COLLEGE STATION, Texas – During a 10-match winning streak, the 15th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team had only dropped four sets. Through three frames in College Station, Texas, on Sunday, UK trailed 2-1. Then the Wildcats displayed a bit of resiliency, a hint of tenacity and an edge of scrappiness as they rallied for a spectacular 3-2 (19-25, 25-19, 22-25, 25-20, 15-5) win against Texas A&M to remain perfect in Southeastern Conference action.
“I’m really proud of how we grew up during that match,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We had to learn how to handle adversity very quickly and respond. Our staff did a great job of coaching us through it and this team rallied around each other and continued to fight.”
In the decisive fifth set, Brooke Morgan got things going with a kill and then Madison Lilley and Kendyl Paris teamed up for consecutive blocks. Edmond kept the pressure on with another kill and a 4-0 lead. After an A&M timeout, Edmond smacked a kill and then UK forced a bad attack to grab a 7-1 edge. Edmond earned two more kills and the lead increased to eight at 9-1. With Kentucky leading 10-3, Texas A&M chose to take its final timeout. Paris and Caitlyn Cooper teamed up for a block to push the score to 12-4 in favor of Kentucky. After Lauren Tharp gave the Cats match point with an ace, UK wasted little time in clinching the comeback with a kill from Alli Stumler to take the final set 15-5.
The sprinkling of effort displayed by a variety of players in the fifth set mirrored the production throughout the entire match as it was a total team effort.
Edmond led the way offensively with a match-high 23 kills. She also contributed seven digs and a block. Cooper and Morgan both struck for 10 kills apiece. Cooper added five blocks, while Morgan picked up four digs and a trio of blocks. Lilley had another all-around effort with 51 assists to go along with a career-high and match-high 19 digs. She’s boasted consecutive matches with career-high digs.
Paris had six kills and a match-best seven blocks. Stumler totaled four kills and nine rejections. Avery Skinner posted five hammers with a dig and a block apiece. Tharp had a career-high 13 digs and Gabby Curry corralled 19 scoops.
Kentucky improved to 14-4 overall on the season and a perfect 8-0 in SEC play. After Sunday’s results, UK is the only remaining undefeated team in the conference. Kentucky’s winning streak has reached 11 and that’s also the longest in the conference. Texas A&M drops to 12-9 and 5-4 in league competition. Kentucky remains on the road for a date at Georgia on Friday.
After the Wildcats grabbed a 2-1 lead, the Aggies fought back to take a 4-3 edge of their own. Play seesawed until the Aggies were able to shake free for a 5-0 run and an 11-6 lead. Kentucky opted to take its first timeout to attempt to spell the spurt. Out of the timeout, UK went to Edmond for a kill. Stumler followed with another kill following a tremendous rally from both sides of the net. Morgan and Lilley teamed up for UK’s second block of the day to bridge the gap to four at 15-11. UK put together a 3-0 run of its own with kills coming from Edmond and Paris which enabled the visitors to pull to within two at 17-15 and the Aggies chose to take a timeout. Kentucky kept the pressure on and tied things at 17 following a block from Lilley and Paris and a kill from Lilley. Texas A&M answered with a 3-0 run of its own to once again reclaim a multi-point lead at 20-17 forcing Kentucky into a timeout. It was all the more breathing room the Aggies would need to earn a 25-19 opening-set victory for a 1-0 lead in the match.
Texas A&M opened up to a 2-0 lead before kills from Cooper and Skinner tied things at two apiece. From there the teams would trade points until the Cats forced the Aggies into consecutive hitting errors for an early 5-3 lead. A&M responded with a 4-0 spurt of its own to retake the lead at 7-5. Another outstanding rally by both sides ended with the Wildcats forcing an erroneous attack to knot things at eight apiece. The teams traded points all the way into the media timeout with the Cats owning a 15-14 edge. Consecutive kills from Edmond and Morgan lifted the Cats to a 17-15. Kentucky grabbed a 22-17 lead after scoring five of six points to force the Aggies into a timeout. Kentucky earned set point behind a block from Cooper and Morgan and then finished off the set when A&M committed a service error.
Edmond started the set with a kill and A&M responded with a point of its own. A block from the tandem of Paris and Cooper followed by an ace from Curry enabled the Wildcats to take an early 4-1 edge. The home team did not go away, however, and eventually tied it up at five apiece. The Aggies continued on a 7-0 run to take a 9-5 lead. UK opted for a timeout to attempt to quell the threat. Texas A&M kept the pressure on and pushed the lead to five before UK snapped the string of points by forcing the Aggies into a hitting error. The Wildcats pulled to within two at 15-13, but the Aggies responded to stretch the lead back to four at 17-13. Following a timeout, the Cats scored three in a row to pull to within one at 17-16. A&M again answered and earned a 20-17 advantage. It was all the more breathing room the Aggies needed en route to a 25-22 third set win for a 2-1 lead in the match.
Texas A&M started the scoring to being the fourth frame, but UK benefited from an Aggie service error immediately. Two kills from Edmond lifted the Cats to a 3-1 edge. Two more kills from Edmond moved the lead to four at 6-2. The Wildcats continued to maintain a big lead and took a 15-9 lead into the media timeout at 15-10. After Texas A&M pulled to within two, Kentucky scored the next two highlighted by a kill from Morgan to earn an 18-13 edge. The Aggies would not go away and clawed back to within two again this time at 18-16, and Kentucky chose to take a timeout. Kills from Morgan and Edmond helped UK string together three straight and take a 21-16 lead late forcing the Aggies to take their final timeout. Paris connected with Lilley for a kill to lift the Cats to a 25-20 win to force a decisive fifth frame.