LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 16 Kentucky volleyball team rallied from a 2-0 deficit to win the final three sets for a 3-2 (16-25, 15-25, 25-17, 25-11, 15-8) win over Kansas to secure the Bluegrass Battle crown and a perfect 3-0 weekend on its home floor.
“It was a tale of two teams throughout the match,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “Obviously we didn’t start very well, and it was ugly volleyball for a couple of sets. Credit Kansas they played great the first two, then we played extremely well (sets) three, four and five. Give a lot of credit to a couple of seniors making differences with the serving: McKenzie Watson and Brooke Morgan.”
With the win, Kentucky improves to 3-3 on the season. Kansas falls to 3-2 on the year. Kentucky will hit the road to take on top-five Texas on Friday with the match set to air live on the Longhorn Network at 8 p.m. ET.
Winners of all three matches they played in the Bluegrass Battle the Wildcats had three players on the All-Tournament team. The most valuable player honor went to junior Leah Edmond who amassed 18 kills in the win over Kansas. Sophomore setter Madison Lilley and senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan joined Edmond on the All-Tournament team. Lilley dished out 45 assists and narrowly missed on a double-double with nine digs. Morgan totaled eight kills, three aces and a team-high six blocks in the win.
With their backs against the wall, the home team turned it around and swept the final three sets in dominating fashion. With the third set tied at 11 apiece, Kentucky rallied for 14 of the next 20 points to breathe life into Memorial Coliseum. Morgan served four of the final five UK points with Edmond generating three kills over the late stages of the set to secure a 25-17 win.
The Cats wasted little time in taking command of the fourth frame jumping out to an 8-1 lead. UK’s defense was stout, holding the Jayhawks to a negative hitting clip and just eight kills in the set. Lilley recorded seven digs, while sophomore libero Gabby Curry picked up five. Lilley and Morgan teamed up for three blocks, while three different players registered a trio of kills.
It was Kentucky’s offense that proved to be the difference in the decisive fifth set. Kentucky amassed seven kills on a match-best .583 attacking clip. Edmond had three, while freshman Alli Stumler posted two kills in the set. Kansas was forced into five errors enabling UK to roll to a 15-8 final set win to take the match.
Every Wildcat who played aided the winning cause. Edmond led the way with the 18 kills and Stumler chipped in with 12, seven digs and five rejections. Sophomore Avery Skinner tallied nine kills, while Morgan had eight and was the spark on the defensive end that helped turn things around.
Curry had 18 digs and senior McKenzie Watson contributed eight. Freshman Lauren Tharp stepped in and helped out with five digs and an assist. Freshman Gabby Goddard posted one kill and four blocks in the winning cause.
The set began with a Kansas error off the right side, but the Jayhawks responded with a kill. Stumler powered a ball to the back-right corner on the following play and Morgan and Edmond teamed up for a block on the left side to give UK a two-point advantage. The teams traded points to 4-3 before Kansas evened things up on a UK attacking error. An illegal Jayhawk attack forfeited a point, but they immediately regained it with kill in the middle of the floor and took the lead with an ace on the following play to get to 6-5. Kendyl Paris picked up her first kill of the match, evening things up before a UK service error gave KU a one-point edge. Paris showed her power again with a hard-hit ball to the middle of floor for her second kill of the match. The Jayhawks scored five consecutive points on another two UK errors, two kills and a block. Skinner answered with her first kill of the match, but KU held its advantage to five with a kill of its own to keep the lead at 13-8. KU gave up a point on a service error but got it right back on a free ball. Edmond made a mistake on the next play, just barely missing the line of the left side, but stayed composed and placed a ball almost in the exact same spot to get things to 15-11. A Kansas kill, ace that barely nicked the back line, and a UK error pushed the Jayhawk lead to seven, forcing the Wildcats to call their second timeout of the set. Edmond responded out of the huddle with her second kill of the match, but KU had another immediate answer with a ball to the left. Another KU block and ace extended the lead to nine at 21-12. UK then went on a 3-0 run with kills from Edmond and Stumler and a block from Paris and Stumler. The Wildcats couldn’t get away from the KU blocks as the Jayhawks added another to get to 24-15. Skinner picked up another kill – her second of the match – but Kansas ultimately claimed the set 25-16.
