LEXINGTON – The No. 18 Kentucky volleyball team will ride a six-match win streak into Starkville, Mississippi, on Friday night when it faces the Mississippi State Bulldogs in its fourth Southeastern Conference test of 2018. Match time is slated for 8 p.m. ET.
Friday’s meeting with the Bulldogs will be broadcast on SEC Network+ on WATCHESPN.
UK leads the all-time series against MSU 48-2. All but 15 have been sweeps. The Wildcats are 19-1 and have swept every meeting but six against the Bulldogs under head coach Craig Skinner. UK has only surrendered eight sets of a possible 65 to MSU since 2005.
The Wildcats are ranked at the top of SEC in hitting percentage – 12th in the country – at .282, while Brooke Morgan ranks second in the conference in hitting percentage (.395), Madison Lilley ranks second in assists (10.76/set) and Leah Edmond ranks first in kills (4.61/set). Gabby Curry sits at seventh in the conference with 3.78 digs per set. As a team, UK jumped from fourth to second in kills per set (13.75) after the previous week.
SCOUTING MISSISSIPPI STATE
MSU is 5-11 overall and 1-2 in the SEC. The Bulldogs are coming off their first win in in six matches. MSU defeated Auburn in five sets at home but was swept in their pervious four matches by Floirda, South Carolina, Stephen F. Austin, and Cal Poly. Kendall Murr heads up the defensive effort with 4.15 digs per set at sixth in the conference. Morgan Kath guides the MSU offense with 7.30 assists per set, which ranks eighth in the conference.
UK IN THE RPI
UK has faced a tough slate already this season and has been rewarded with a top-10 RPI ranking at No. 10 in the first poll of the season. The Wildcats have already faced two schools with top five RPIs – both on the road – in No. 4 Southern California and No. 5 Texas and a pair of others in the top 25 in 20th-ranked Northern Iowa and No. 21 Creighton. Four SEC schools UK has left to face also hold a spot in the top 30: No. 18 South Carolina, No. 26 Florida, No. 27 Alabama, and No. 29 Georgia.
EDMOND, LILLEY PICK UP SEC HONORS
For the third time this season, two Kentucky volleyball players claimed Southeastern Conference weekly awards in the same week after junior outside hitter Leah Edmond was named SEC Player of the Week and sophomore setter Madison Lilley earned setter of the week for their performances in UK’s wins against Arkansas and Missouri.
Edmond hauled in her seventh-career conference player of the week honor and 15th career SEC weekly honor after totaling 41 kills (5.86 per set) on 88 swings for a .330 hitting percentage during UK’s 2-0 home weekend. The junior’s 26 terminations against Missouri matched her career-high total, ranked third in the SEC this season and was the most kills of any individual in the conference in a single match for week five. Edmond’s offensive effort against the Tigers resulted in the most kills in a four-set match in the league and pushed her past Lauren O’Conner for second place on the UK all-time kill list. It marked the fourth time she’s posted 20 or more kills in a match this season. Edmond has now posted at least 15 kills in 11 of the 13 matches this season and has tallied double-digit kill totals in each of her last 32 matches.
Lilley received her 10th SEC weekly honor of her career and third of the season after she totaled 83 assists (11.80 per set), 20 digs (2.86 per set), and five blocks. The sophomore put up her fifth double-double of the season and third in the last four matches after accumulating 45 assists and a career-high 16 digs against Missouri. It was the eighth time this season she’s notched 40+ assists. Her 45 assists on Sunday became the most in a four-set match in the conference while her 38 assists in the win over Arkansas was the second most in a three-set match. Lilley also added two aces to contribute to UK’s record-breaking performance of 11 aces in the win over the Tigers. She ranks second in the conference overall in assists per set with 10.76 and first in conference matches with 11.27.
CATS DOWN ARKANSAS, MISSOURI
The Wildcats are coming off their third conference win after picking up wins over Arkansas and Missouri during their SEC home-opening weekend. Brooke Morgan led the Wildcats to a sweep over Arkansas, matching her career-high in kills with 15 and setting a new personal best in hitting percentage (.583) against Arkansas to go along with four digs and two blocks. Leah Edmond added 10 kills, while Caitlyn Cooper added nine on a .500 attacking clip. Madison Lilley dished out 38 assists and added four digs and two blocks while Gabby Curry led the defensive effort from the back row with 13 digs.
UK’s serving and defense led it to a four-set win over Missouri. The Wildcats racked up 11 aces, the most ever for a four-set match in the 25-point rally-scoring era, and had a season-high 15 blocks to prove the difference in a well-played match by both teams. Kendyl Paris, Lauren Tharp and Cooper broke out for career performances defensively. Paris had a career-best 10 blocks, while Tharp had a career-high nine digs. Cooper picked up a career-best six blocks and added eight kills to the offensive effort. Paris is the eighth different Wildcat to register 10 or more blocks in program history during the rally-scoring era.
Sophomore setter Madison Lilley and classmate libero Gabby Curry also contributed to the stellar defensive effort. Lilley had her fifth double-double of the season – third in the last four matches – with 45 assists and a career-high 16 digs. Curry contributed 13 digs, five assists and a pair of aces.
Every Wildcat who plays in the front row boasted at least three blocks in the match.
Junior outside hitter Leah Edmond once again led the way offensively with a career-high tying 26 kills. It matched her own four-set 25-point rally scoring era record for kills in a match. She’s posted 20 or more kills 19 times in her career, more than any other player in the rally-scoring era in UK annals. Alli Stumler added 12 kills and 10 digs for her third double-double of the year and second in three matches. Senior Brooke Morgan contributed seven kills, a career-high and team-best three aces to go along with a trio of blocks. Classmate McKenzie Watson added three digs, one assist and an ace to aid the winning effort.
LILLEY, STUMLER WIN SEC AWARDS
For the second time this season, two different Kentucky volleyball players claimed Southeastern Conference weekly awards in the same week after sophomore setter Madison Lilley earned co-setter of the week honors and outside hitter Alli Stumler earned freshman of the week honors for their performances in UK’s 3-1 conference-opening win at Tennessee.
Lilley pulled in her ninth-career SEC weekly honor and second of the season after she put up her fourth double-double of 2018 – her second in as many matches – with 41 assists and 10 digs. It marked her seventh match this season with at least 40 assists and the fourth time she’s posted 10 or more digs. The sophomore also added a block and an ace.
This is Stumler’s first conference honor of her career. The Floyds Knobs, Indiana, native registered her second career double-double and her sixth match with at least 10 kills when she posted 10 kills and 14 digs in the win over the Vols. Her 14 digs were her career-high total and the fourth time this season she has finished a match with double-digit dig numbers. The freshman also notched a career-high three aces to contribute to UK’s second-best serving effort of six total aces. She also added three blocks, which is the second most she’s posted this season.
UK OPENS SEC SLATE WITH WIN AT TENNESSEE
The Wildcats are coming off their first conference win of the season at Tennessee. UK held its third-consecutive opponent to a hitting percentage below .185. Sophomore Setter Madison Lilley (41 digs, 10 assists) and freshman outside hitter Alli Stumler (10 kills, 14 digs) both picked up double-doubles, their fourth and second of the season, respectively. Stumler also picked up a career-high three aces and added three blocks. Brooke Morgan totaled a career-high eight blocks and Leah Edmond notched her third 20+ kill match of the season with 23 terminations against the Vols. UK came back from as many as an 18-12 deficit in the fourth set, ending the frame on a 13-5 run to claim the match.
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 Lauren O’Conner for second all-time in kills during the 25-point rally scoring era. The junior needs 169 more kills to pass Whitney Billings for first on the list.
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.