After having dropped two-straight five-set matches, the No. 16 Kentucky volleyball team desperately needed a win heading into SEC play. And thanks to a balanced team performance on the offensive end, the Cats grabbed a three-set victory (25-15, 25-14, 25-21) over No. 25 Louisville in the annual Battle of the Bluegrass.
“We needed to play a match where we felt a commitment to victory in each point,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I didn’t feel like our fighting spirit has been there even though we played really well at times but tonight it came out of us.”
Coming off her career-high 27 kills in the match prior, senior Leah Edmond showed no signs of slowing down any time soon, hammering home seven kills in the first set alone. Edmond finished the game with a match-high 15 kills to go along with a pair of aces and two blocks.
However, it was Kentucky’s ability to terminate the ball from multiple positions that proved to be the difference in Friday’s match, as five players recorded five or more kills en route to a .347 hitting clip as a team. Junior setter Madison Lilley was a big reason for that, recording 41 assists while keeping the Cardinals’ defense off balance all night long.
“I thought the first contact was really good,” Skinner said. “Madison (Lilley), early on, the balance and distribution was really good in the stat sheet. Yes, Leah (Edmond) had a lot of kills but Leah Meyer had some kills. Kendyl Paris had some kills. Alli Stumler had some kills, and Caitlyn Cooper. When you are able to set multiple people and set front row and back row then it just keeps the other team guessing so they have to do a lot of adjusting.”
Leah Meyer was the other Wildcat to reach double figures, registering ten kills on just 14 swings with only one error. Alli Stumler added nine, Kendyl Paris added six and Caitlyn Cooper had five.
Defensively, the Cats held Louisville to just .070 hitting, it’s second-best defensive performance on the season. Gabby Curry led all players with 20 digs to go along with a service ace and a trio of assists. Stumler contributed nine digs out of the back row, Edmond had six and sophomore Lauren Tharp added four.
Kentucky controlled the net against the Cardinals, tallying nine blocks as a team with Paris leading the charge with four. Meyer and Cooper each added a pair of their own and Lilley had one.
The victory marked the fourth-straight sweep over the Cardinals for Edmond, a big achievement for the senior as she wraps up her final non-conference slate.
“So exciting,” Edmond said after the victory. “I get to add my name to all of the people who have yet to lose to Louisville, which I think is a big accomplishment, especially being from Lexington.”
With the win, Kentucky finishes the non-conference 7-4 before heading into SEC play next week. The Cats will begin their quest for a third-straight SEC title next Friday when they host Mississippi State. First serve is set for 7:00 pm on SEC Network.