KU led off with a kill and an ace to jump out to an early 2-0 lead but put the next ball into the net, which sent in Watson to serve. KU added a kill but Stumler answered with her third kill of the match. Morgan picked up her first kill of the match before she moved back to serve with an ace to knot things up in the set at four. The Jayhawks pieced together another 3-0 run, consisting of a kill and two UK errors. Edmond drilled a ball to the left that came back over the net outside the line for her fourth kill of the match, but KU picked up another hammer to extend its lead to three at 8-5. UK gained two points on Jayhawk errors, but KU came out on yet another 3-0 run – all on errors. Skinner destroyed a ball for a kill while Morgan and Stumler got another block to cut the deficit to two at 11-9. Two more UK errors forced the Wildcats into the huddle at 13-9. The Jayhawks received two more points out of the timeout before Merideth Jewell added a kill and Watson an ace to trim the KU lead back to four, 15-11. The teams swapped points to 17-12 before Morgan nabbed her third kill of the match. KU jumped out to a six-point lead on a block, two kills, and a service error to get things to 19-13. From there KU went on a 5-0 run to get to 24-14 and closed things out with a kill at 25-15.
This time it was the Wildcats that got on the board to open the set with a Jayhawk error. KU answered with a kill, but Edmond matched it, picking up her sixth of the match. Kansas went on a 3-1 run, bringing the score to 4-3, but an obliterated ball from Morgan knotted things up again. UK went on to a 3-0 run featuring a KU service error, a block from Edmond and Morgan and a kill from Edmond to give the Wildcats a 7-5 advantage. KU added another kill, but UK went on a 4-0 run. Goddard entered to team up with Edmond, who picked up her eighth kill on the next play to give UK the 10-6 lead. KU then went on a 4-1 run to knot the score at 11, but Skinner added a kill on an extended rally to nudge the Wildcats ahead by one point. UK send the Jayhawks into a huddle after a 3-1 run. KU came out of the timeout with a kill before Stumler added another kill, her third in the last five scoring plays. UK forced KU to spend another timeout with a 3-0 run, featuring two more kills from Stumler to get to 18-13. Points were traded to 19-16 before UK pushed the lead back to six with three errors and two brutal kills from Edmond. The set was capped at 25-17 with Edmond’s 12th kill.
UK jumped out to an early 6-0 lead with kills from Edmond and Skinner, two blocks from Goddard and one from Stumler, and three KU errors. KU called for time but finally responded out of the huddle with a kill. But UK went on a 6-1 run out of the huddle, powered by two Stumler kills, an ace from Watson and more blocks from Morgan and Lilley, to make the score 12-2 and force Kansas to call another timeout. Morgan and Lilley teamed up for another block, giving the Wildcats a 12-point lead. KU added two more points prior to Morgan notching her seventh kill of the match to go along with her five blocks, which pushed the UK lead to 17-5. Edmond added back-to-back kills to her credit, giving her 15 in the match, and extended the UK lead to 19-6. KU went on a 3-0 run before squandering it themselves with a setting error. Stumler broke into double-digit kills with a hard-hit ball to the middle of the floor, which gave UK a 21-9 advantage. KU added a kill to try and spark a run, but the Wildcats outhustled the Jayhawks for four of the last five points in the set, 25-11.
The Wildcats brought the crowd to its feet with a 3-0 run to start the set with Stumler’s 11th kill, Watson’s second ace, and Lilley’s first kill of the match. The teams traded points to 5-2 with hammers from Stumler and Edmond before Morgan added another ace to her stat line. Edmond destroyed a ball for her 17th kill as the teams switched sides with UK leading at 8-3. Two Kansas errors increased UK’s lead to seven. KU picked up another kill before UK went on another 3-0 run with a kill from Edmond and blocks from Stumler and Goddard. KU went on a 4-0 run to get things to 13-8, forcing the Cats into a timeout. UK wasted little time with a kill from Skinner and a match-clinching Jayhawk error for the win.