Nearly two months after when a normal season would typically start, volleyball was officially back in the Bluegrass Friday night, as the No. 3 Kentucky Wildcats took down the Tennessee Volunteers in straight sets (25-15, 25-16, 25-15) behind an impressive offensive performance.
Boasting the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, expectations were high for Kentucky’s underclassmen as the Wildcats looked to replace Leah Edmond, Leah Meyer and Caitlyn Cooper, all starters on last year’s squad. And they certainly didn’t disappoint.
Freshman opposite Reagan Rutherford registered nine kills on a .368 hitting clip to go along with a pair of digs and a block. After not playing in the first set, freshman middle blocker Elise Goetzinger provided an efficient spark off the bench, recording seven kills on nine attempts. Sophomore Azhani Tealer had an impressive match out of the middle with eight kills on just 12 swings. In her first career start in the middle, Tealer added two digs and a match-high four blocks to anchor the Wildcat defense.
On the outside, senior Avery Skinner recorded a match-high 13 kills to go along with four digs and a service ace. Alli Stumler added seven kills of her own, and freshman Madi Skinner had three.
UK head coach Craig Skinner was pleased with Skinner’s (no relation) performance and cited her work ethic in the offseason as a key to her success.
“The staff is really proud of her,” Skinner said. “Avery put herself in position to succeed and she took advantage of her opportunities in preseason. She earned the opportunity to do this and she took advantage of it.”
Senior Madison Lilley directed the Cats’ offense to the tune 52 kills on a blistering .451 clip. The setter registered her first double-double of the season, recording 42 assists and 11 digs to go along with four blocks and a service ace.
In the back row, senior Gabby Curry led all players with 12 digs and helped the Kentucky defense hold the Vols to a .182 hitting clip, with no players recording more than eight kills. Junior Lauren Tharp added seven digs of her own and Stumler had five.
The Wildcats will be back in action Saturday evening to complete their weekend series against Tennessee. First serve is set for 7:00 pm inside Memorial Coliseum.