LOS ANGELES, Calif.
There were a lot of questions about the No. 5 Kentucky Wildcats heading into the 2018-2019 volleyball season after last year’s historic run to the Elite Eight. After losing five seniors, four of which saw significant playing time, there were sure to be some kinks that head coach Craig Skinner would need to figure out in order to beat No. 13 Creighton. And while Friday’s match showed that Skinner has a lot to be excited about, ultimately his team fell just short against the Bluejays after losing a decisive fifth set at the Galen Center in Los Angeles (25-20, 18-25, 25-14, 21-25, 20-22).
Kentucky’s success last season was largely due to its blistering offense ranked in the top five in hitting percentage for much of the year. Friday morning, however, was a different story. With two new hitters in the middle and another on the outside, there was sure to be an adjustment period needed for 2017 Freshman of the Year Madison Lilley. The Cats hit just .188 and dished out just 43 assists for the match, with Lilley having 36 of them.
Junior Leah Edmond led the Cats with 16 kills, but had nine errors and hit just .140. Edmond also reached the 1,000 kill mark during the match, becoming the fastest player in program history to reach that milestone. Caitlyn Cooper struggled in her first game with UK, grabbing five kills and hitting just .143. Sophomore Avery Skinner was the bright spot for Kentucky, however, hammering down 15 kills with just four errors.
Sophomore Gabby Curry led the way defensively for the Cats, scooping up 13 digs along with a pair of assists and an ace. Freshman Alli Stumler was close behind with 12 scoops, while Merideth Jewell and Lilley each added ten of their own.
The Bluejays were plagued by 23 service errors on the day, but UK couldn’t capitalize on them when they needed to late in the fifth set. The Cats had two match points at 16-15 and then 19-18, but attack and service errors ultimately ended any chance of taking the game from Creighton who won the set and the match 22-20.
Kentucky will be back in action tonight at 10:30 pm ET when they take on No. 10 USC at the Galen Center as a part of the Trojan Invitational.