STARKVILLE, Miss. – The No. 18 Kentucky volleyball team posted its highest hitting percentage (.537) of the season and held Mississippi State to the lowest swinging clip (.068) of any opponent its faced all season in its seventh straight win and dominant 3-0 (25-11, 25-10, 25-13) sweep of the Bulldogs inside the Newell-Grissom Building on Friday night.
After a record-breaking performance from the service line last week, the Wildcats followed their performance against Missouri with their second-most aces of the season in tonight’s match with eight. Five Wildcats also finished with at least five kills.
“I was really pleased with our effort and how efficient we were all night,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “Our IQ of the game was evident tonight – there was no phase of the game we weren’t prepared to play. As a coaching staff, we’re pleased all-around with the effort and the win.”
Sophomore setter Madison Lilley guided the UK attack with 26 assists. She added a season-best three aces, four digs and three blocks.
Senior middle blocker Brooke Morgan couldn’t be stopped all night as she went a perfect nine-for-nine with three blocks and two digs. It marks the second time in the last three matches that she has picked up at least three blocks.
Freshman Alli Stumler added eight kills – six of which came in the first set – on 12 total swings. The Floyds Knobs, Indiana, native also contributed five digs, two assists, and one block. Junior outside hitter Leah Edmond totaled seven kills to go along with seven digs, two assists, an ace and a block.
Junior Caitlyn Cooper and Kendyl Paris stepped up as well. Cooper contributed five kills while Paris totaled four terminations and two blocks. Lauren Tharp and Gabby Curry added to the defensive effort. Curry picked up eight digs, two assists and an ace, while Tharp entered the match, grabbing five digs and two assists.
Kentucky improves to 10-4 on the season and 4-0 in league play. Mississippi State falls to 5-12 overall and 1-3 in SEC action. UK will be back in action at home in Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday when it takes on Tennessee at 8 p.m. on SEC Network.
Stumler got the match started with a kill on the left side, but Mississippi State answered with a ball to the middle. The Bulldogs gave back another point on a service error on the following play. Curry picked up an ace of her own while UK posted a miscue on the ensuing play. Stumler struck again at 4-2 before MSU took the next two points. Kentucky went on a 7-0 run with kills from Cooper, Edmond, and Stumler, as well as an ace from Edmond. UK took an 11-4 advantage and traded points to a 13-6 lead in the set. Morgan slid to the right to grab her first kill of the match. The Bulldogs added a point on a kill before Stumler claimed the next two points for the Cats with her fourth kill and an ace. The two teams traded point to 17-9 before Kendyl Paris got her first kill of the match at 18-9. UK went on a 3-0 run from there with terminations from Paris and an ace from Lilley. UK gave back the next point on an error but regained it on the ensuing errant serve from the Bulldogs. Cooper’s third kill came hard off the right side. MSU put together another kill to get to 23-11, but it wasn’t enough as Stumler claimed the last two points and the first set for UK 25-11.
UK jumped out to an early 4-0 with a kill from Edmond, consecutive blocks from Morgan, Lilley, and Edmond, and a MSU error. The Bulldogs put together a block of their own. UK took three of the next four points off kills from Stumler, Cooper, and Paris to get to 8-2. The two exchanged points to 10-5 with rockets from Edmond and Cooper for their third and fifth kills, respectively. UK claimed the next two points with Stumler’s eighth kill on the left side and another slide from Morgan. MSU added a kill before Edmond went down the middle for her fourth kill and Lilley dumped a set for a kill to give the Wildcats a 14-6 advantage. The Bulldogs took the next two points before Edmond again struck with a ball down the left line. UK came out of the media timeout claiming five of the next six points with two aces – one from Morgan and one from Lilley – and another dumped set from Lilley for her second kill. Edmond responded out of the timeout with a hard-hit ball and then the two teams traded service errors. From there, UK went on a 3-0 run and capped the set with a combined block from Paris and Jewell before Jewell powered a ball to the left side.
Morgan struck first for the Wildcats with two kills to start the third set 2-1. The teams traded points to 3-3 on two MSU kills and a UK error. The Bulldogs added an ace to get to take a 4-3 advantage. UK went on a 3-0 run off a MSU service error and two kills from Skinner, who just entered the match prior to. MSU went on a 3-0 run of their own to take a 7-6 lead. Paris powered a ball through the middle to knot things up and MSU struck with a kill across the floor on the right side. Lilley dumped another set for a kill, which sparked a 4-0 run comprised of blocks from Lilley and Morgan and Morgan’s fifth kill. MSU called for time at 11-8 in the set. MSU answered with a termination out of the timeout. UK claimed six of the next seven points with consecutive kills on the slide from Morgan and a block and a kill from Lilley. Lilley’s fifth kill came after an MSU termination and was followed by seven straight UK points – all MSU errors, two more aces from the setter and Scheitzach and a block for Anna Nyberg and Gabby Goddard. The Bulldogs added two more kills to get to 24-13 but Edmond closed out the match with her seventh kill.