LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 11 Kentucky volleyball team kept the longest winning streak in the Craig Skinner era intact on Friday night with 3-0 (25-15, 25-17, 25-14) sweep of Mississippi State in Memorial Coliseum in Lexington.
“Just pleased,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “I thought we got better each set so I was happy about that. Our execution – we started a little slow, but we were really good by the end of it, ironed out some things. Floor defense: really good again with Gabby (Curry) getting 22 digs and making (Mississippi State) earn it. Stumler’s five aces is a big number in three sets. I was pretty pleased with the way we came out.”
With Friday night’s result, Kentucky improves to 19-4 overall on the season and remains unbeaten in Southeastern Conference play at 13-0 and keeps a two-match lead over the rest of the league. Mississippi State falls to 5-21, 1-12 SEC.
Junior outside hitter Lead Edmond led the Wildcats with 10 kills in the match to go along with six digs and two service aces. Caitlyn Cooper had eight kills for the Wildcats and hit a team-high .615 on the night. Gabby Curry was just one dig away from matching her career high with 22 digs in the match, leading all players. Additionally, Brooke Morgan hit .429 on the night with seven kills. The .429 average marks the seventh time reaching .412 or higher in the last nine matches. The senior also picked up six blocks for the fourth time in the last five matches.
Sophomore setter Madison Lilley posted 34 assists to go along with her four kills on six swings, five digs and two blocks.
Freshman Alli Stumler posted five aces, which is the most by any Wildcat in a match this season. She also added six kills, three digs and a block to her credit. Avery Skinner played just half a set but picked up five kills on just seven swings.
Kentucky as a team hit .314 on the night, but it was the defense that stood out – as Mississippi State was held to .172 on the night offensively and only had one player with more than five kills in the match on Friday night.
UK returns to action on Sunday vs. Alabama at 1:30 p.m. ET at Memorial Coliseum. The match will be shown live on the SEC Network+ and the WatchESPN app. Alabama is 18-9 on the season and 5-8 in SEC play.
UK started strong, scoring the opening point of the match off of a Brooke Morgan kill to put the Wildcats on top 1-0. After back-and-forth action, Kentucky went on the first meaningful run of the set taking a 10-6 lead. Caitlyn Cooper put a nice touch shot to the floor to make it a 3-0 run for the Wildcats and then brought the hammer on the longest rally of the set to close out the run. Leah Edmond had back-to-back kills from the left side to increase the Wildcats lead to 14-9, its largest of the set at that time. After the media timeout, Kentucky scored three-straight points capped by Edmond’s third kill of the set to force Mississippi State to call its first timeout at 18-12. A 4-0 run closed the set, as a block forged by Morgan and Madison Lilley put Kentucky in command. After a swing from Alli Stumler set up set point, Lilley closed out the set with a swing from the middle, closing out the first game 25-15 in favor of the Wildcats. Cooper led UK with four kills in the set, as UK hit .314 in the opening frame. The Wildcats defense held Mississippi State to a .161 average and just eight kills.
Kentucky raced out to a 4-0 advantage in the second frame, as Lilley aced her way to a 3-0 lead and then had a kill from the right side to make it a 4-0 lead in favor of the Wildcats. An attack error by the Bulldogs extended the UK lead to 8-5, as Cooper continued to impose her will into the match with a powerful kill from the left side just a point earlier. A 3-0 scoring run thanks to two Bulldog errors sandwiching a Morgan kill forced MSU to call its first timeout of the set with the Wildcats leading, 12-8. Five of six points went the Wildcats way, including kills from Kendyl Paris, Edmond twice and Cooper. After an attack error from the Bulldogs and three points in a row going UK’s way, MSU burned its second timeout after, seeing its deficit climb to 18-11. Mississippi State went on its longest run of the match following the timeout to cut the lead to 19-16 after three UK errors and a kill from Gabby Zgunda. UK responded by winning six of the last seven points in the set, capped by an ace from Stumler. The Wildcats took a 2-0 lead after a 25-17 second-set win.
The third set began with a bang as Stumler powered home a kill from the left side to put the Wildcats up 1-0 early. After kill from Morgan to make it 2-0, it was smooth sailing from there. Mississippi State called a timeout after consecutive kills from Cooper and Morgan increased the UK lead to five at 10-5. After another 6-2 run for the Wildcats and an attacking error by the Bulldogs, MSU used its final timeout of the set trailing the Wildcats 16-7. Avery Skinner threw down match point for her fifth kill of the night as Kentucky closed out a 3-0 sweep of Mississippi State and a 25-14 final set win.