LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 20 Kentucky volleyball team will open Southeastern Conference action on the road on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET inside Thompson-Boling Arena against the Tennessee Volunteers.
The match will be broadcast on the SEC Network and will be available to stream via WATCHESPN with Courtney Lyle and Jenny Hazelwood on the call.
The Wildcats enter the first week of conference play riding a three-match win streak, including consecutive sweeps. UK leads the all-time series against UT, 49-30, and is 14-9 versus the Volunteers under Craig Skinner and 8-1 since 2012. A sweep has taken place in every meeting between the two teams except for two matches since September of 2012.
UK enters the match ranked at the top of the conference and ninth in hitting percentage at .296. Senior Brooke Morgan ranks first in the SEC and 11th nationally in hitting percentage (.429) with 90 kills and 15 errors on 175 swings.
The Volunteers are 10-3 on the season with one ranked win on the season – vs. No. 22 Michigan State – and is coming off two wins at the Flyer Invitational over Ohio State (3-1) and Evansville (3-0) and a conference win at Auburn on Friday night. First-year head coach Eve Rackham returns 4 +1 starters in middle blocker Alyssa Andrena, outside hitter Madison Coulter, setter Sedona Hansen, middle blocker Erica Treiber and Libero Brooke Schumacher. Tessa Grubbs leads the UT attack with 3.80 kills per set while Schumacher (3.45 digs/set) and Treiber (1.20 blocks per set) head up the defense. Treiber is currently ranked second in the conference in hitting percentage behind UK’s Brooke Morgan at .407.
UK SWEEPS LOUISVILLE, CHATTANOOGA
The Wildcats swept both of their opponents in week three. UK picked up its sixth straight win over rival Louisville in a commanding three-set win on the road. Leah Edmond posted the highest hitting percentage of her career in the win, swinging .600 with 14 kills – her second most in a three-set match this season – on 20 total attacks. Sophomore libero Gabby Curry also totaled a career-high seven assists in the win, while Brooke Morgan and Madison Lilley both registered three aces each, which is the top mark on the team for 2018. Lilley grabbed her third double-double of the season after putting up 28 assists and 10 digs in the home win against Chattanooga and led UK to back-to-back hitting percentages above .400. The Wildcats held both teams to hitting percentages less than .110.
TEXAS TRIP RECAP
UK split road matches in a loss at No. 6 Texas and a win at Texas State – both in four sets. The Wildcats posted their then-second-best hitting clip (.333) and kill total (66) of the season in the win. Leah Edmond picked up 39 kills (4.88/set) on the trip with her second-highest single-match total (24) coming in the win at Texas State, and Caitlyn Cooper came off the bench, making an immediate impact to ultimately finish second on the team with 14 kills on 24 attempts for a .500 hitting percentage with three blocks and three digs in an all-around career effort.
EDMOND, LILLEY GARNER SEC HONORS
Leah Edmond hauled in her sixth-career conference player of the week honor and 14th-career SEC weekly honor after totaling 59 kills (4.92 per set), on 121 swings for a .339 hitting percentage during UK’s home-opening Bluegrass Battle. The junior also added 23 digs, six blocks, and two aces to grab MVP honors for the tournament. Edmond’s 25 kills against Charleston marked her season high for a single match – one off her career best – and is tied for the top mark in the SEC to date. Her 27.5 points against the Cougars was also the most of anyone in the SEC this week and ranks second in the league for the season. In the match with Charleston, Edmond posted a season-high 13 digs for her first double-double of 2018 and 19th of her career. The outside hitter also notched her best hitting clip of the season against Dayton (.419). Edmond has posted at least 16 kills in all six matches this season.
Madison Lilley picked up her eighth-career conference honor and fifth-career setter of the week honor following her performances in the Bluegrass Battle. The sophomore was named to the All-Tournament team, helping guide the Wildcats to their best hitting percentage of the season in the sweep of Dayton (.451) and jump to the top spot in the conference. Her 57 assists in the four-set win against Charleston is her season high and ranks second in the conference only behind Morgan Kath of Mississippi State, who took five sets to grab 63 against Davidson.
