LOS ANGELES, Calif. – The fifth-ranked Kentucky volleyball team came up just short of winning its opening match of the 2018 season against No. 13 Creighton in a five-set battle (20-25, 25-18, 14-25, 25-21, 22-20) inside the Galen Center in Los Angeles on Friday
“For both sides, you could tell it was the first match of the season – trying to figure out lineups,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “Our execution wasn’t fantastic today, but we had opportunities. We need to learn from that and convert the defensive opportunities we have into points.”
With her team-leading 16-kill performance, Leah Edmond became the quickest player to reach the 1,000-career kill mark in program history. The junior also came up one dig shy of a double-double and added five blocks.
Sophomore Avery Skinner picked up 15 kills, a block, and an assist in Friday’s action. Sophomore setter Madison Lilley totaled 36 assists, 10 digs, six blocks, and four kills. It’s the 12th career double-double for the reigning Southeastern Conference Freshman of the Year. Senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan also added six blocks, five kills, and three digs.
Sophomore libero Gabby Curry led the way in digs with 13, while freshman Alli Stumler and senior Merideth Jewell finished with 12 and 10, respectively.
As part of the doubleheader, the Wildcats will face No. 10 Southern California at 10:30 p.m. ET on Friday inside the Galen Center.
Creighton struck first in the match, but it was Skinner who got the first kill of the season for UK on the next point. The Wildcats fell three points behind, but two Skinner kills and a couple of Creighton attack errors sparked a UK run to string along six points to jump out to a 17-12 lead. The Wildcats were forced to call timeout after a 5-2 run from Creighton, which got the score to 20-18. The Cats rebounded quickly out of the huddle with two-consecutive points off Skinner’s fourth kill and a huge block from Morgan to get the score to 23-20. Two more Creighton errors finished off the first set in UK’s favor at 25-20.
Morgan opened up the set with a rocket to the back line before the teams traded points with service errors. Creighton jumped out to a 9-3 lead, forcing a UK timeout. The Wildcats tried to claw their way back into the set after junior Caitlyn Cooper got her first kill. Curry picked up an ace, and another Skinner kill called for a Creighton timeout at 17-14. UK had to call another timeout at the 21-15 mark and picked up a point on a service error out of the break, but it ultimately wasn’t enough as the Bluejays took the set 25-18.
Creighton struck first with a tip and an ace, but Lilley responded with a perfectly placed ball to Morgan, who fired a strike down the right line. At a 3-1 disadvantage, the Cats scored four straight points, beginning with a brutal block from Lilley, another kill from Edmond and two more blocks from senior Anna Nyberg, Lilley and Edmond. The teams traded points to 9-7 before another block from Morgan and an ace from Jewell, which pushed UK’s lead to five. Edmond went on to score on back-to-back points with a hard-hit ball to give the Wildcats a 20-12 advantage. Skinner and Morgan combined for a block and kills from Skinner and Cooper powered UK through the last couple of points to claim the set 25-14.
The Bluejays jumped out to a 2-0 lead, but UK drew even with two kills from Morgan and Skinner and then took the lead following an attack error. Creighton took the next three points on a UK service error and two kills. Skinner eclipsed the double-digit kill mark at 11-9 to push UK’s lead to three, but Creighton responded to tie the set at 12. UK called timeout and the Bluejays struck with two aces and three kills straight out of the huddle, forcing the Cats to call another timeout after falling behind 17-12. The Wildcats rallied to get even at 20-20 behind two kills from Skinner, blocks from Morgan, Nyberg, Lilley, and Edmond, as well as several errors from Creighton, but the Bluejays went on a string of four kills to finish out the set 25-21.
UK nabbed the first two points of the set off a kill from Nyberg and a Creighton attack error. The Cats jumped out to 4-1 lead and maintained it to 8-5 before Creighton went on a 4-1 run of its own to draw even at nine. A Bluejay blocking error and an attack error gave the Wildcats a two-point cushion at 11-9, but Creighton battled back to take the lead 12-11. The score seesawed back-and-forth with each team getting in position to win the match on multiple occasions. A UK service error followed by a kill from the Bluejays enabled the designated home team to claim the set and the match at 22-20 in a hard-fought, extended fifth frame.