LEXINGTON, Ky. – Paced by a stellar defensive performance from sophomore libero Gabby Curry, who registered a career-high 23 digs, the 16th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team cruised to a 3-0 (25-21, 25-14, 25-17) sweep of visiting Ole Miss on Sunday. The win was the ninth in a row for the Wildcats.
“When you look at the stat sheet, we did a lot of really impressive things,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “Killing the ball – obviously – hitting over .300. we served really well as evidenced by the ace-to-error ratio. It didn’t feel like we were awesome all the time throughout the match, but we were really good when we needed to be. Obviously, we have a lot of depth and different people that can make an impact in the match and we saw that again today.”
Kentucky improves to 12-4 overall on the year and a perfect 6-0 in Southeastern Conference action. Ole Miss falls to 11-5 and 1-6 in league play. UK will hit the road for its next three contests beginning with an 8 p.m. ET tilt at LSU on Friday.
Curry’s record-breaking day led a slew of strong performances for the Cats who have seemed to find a rhythm both offensively and defensively midway through the season. Curry averaged a staggering 7.7 digs per frame as the Wildcats held the Rebels to a mere .198 hitting clip. It marked the eighth straight opponent who has failed to manage a .200 hitting percentage against the Cats. Freshman Alli Stumler recorded nine digs and classmate Lauren Tharp picked up six. Senior Brooke Morgan led the way at the net with a team-high three blocks.
Offensively, Morgan shined with 12 kills on a sizzling season-best .733 attacking percentage. Junior Leah Edmond was her steady self with a match-high 16 kills. Classmate Caitlyn Cooper contributed nine on a .438 clip, while sophomore Avery Skinner and Stumler chipped in with seven apiece.
Sophomore setter Madison Lilley led the offensive charge with 45 assists to couple with four digs and a pair of blocks for another all-around effort. The Wildcats tallied 54 kills on a .304 percentage in the victory.
Stumler got things going for the Wildcats in a big way with a kill to open the match. She then went back to serve and helped UK race out to a 6-0 lead that included a pair of aces. Ole Miss eventually scratched the scoreboard, but Kentucky maintained its lead with Stumler still making her presence felt with back-to-back kills to make the score 10-4. Edmond followed with an ace that nicked the net and dropped behind the defense. Ole Miss responded with a 4-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to 11-8. Cooper eventually snapped the spurt with a cross-court shot. Curry followed with consecutive aces and the Wildcats utilized the momentum to go on a 4-0 run and push its lead to 15-8, forcing Ole Miss to burn its final timeout of the frame. Out of the timeout, the Rebels scored on a setter dump to halt UK’s string of points. The teams traded points until Morgan got in on three of four points. The senior had kills on two of three points and then served up an ace to increase UK’s lead to 19-12. After an extended rally with both teams displaying a gutty effort, Cooper’s smash down the line made the score 21-15 in favor of the home team. The Rebels managed to score five of six points to pull to within three at 22-19. Kentucky opted for a timeout. Out of the timeout, the Cats went back to Morgan who smashed her fifth kill of the set. Kentucky went back to what was working and Morgan calmly got her sixth kill and a 25-21 set victory for the Blue and White.
Morgan opened the second stanza much like she ended the first with a slicing kill off the slide for a 1-0 lead for the home team. Edmond followed with a heady kill when she saw the defense charging to the net for a 2-0 edge. Ole Miss eventually knotted the score at three apiece. Kills from Edmond, Cooper and Skinner enabled the home team to once again grab a multi-point lead at 7-4. Cooper and Paris then teamed up for a block and the run stretched to 4-0. Morgan and Skinner struck for kills and then Morgan combined with Lilley for a block to make the score 13-7 in favor of UK. Ole Miss took its first timeout to attempt to spell the run. Following the break, Skinner converted a pair of overpasses, Morgan tallied her 10th kill and UK forced the Rebels into a miscue as the Cats pushed the lead to 10 at 17-7. Ole Miss opted for its final timeout. Cooper and Skinner posted back-to-back hammers and then the Cats’ defense forced an erroneous attack for the winning point for a 25-14 set victory and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Stumler scored the set’s first point with a kill from the left side and Edmond followed suit with one of her own for a 2-0 edge. Morgan picked up another kill, followed by the eighth from Edmond and then Morgan served up an ace for a 5-1 lead for the Cats. The Rebels eventually cut the deficit to two at 9-7, but Kentucky answered with the third kill of the set from Cooper. Kentucky once again won an extended rally as Edmond found a spot just over the block for a 12-8 UK advantage. Ole Miss chose to take a timeout. Following the break, Kentucky kept the pressure on with a block from the Lilley-Morgan tandem and back-to-back kills from Edmond for a 15-8 lead. After Gabby Goddard got a kill off the slide, Ole Miss took its final timeout trailing 18-10. Ole Miss eventually pulled to within six at 21-15, but Kentucky responded with the 16th kill of the day from Edmond. Merideth Jewell connected for a kill to lift UK to the 25-17 win and a sweep.