LEXINGTON, Ky. – Junior outside hitter Leah Edmond tied her own Kentucky volleyball rally-scoring era record with 21 kills in a three-set match on Sunday afternoon inside Memorial Coliseum as the No. 11 Wildcats picked up their sixth-straight sweep to cruise past Alabama, 3-0 (25-16, 25-19, 25-23).
“Our offense was humming today,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “We earned 24 points in the first and third sets. I think in total, (Alabama) had seven hitting errors, so we really had to be good offensively. Alabama was very sharp today on offense. It was imperative – we broke a school record for kills in a three-set match, so we certainly needed it on a day like today. Alabama played well.”
With the win, Kentucky improves to 20-4 overall in the 2018 season and stays in total control of the Southeastern Conference with a 14-0 mark in league play. Alabama falls to 18-10 overall and is now 5-9 in league matches.
Kentucky will now hit the road for a three-match road swing commencing on Wednesday night against the Arkansas Razorbacks. The match in Fayetteville, Arkansas will have a first serve of 6 p.m. ET and will be shown live on ESPNU and stream online through the ESPN app and AppleTV.
In addition to her match-high 21 kills, Edmond also tallied 11 digs in the match. The double-double for the junior outside hitter from Lexington, Kentucky is her third of the season and she now has six matches this season with 20 or more kills. The 21 kills are the most in a three-set conference match by any league player this season.
Madison Lilley also had a double-double in the match with 11 digs and 45 assists. The sophomore setter now has three double-doubles on the season. Lilley’s match on Sunday was her 10th this season in double figures for digs, joining her matches against Northern Iowa and Texas State. She also directed the offense to 62 total kills, which is the program record in a three-set match during the 25-point rally scoring era, on a blazing .350 attacking percentage.
Junior Caitlyn Cooper set a new career high on Sunday afternoon, hitting .733 on the afternoon. She recorded 11 kills in the match on 15 total attacks – the best numerical output of the season for the right side hitter.
Freshman Alli Stumler was a critical component of the match as well, tying her career high with 15 kills. To go along with the 15 terminations, she also recorded eight digs in the match. Sunday was her 10th match this season in double figures for kills.
Sophomore libero Gabby Curry was once again sensational. The reigning SEC Player of the Week accounted for a match-high 20 digs. She’s topped the 20-dig plateau eight times this season, including each of the last three matches. UK’s 61 total digs in the match was just one shy of the program record in a three-setter during the 25-point rally scoring era.
Senior Brooke Morgan had three blocks and four kills. Sophomore Kendyl Paris added six kills on a .600 attacking clip and a block. Freshman Lauren Tharp chipped in with eight digs and an assist.
After a back-and-forth opening sequence, the Wildcats pulled ahead by scoring seven of nine points to take a 12-8 lead through the opening 20 points in the match. The media break came at a timely moment for the Tide, after a long rally was punctuated by a Stumler kill to put the Wildcats ahead 15-10. Lilley placed home her first kill of the match from the left side to force the Tide into calling its first timeout of the match, trailing 18-13. Another kill by Lilly and then a swing from the right side by Morgan, her third of the match, forced Alabama to use their second timeout after UK saw its lead balloon to 21-14. A great serve by Lilly forced a free ball from the Tide and then Cooper slammed home the opening set for the Blue and White to put the Wildcats up, 1-0. Kentucky hit .513 in the opening set, while holding Alabama to a .323 clip. Lilley had 15 assists in the frame, and the Wildcat offense was led by six kills from Edmond.
Edmond and Stumler had a great combination from opposite ends of the court to start off the set with a 3-0 lead on an extended rally, and Morgan followed with a swing from the middle to jet the Wildcats out to a 4-0 advantage. After Edmond took advantage of an Alabama miscue on the succeeding point, Kentucky was up 5-0 and Alabama called time. The Tide got its first point of the set off a challenge to end a 6-0 run for the Wildcats to begin the frame. Alabama went on a 4-0 run midway through the set, assisted by a pair of UK errors to cut the deficit to 12-9. Alabama climbed all the way back to tie the set after being six points down on an error from Morgan at 15 all, before a kill from Doris Carter gave them their first lead of the entire match at 18-17. Successive kills by Cooper and Stumler – both from Edmond – gave Kentucky a 3-0 run and a two-point cushion at 20-18 and Alabama burned its final timeout. The longest rally of the set ended in a net violation that put Kentucky on a 7-0 run to set up set point for the Wildcats. Edmond swung home the second set and a 2-0 lead from the center of the court as UK wrapped an 8-1 run to close the set, winning the frame 25-19. Kentucky held Alabama to just .125 in the second set and Edmond took control of the match with eight kills in the set, bringing her match total to 14 through two. Curry was also dynamic, taking her match total to 17 digs through two sets.
After finding itself a match-high three points down, Lilley capped a 3-0 run with a dump from the middle of the court to put the set even at 10 all. She recorded her eighth double-double of the season as UK took seven of the next eight points to open up a 14-11 lead. A 3-0 Alabama run followed with the capper being a Carter kill, her 10th of the match. With the match sitting at 14 apiece, the Tide won the point leading into the media break to reclaim the lead at 15-14. After an extended rally at 18-all ended in a Kentucky error, Alabama won three of the next four points, forcing the Wildcats to use their first timeout of the set, trailing by a pair. Edmond swung home her team-leading 20th kill of the match to even the set at 21 all and the Tide to use a timeout. Cooper’s swing from the right side put UK up 23-22 and forcing an Alabama timeout. When an Edmond kill, her 21st of the match, set up match point, it was Stumler who found the floor on the succeeding point to cap off a 3-0 sweep and a 25-23 win in the third set.