Just keep fighting. That was all UK head coach Craig Skinner asked of his team after facing its second 0-2 deficit in five days. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough to knock off the No. 4 Florida Gators (19-25, 23-25, 22-25) in front of the 5,329 fans in Memorial, the largest crowd in the Craig Skinner era. However, Skinner’s team never stopped pushing.
“There was absolutely no give up after getting down 2-0,” said coach Skinner. “We got a lead and had a chance but Florida responded. Our team is tough and they certainly didn’t shy away from the moment.”
The Wildcats were definitely fired up for the match that featured the two highest ranked teams in the SEC, but struggled offensively from the minute the first serve went across the net. As a team, Kentucky hit just .170, its lowest hitting percentage of the year, while Florida hit a blistering .327.
“They did a better job of getting us to pass the ball off the net so Madison (Lilley) couldn’t be as deceptive. Obviously if they know where the ball’s going they’re a huge blocking team at the net so they’re going to affect what you do attacking,” said Skinner.
Kentucky had a difficult time trying to find any sort of offensive rhythm, as Kaz Brown, Darian Mack and Avery Skinner combined for just nine kills. The bright spot for the Cats, however, came from sophomore outside hitter Leah Edmond, who hammered down a match-high 16 kills on a .424 attacking clip.
Defensively, UK struggled to slow down the Gators’ offense. Four players for Florida registered five or more kills, with two reaching double digits. Senior libero Ashley Dusek led the Cats with 13 scoops, while freshman setter Madison Lilley added 12. Lilley also contributed a match-high 27 assists.
The message after the game was simple: learn from the mistakes and move on to the next match.
“I think they just executed better overall,” said Edmond. “We should have made plays and we didn’t. But we’ll learn from it.”
Coach Skinner echoed that sentiment, and believes that the loss will only make the Cats better.
“We still control what we do,” said coach Skinner. “So we have to evaluate what happened in the match and how we can improve so when we face good teams like that that have a game plan, a purpose, that we have the ability to respond to it.”
The loss ends UK’s 14-match winning streak that extended back to September 9. The Wildcats are now 19-3 overall and 10-1 in the SEC. After its victory over UK, Florida is now tied with the Cats atop the SEC standings. Kentucky will be back in action on Sunday when they take on the South Carolina Gamecocks in Memorial Coliseum. First serve is set for 1:30 pm.