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Wildcats Cruise to Sweep of No. 11 Florida, Take Control of SEC Race

Kentucky players celebrate their sweep of Florida Wednesday. (Vicky Graff Photo)

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 12th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team led from start to finish and cruised to a 3-0 (25-15, 25-18, 25-20) sweep of No. 11 Florida in front of 2,717 raucous fans inside of Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday night. The win marked No. 14 in a row for the Wildcats, matching the longest winning streak under head coach Craig Skinner.

“Obviously, the serving pressure we applied kept their middles out of the match as much as possible,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “And you can tell – when they did pass – they were able to get their middles involved. Our team did a really good job. I loved our composure, focus and intensity. Our team has been ready to go for the last couple of days and it showed tonight.”

Kentucky improves to 17-4 on the year and 11-0 in Southeastern Conference action. With the win, Kentucky now owns a two-match lead in the league standings over the rest of the field with seven regular-season matches remaining. Florida fell to 19-5 and 10-2 in league play. The Wildcats return to the court at Ole Miss on Sunday for a 1 p.m. ET tilt. It is set to air live on SECNetwork+. The win also signified the fourth in the last six meetings with the Gators.

Junior Leah Edmond came alive with eight kills in the second set alone on a .471 attacking clip. She concluded the night with a match-high 16 kills and a team-high 10 digs for her 19th career double-double and the second of the season. She also contributed two blocks and an ace in the win.

Sophomore setter Madison Lilley directed the UK offense to the tune of 33 assists and a .274 hitting percentage. She added a pair of kills, nine digs and an ace to the winning cause.

For the 13th-consecutive match, Kentucky’s defense was stout. The league-leader in opponent hitting percentage, the Cats limited Florida to a mere .104 attacking percentage marking the 13th straight foe to be limited to a .199 attacking clip or lower. Senior Brooke Morgan led the Wildcats in blocking with four rejections on the night. She also added five kills on a .455 attacking percentage and a match-high two aces.

Freshman Alli Stumler performed on the biggest stage with eight kills, seven digs and a block. Sophomore Kendyl Paris was a force to help set the tone in the opening set. Paris had four kills in the frame and finished the night with five on a team-high .556 clip. She also added a pair of blocks. Junior Caitlyn Cooper chipped in with four kills, two blocks and two digs.

Sophomore libero Gabby Curry and freshman defensive specialist Lauren Tharp each had nine digs to aid the defensive cause.

SET 1

Kentucky forced the Gators into an erroneous attack, but then answered with back-to-back kills. A UF service ace knotted things again at two apiece. Paris smacked a kill cross-court, Edmond followed with a shot down the line, then Lilley found Paris once more and Lilley came up with a shot of her own to move the score to 6-2 in favor or UK. Florida opted for any early timeout. Following the timeout Florida snapped Kentucky’s spurt, but the Cats answered with another kill down the line from Paris – her third of the set. Stumler picked up her first kill of the night and then teamed with Morgan for a block and a 10-5 lead for the Wildcats. Back-to-back miscues from the Gators lifted the Wildcats to their largest lead of the set at 12-6. Edmond tooled the block and Morgan earned the first ace of the match to push the score to 16-8 in favor of the home team. Lilley found Paris once again and then Edmond served by an ace. Florida chose to take its final timeout with the Cats out in front by a 19-11 score. Out of the break, the Wildcats forced consecutive errors by the Gators’ attack for a comfortable 21-11 edge. Fittingly, the UK defense was able to generate two more UF errors for the clinching points for a 25-15 opening-set win. Kentucky frustrated Florida into a .051 attacking percentage in the stanza.

SET 2

Florida opened the scoring to start the second set with a kill that tooled the block. Morgan went line to tie things immediately. The teams exchanged points until Florida committed three straight errors for a 6-3 UK edge. Edmond kept the pressure on with a massive cross-court shot. Florida fought back and pulled to within one at 9-8, but UK came up with an answer in the form of Stumler who turned in a monstrous kill for the home team. Lilley then took advantage of an overpass with a thunderous hammer for an 11-8 UK lead. Florida chose to take its first timeout of the set to attempt to spell the spurt. After the Gators earned a kill, UK found Edmond from the back row as Kentucky maintained its three-point lead. Edmond tooled the block on the next play to move the lead to four, the largest of the set. Edmond torched the defense for her eighth kill of the set for a 16-12 Kentucky advantage. After an illegal attack by the visitors, Cooper went high off the block and then the tandem of Cooper and Paris came up with another Big Blue block for a 19-12 Kentucky lead and another Florida timeout. The lead increased to eight at 23-15 after another Stumler kill. The Gators fended off two set points before Stumler crushed a ball to the middle of the court for a 25-18 set win and a 2-0 lead in the match.

SET 3

Kentucky earned a 1-0 lead to open the scoring in the third frame by benefiting from a Florida miscue. The Gators responded with two straight of their own, but UK answered the call with a cross-court smash from Morgan to knot things up. Paris then took advantage of a Florida overpass with another big kill. Edmond kept things rolling in UK’s favor with a kill down the line followed by a kill off the block and a 5-2 Kentucky lead. Morgan brought the crowd to its feet with her second ace of the match and the Wildcats’ lead ballooned to four. An ace from Lilley gave the Wildcats an 8-3 lead and prompted another early timeout from the Gators. Kentucky pushed the lead to six at 10-4 after generating another bad attack from the visitors. Stumler’s eighth kill of the night moved the lead to seven at 13-6. Florida cut the deficit to five, but the Cats went back to Morgan down the line to snap the run and a 15-9 lead. Avery Skinner laced a ball off the head of a Florida defender to lift Kentucky to a 19-12 lead. The Gators opted to take their final timeout. The Gators staved off five set points, before Edmond finished it off with a kill and a 25-20 third set win. 

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