LOS ANGELES – The fifth-ranked Kentucky volleyball team fell to No. 10 Southern California in a hard-fought four sets (22-25, 25-22, 25-23, 29-27) inside the Galen Center in Los Angeles at the Trojan Invitational on Friday.
“First of all, I thought it was a great volleyball match,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “It was two great teams going at it. It just became a difference of executing. We have to earn 18 points a set, and we only earned about 16 or 17 in each set. If we turn two or three more points, then it turns in our favor. Hats off to USC. They did a nice job when it mattered.”
Freshman Alli Stumler nabbed her first career double-double in just her second game in a Kentucky uniform, totaling 15 kills, 13 digs, and an ace. Junior Leah Edmond led the way again for the Wildcats in kills with 16, hitting .367, and adding four digs and two blocks.
Sophomore Avery Skinner finished with 14 kills while senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan added 10 kills on a .412 attack percentage with two digs and an ace. Sophomore setter Madison Lilley finished with 54 assists and came up one dig shy of her career high of 12. Sophomore Gabby Curry totaled 22 digs and three assists.
The Wildcats dropped to 0-2 on the season while USC improved to 1-0. UK will face UNI inside the Galen Center on Saturday at 8 p.m. ET.
The Wildcats grabbed the first couple of points on errant attacks from the Trojans. Stumler killed a ball to the right line to get the score to 6-4. The freshman then went back to serve and provided two crucial digs to keep rally alive, but the Trojans ultimately gained the point to make the score 6-5. The teams traded points with to 8-7 with balls that went into the net before the Women of Troy picked up an ace to tie the set at nine points a piece. USC took its first lead of the match on the next point with a kill in the middle of the floor, but Skinner answered immediately with a power shot of her own on a great set from Lilley. Stumler struck on two of the next three plays, adding two more kills to her credit, which made the score 13-12. UK jumped out to a two-point advantage at 16-14 following a service error from the Trojans. USC drew even at 17 but it was Stumler again to put the Cats ahead with her fifth kill of the match. Not long after – it was the same again. USC later took the lead on an ace but then gave the point back on the next play with an error to knot things up at 22. Edmond came up with a nice dig and Lilley rewarded her for her effort, sending the ball back to the outside hitter for shot down the left side. Edmond struck again with a kill on the next play before Morgan claimed the set for UK with an ace, 25-22.
Edmond opened the set with a kill and the Cats led 2-1 following a tip from Skinner but the Women of Troy evened things up after a shot across the other side of the court. UK went on a 7-2 run from there. Skinner powered another vicious shot down the right side before Stumler got her seventh kill on an assist from Lilley and then Morgan added two kills of her own to get to the Cats a 9-4 advantage. USC then called a timeout after a kill from Jewell stretched the lead to six. The Women of Troy claimed the next three points with a two kills and an ace but Edmond responded with a kill to keep the lead at five. USC cut the lead to three with a block on the left side, making the score 12-9. Skinner picked up her seventh kill to push the lead back to four, then UK won a challenge on a USC net violation and gained a point to get to 16-11. Three-consecutive points force the Wildcats to huddle as USC attempted to claw their way back into the match. A long serve out of bounds from USC and kill out of the timeout traded points to 17-15. A few plays later, Stumler stepped back to serve and didn’t disappoint with an ace to extend the lead to three at 19-16. USC took the next five points to nudge ahead by two late in the set. Following a UK timeout, USC put a serve into the net and a ball out to knot things up at 21. Both teams traded kills on opposite sides of the floor before USC took the final three points of the set.
UK claimed the first two points of the set on an Edmond kill and an attack error, but USC strung along three-consecutive points. Nyberg capitalized on a vicious Edmond serve that came back over on the Wildcats’ side of the net to take the lead to 4-3. USC went on a 4-0 run to eventually make it 8-5, but UK claimed the next two points on kills from Morgan and Stumler. A couple plays later, the Wildcats began a 4-0 run by extending another already-long rally with some quality digs all around that led to a ball handling error from the Women of Troy. Two kills from Morgan on assists from Lilley gave the Wildcats a 12-10 edge. Edmond and Skinner got back in on the action, getting back-to-back kills that forced another USC timeout. Despite an error right out of the huddle, USC went on a 6-0 swing to tie the set at 15. Skinner ended UK’s drought with a perfectly placed ball to the right line to get back within one point at 17-18, and she did the same two plays later. USC eventually jumped out to a 23-19 lead following two kills and two Wildcat errors. UK clawed back to within one after Edmond reentered the game and provided two big kills but it wasn’t enough as USC took the set 25-23.
Stumler opened the set with her 13th kill of the match before Edmond traded kills with the Women of Troy. Stumler placed a ball in the right corner to give the Wildcats a one-point lead at 5-4. Following a UK errant attack, USC gave up two of its own and a service error. The Women of Troy evened things up again at nine after service and attack errors. After an Edmond kill, an ace from USC and a UK attack error pushed the deficit to two. The two teams went back and forth until another Edmond kill – her 14th of the match – evened things up again at 15. A USC service error and kills from Skinner and Edmond gave UK a 19-18 edge. Skinner eventually regained the lead for the Wildcats – in large part to another great set from Lilley – and three USC errors stretched the lead to three at 23-20. The Trojans responded with three straight points off two kills and an ace to tie the crucial fourth set at 23 points. Both teams swapped service errors before USC gained set point after the ball went behind the antenna. Stumler ended one of the longer rallies with a kill on the left side, and both teams ended up with errant serves on the next two points, which gave the Women of Troy a one-point cushion. Edmond got in another kill but two more kills from USC ended the set (29-27) and the match.