Thanks to a fantastic all-around performance both offensively and defensively, the No. 15 Kentucky women’s volleyball team improved to 3-0 in the Southeastern Conference Friday night with a sweep of the South Carolina Gamecocks (25-14, 25-19, 25-19).
Coming off an impressive 3-0 victory at No. 19 Missouri last week, the Cats picked up right where they left off, jumping out to an early 11-3 lead in the first set behind some scrappy defensive play. That proved to be the theme of the night, as the Wildcats held South Carolina to a hitting percentage of just .099 on the match.
“Our team executed, holding an SEC team under 100 is a really good night defensively,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said.
While Gabby Curry is usually the one leading the defensive charge for the Wildcats, it was the role players that made their presence felt on the back line tonight, as setter Madison Lilley led the Cats with 12 digs and three blocks. Senior Leah Edmond added 10 of her own, Alli Stumler contributed eight and Curry and Lauren Tharp each had six.
Offensively, Lilley directed the Wildcat attack to the tune of 44 kills on a .303 hitting clip. The setter registered a double-double with 35 assists to go along with her 12 digs. After suffering a leg injury a week ago, Edmond proved to be just fine, recording 14 kills with just two errors on a blistering .429 hitting percentage. Stumler was the other Wildcat to reach double figures, adding ten terminations to go along with a service ace.
Middle blocker Kendyl Paris had a stellar night, recording six kills on just ten swings with no errors, marking a career-high .600 hitting clip. Senior Leah Meyer registered just four kills on the evening, but made her presence felt with six blocks and four digs.
Kentucky will be back in action on Sunday when they welcome the No. 12 Florida Gators to town. The Cats have won four of the last six matchups against the Gators, with the most recent coming in the form of a sweep at Memorial Coliseum last year.
Florida comes into Sunday’s match leading the conference in blocks per set, an area of the game that the Wildcats have been slowing improving upon.
“We have some very capable blockers,” Skinner said. “Blocking is probably the hardest skill to master other than serve receive so it just takes time. Half an inch makes the difference between a stuff block and a kill so if your hand’s in the right position you get stuffs and if it’s not then you give the team an angle to hit to. So it’s been really good the last few matches.”
With Friday night’s victory, Kentucky improves to 10-4 on the season and sits atop the conference at 3-0. First serve Sunday inside Memorial is set for 1:00 pm and will be shown live on the SEC Network.