The Wildcats rebounded nicely from the first week of the season and by going undefeated during the second weekend when they took down College of Charleston, Dayton, and Kansas for the Bluegrass Battle title. UK posted its highest kill total of the season (70) in a swift four-set win over Charleston and its best hitting clip of the season (.451) just hours later in a commanding sweep of Dayton. Saturday’s match with Kansas was another comeback in Memorial Coliseum after the Wildcats looked like a completely different team in the final three sets.
FASTEST TO 1,000
Leah Edmond became the quickest Wildcat in team history to reach 1,000 kills. She did so in the first match of the season – the loss to No. 13 Creighton. Edmond has now surpassed Kaz Brown (2014-17) for third all-time in kills during the 25-point rally scoring era. The junior needs 44 more kills to pass Lauren O’Conner (2011-14) for second on the list and 12th all-time.
PICKED TO WIN THE LEAGUE
Kentucky received eight of the league’s 13 first-place votes and finished atop the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll with 140 points. Florida garnered the remaining five first-place votes and finished in second with 137. Missouri trails both schools with 116 points, while Georgia and LSU round out the top five.
Leah Edmond, Madison Lilley and Avery Skinner were named Preseason All-SEC. No school other than Kentucky placed multiple athletes on the preseason All-SEC team. Edmond makes her second appearance on the preseason list after garnering All-SEC honors in each of her first two seasons. Lilley, a first-team selection a season ago, and Skinner, an All-SEC Freshman Team pick last year, were selected for the first time in their careers. All 13 of the league’s head coaches vote in each poll.
BEST PRESEASON RANKING EVER
For a program-record seventh-consecutive year, the Kentucky volleyball team began the season ranked in the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s preseason top 25. With the ranking of No. 5, UK tied its highest mark in program history and its highest preseason ranking ever. UK had never appeared in the preseason top 10 before.
Kentucky’s spot at No. 5 marks the highest ever under head coach Craig Skinner. UK reached No. 6 in the country last season and finished the 2017 final poll at that mark. The Wildcats have now appeared in the top-25 preseason poll for the ninth time in 10 seasons.
For the fourth-consecutive season, the Kentucky volleyball program earned the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Team Academic Award honoring its work in the classroom for the 2017-18 season. UK reached the 3.30 cumulative team grade-point average in each semester during the school year. During the latest semester, the team posted a GPA of 3.418. In the fall, UK had an impressive in-season GPA of 3.654.
REPRESENTING THE USA
Five Wildcats – Gabby Curry, Leah Edmond, Madison Lilley, Brooke Morgan and Avery Skinner – represented the United States of America for various U.S. Women’s Collegiate National Teams last summer. Lilley made the CNT – China Tour, Edmond and Skinner played on the CNT – Europe team while Morgan and Curry made one of the CNT – Detroit teams. All of the athletes were placed on teams through the U.S. Women’s National Team Open Tryouts at the U.S. Olympic Training Center.
Kentucky returns two AVCA All-Americans in Leah Edmond and Madison Lilley. Edmond was First Team All-America and the program’s third appearance on the first team and first under head coach Craig Skinner. Lilley was Second Team All-America.
UK had two other All-Americans in Kaz Brown and Ashley Dusek. UK has placed four All-Americans just one other time in program history.
ANOTHER STRONG RECRUITING CLASS
For the last eight seasons, Kentucky’s recruiting class has been ranked in the top 30. UK welcomes four freshman newcomers – Gabby Goddard, Cameron Scheitzach, Alli Stumler and Lauren Tharp – and also added JUCO transfer Caitlyn Cooper.
SEC CHAMPIONS AND ELITE EIGHT APPEARANCE
Kentucky finished the year 29-4 and won a share of the SEC Championship for the first time in Craig Skinner’s tenure and also advanced to the Elite Eight for the first time in the modern era a season ago. The Wildcats earned their then-highest ranking under Skinner, No. 6, and beat the No. 1 team in the nation for the first time in school history.
In Kentucky’s first round win over East Tennessee State in last year’s NCAA Tournament, UK head coach Craig Skinner earned his 300th win. Skinner is already Kentucky’s winningest coach in program history.