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Strong Serving Leads the Cats Past USC

The University of Kentucky women's volleyball team celebrates a point during the first match of the Bluegrass Battle on Friday, August 25, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky defeated Arkansas State 3-0.

Thanks to eight aces on the night, the No. 13 Kentucky volleyball team defeated the No. 18 USC Trojans in four sets (25-16, 11-25, 25-19, 25-19) late Saturday night. With the win, UK moves to 5-1 on the season and finishes the Bluejay Invitational with a 2-1 record. The victory also gives the Cats their second win over a Top 25 opponent in eight days after last week’s win over then-No. 23 Utah.

Kentucky absolutely dominated the Trojans in the first set, thanks in large part to sophomore Leah Edmond’s eight kills. The Cats found themselves ahead at 18-9 after an ace from Edmond. UK went on to win the set 25-16 and hit .303 as a team, while holding the Trojans to just .114.

The second set was a carbon copy of the first. This time, however, the team in control was USC. At the media timeout, Kentucky found themselves in an eight-point hole, trailing 15-8. Errors plagued the Cats in the set, as they tallied nine as a team in just the second set alone. Because of the errors, UK hit -.103 compared to USC’s .259, and lost the set 25-11.

After the rough performance in set two, head coach Craig Skinner turned to his bench to find a spark in the offense. Senior Darian Mack proved to be just that, as the outside hitter recorded not only the first two points of the set, but five total in the frame. Kentucky found some separation early after taking a 12-6 lead, but a quick 3-0 run by the Trojans made it 12-9. After trading points, Mack stepped up once again, and hammered home a kill to give the Cats some breathing room at 14-10. USC pulled within two at 15-13, but the Cats surged ahead thanks to another ace from Edmond that forced a Trojan timeout at 17-13. Kentucky went on to win the set 25-19. After the nine errors in the previous set, UK had just two in the third, which led them to a .471 hitting percentage.

The Cats established themselves early in the fourth set once again, as three consecutive kills from freshman Avery Skinner gave Kentucky a 7-4 lead. The lead ballooned to six at 15-9, and the Cats would hold that lead until a USC ace made it 22-18. Not wanting the Trojans to gain any momentum, Skinner called a quick timeout and Edmond finished the set and the match with an ace, leading UK to a 25-19 set four victory.

Craig Skinner was pleased with his team’s performance not only in tonight’s win, but in the match earlier in the day as well.

“I was pretty proud of our mentality all day long,” Skinner said. “We continued to battle, fight and find ways to score points against a very good USC team.”

Leah Edmond was once again the leading scorer for the Cats, as the sophomore tallied 21 kills on a .347 clip, along with four aces. Avery Skinner had another impressive outing for UK with 15 kills while hitting .345. Madison Lilley added another double-double after recording 47 assists and 10 digs.

Sophomore outside hitter Leah Edmond celebrates after a scored point during the game against Utah on Friday, August 25, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Kentucky won the match 3-2.

Avery Skinner cited her team’s support as a big reason for her impressive performance in the Bluejay Invitational.

“This weekend I put last weekend behind me and really just focused on playing my game. My team was also super supportive. Madison makes it easy to produce kills. Her consistency helps because I can go in knowing the ball will be placed well. Kaz and Emily did a great job of pulling the bock, a lot of kills I had were because of them,” said Skinner.

Kentucky will be back in action on Monday when they travel to Lawrence, Kansas to take on the No. 8 Kansas Jayhawks. First serve is set for 2 pm.

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