But eight aces, six errors against a top 15 team in the country is really important. We only hit .225 which is low for us but getting those points on serving was a big deal.”

The Cats were led by senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan’s career-high four aces. Freshman Alli Stumler added a pair of her own, while Lauren Tharp and Gabby Curry each contributed one.

Offensively, sophomore Madison Lilley did a masterful job of directing Kentucky’s offense against the solid block of the Boilermakers. While Purdue finished with nine team blocks, Lilley dished out a match-high 37 assists, helping four Wildcats to amass eight or more kills.

Leah Edmond led the charge offensively again, recording 13 kills on 40 swings. Morgan added 12, while Stumler and Caitlyn Cooper each contributed eight.

Gabby Curry had yet another impressive performance on the back line, picking up a match-high 18 digs. Stumler added 15, and Lilley and Tharp each had five.

With the win, the Wildcats improve to 26-4 on the year and will travel to Minnesota for a rematch with Nebraska. The Cornhuskers defeated No. 4 Kentucky last season in Lexington and went on to win the National Championship.

“Having all week to prepare is definitely going to be key for us,” Lilley said. “Last year we came off a five-set win against BYU and we turned around and faced them and took a set off of them. And I think that having a week to prepare is gonna really help us. And I know that we’re fired up and we’re excited to go to Minnesota and play there. That’s gonna be a really fun atmosphere. And it’s gonna be a really good matchup. We’re excited about it.”

First serve will be at Sports Pavillion on Friday at a time yet to be decided.

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