In the 2020-21 volleyball season, No. 3 Kentucky and sweeps have become synonymous, as 12 of the Cats’ 16 matches have resulted in 3-0 victories. And heading into Saturday’s matchup against Ole Miss, Kentucky was flying high after having won an impressive 36-straight sets, dating back to a road game at No. 9 Missouri on October 29th. And while the set streak did eventually increase to 38 after the Cats took an early 2-0 lead in the match, a gritty set three victory by the Rebels snapped the streak and brought Kentucky back to Earth.
As impressive as the Cats’ No. 1 recruiting class has been this season, it was the seniors who took over on Saturday, easily taking set four and winning the match 3-1 (25-16, 25-19, 21-25, 25-13) on Senior Day.
“We always want to play hard, obviously, but Senior Day adds a little bit of fire,” senior Avery Skinner said after the match. “So we were all really excited to get out and even though it’s our last in Memorial, just remembering all the things that we’ve been through in this gym and with this team. It was a really special night.”
As has been the case for nearly the entire season, it was the Cats’ efficient offensive attack that made the difference. Senior Madison Lilley dished out a season-high 51 assists en route to a .383 hitting clip. Kentucky totaled a season-high 64 team kills and saw four players tally nine or more terminations. It’s the second time Lilley has eclipsed 50 assists this season, the other of which being a four-set victory over Missouri.
Senior Avery Skinner and junior Alli Stumler led the way offensively, each tallying 16 kills with just 11 errors between them. Avery Skinner hit .344 on the match and Stumler hit .263. Madi Skinner and Azhani Tealer each had strong offensive performances in their own right, tallying nine kills apiece.
In one of her final outings inside of Memorial Coliseum, it was senior Gabby Curry who led the way defensively once again, grabbing a match-high 11 digs. Lilley, Stumler and Avery Skinner each added nine and junior Lauren Tharp had eight. At the net, Tealer registered a match-high five blocks, followed closely by Stumler and Madi Skinner, who each tallied three.
With the win, Kentucky’s senior class improves to 51-6 in home matches throughout their careers. And on the 2020-21 season, the Cats now boast a perfect 16-0 record and remain two games ahead of Florida for first place in the Southeastern Conference. They’ll put that mark to the test next weekend, however, when they travel to Gainesville for a series against No. 7 Florida.
“Lot of athletic talent on the floor,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said of the upcoming match against the Gators. “It’s gonna come down to making some game-changing plays at the right time. You’re never going to just shut down Florida. So you have to slow them down. They’ve got some powerful arms and we get our block in the right place and we serve tough enough so it limits their options. And going on someone’s home floor to try and do it is another piece of adversity. But I know our players look forward to the opportunity to play them.”
First serve Friday is set for 1:00 pm and will be broadcast on the SEC Network.