LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sophomore setter Madison Lilley had an all-around effort featuring two career bests to help lead 16th-ranked Kentucky to a 3-1 (25-10, 25-16, 19-25, 25-12) win over visiting Tennessee on Wednesday. Lilley dished out 50 assists and added career highs with four aces and six kills while also picking up nine digs in the victory.
“We showed glimpses of elite-level play on both offense and defense,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “WE responded well in the fourth set. We expected Tennessee to battle and compete like they did in set three so I’m glad we responded the way we did in set four, putting a good hitting percentage out there.”
The win secured the eighth in a row for the Wildcats who improved to 11-4 overall on the season and a perfect 5-0 in Southeastern Conference action. UK won both matchups this season with Tennessee who falls to 14-5 and 5-2 in league play. Kentucky resumes action with a home date against Ole Miss on Sunday at 1 p.m. ET. That match will also air live on the SEC Network.
Lilley directed the offense to the tune of a .398 hitting clip and 64 total kills with four players topping double figures. Junior Leah Edmond posted a match-high 17 slams on a .310 clip. She also contributed six digs and an ace. Freshman Alli Stumler had 13 kills and just missed on a double-double with nine digs. Junior Caitlyn Cooper totaled 13 kills on a match-best and career-best .684 clip. She also had a trio of blocks.
Sophomore libero Gabby Curry led the defensive effort with a match-high 17 digs. She also aided the offensive effort with six dimes. Freshman Lauren Tharp picked up nine scoops and senior McKenzie Watson contributed a pair. Freshman Kendyl Paris led the way at the net with five blocks and also chipped in with the same number of kills.
Morgan and Stumler connected for consecutive kills to get the Wildcats out to an early start at 2-0. The Lady Vols cut the lead to two again at 6-4, but then the home team utilized a 4-0 spurt powered by a pair of kills from Stumler and momentum-changing block from Morgan and Cooper. Kentucky strung together another four straight with four successive kills from Edmond, Stumler and Lilley to push the lead to 20-8. Kentucky scored five of the final seven points to take the opening frame by a 25-10 score. Edmond led the way with five kills, while Stumler and Cooper both chipped in with four apiece. Tharp and Stumler led the defensive charge with five digs each.
Lilley won the joust at the net to claim the first point of the set for the Wildcats. Tennessee answered immediately with a kill of its own. The teams exchanged points until Edmond and Lilley strung together three straight with three straight kills to make the score 5-2 in favor of the Blue and White. After the Vols snapped the spurt with a kill of their own, Edmond had a kill and then followed it with an ace to increase the lead to four at 7-3. A kill from Stumler was followed by an erroneous attack from the visitors which moved the lead to 10-4. The Volunteers put together a 3-0 run of their own to cut the deficit to three, but Kentucky responded with another kill from Stumler. Kills from Stumler and Edmond enabled UK to earn a 15-9 advantage at the media timeout. Lilley’s second ace of the match forced Tennessee into a timeout with the Cats out in front by a 20-11 margin. Tennessee fought off two set points, but Stumler ended the threat and lifted the Cats to a 25-16 win and a 2-0 lead in the match. Edmond had six kills in the set, while Stumler registered five. Curry picked up five digs and Lilley added four.
Tennessee jumped out to an early 3-0 advantage. Morgan’s slicing kill through the middle of the defense got Kentucky on the board. Edmond’s 14th kill of the night, this time a thunderous slam from the backrow, knotted the score at six apiece. The teams traded points until the Lady Vols shook loose for two straight to earn an 11-9 edge. Two big-time defensive plays by Curry and Stumler resulted in an Edmond kill and a UK point to snap Tennessee’s mini-run. Lilley followed with a heady touch shot to the back row to tie things once again. UT responded once again with a 3-0 string of points to force the Wildcats into a timeout down 14-11. Tennessee kept the pressure on and eventually earned a five-point advantage at 18-13, forcing the Cats to use their final timeout. Despite the Wildcats saving three set points, Tennessee was able to take the stanza by a 25-19 margin.
Stumler got things going in the fourth frame, but Tennessee answered immediately with a kill of its own. The teams swapped points until Paris and Cooper teamed up for back-to-back kills, Tennessee missed wide and then Cooper and Paris teamed up for a crowd-pleasing block to lift UK to a 6-2 edge. The Volunteers opted for an early timeout. Following the break, UT committed another erroneous attack and Lilley scored her career-best fourth ace for an 8-2 advantage. Tennessee burned its final timeout of the set. Pairs and Cooper combined for their second rejection of the set at 10-4. Morgan stretched the lead to nine at 14-5 with kills on back-to-back plays. Morgan got another kill to push the lead to 10 at 16-6. The Wildcats maintained their cushion and eventually stretched it to 21-9 after kills from Lilley in crafty fashion and Cooper in powerful style. Paris followed with an ace and Kentucky never looked back winning on a Stumler smash at 25-12.