OXFORD, Miss. – Led by a stellar defensive effort from sophomore libero Gabby Curry, the 12th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team cruised to a 3-0 (25-19, 25-21, 25-20) win over Ole Miss on Sunday. The win is the 15th in a row for the Wildcats setting a new record for consecutive wins under head coach Craig Skinner.
“Overall, I was pleased with our defense against a team that has some heavy arms,” Skinner said. “Holding them to a low hitting percentage on their home court says a lot about our floor defense and timely blocking. I didn’t think we were crisp throughout the match, but we were very focused and determined at the end of each set.”
The win moves UK’s record to 18-4 and a perfect 12-0 in league competition. Ole Miss falls to 13-14 overall and 3-10 in Southeastern Conference action. Kentucky returns home for a pair of matches next weekend. Up first is a date with Mississippi State at 7 p.m. inside of Memorial Coliseum on Friday. Kentucky will also host Alabama on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET.
Curry helped UK’s defense stifle the Rebels with a match-high 22 digs. In two matches with Ole Miss this season in six sets of play, she’s picked up 45 digs for an average of 7.5 per set. Kentucky’s defense yielded just 33 kills on a .122 attacking percentage. It’s the 14th straight opponent to be limited to a .199 attacking clip or lower. Freshman Lauren Tharp chipped in with seven digs, while senior McKenzie Watson added three.
Junior Leah Edmond paced the offensive effort with a match-high 15 kills, including eight coming in the opening set. She added seven digs and a pair of blocks. Classmate Caitlyn Cooper had nine kills to add to the offensive output. Senior Brooke Morgan tacked on seven kills and a match-high six blocks.
Freshman Alli Stumler had six kills to couple with 11 digs and an ace. Sophomore Avery Skinner added five kills on a .571 hitting percentage, while classmate Kendyl Paris chipped in with five kills on a .455 clip and a pair of blocks.
Sophomore setter Madison Lilley was steady once again. The UK floor general had 40 assists, two kills, an ace, five blocks and seven digs in the winning effort.
Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead after the Wildcats were forced into an erroneous attack, but the Rebels committed an equivalent error on the next play. Play seesawed until the Rebels earned a two-point edge at 6-4. Kentucky answered with a 2-0 run of its own as Curry knotted the score at six apiece. The teams exchanged points once again until Kentucky scored two in a row with a kill from Stumler jumpstarting the run to move the score to 10-8 in favor of the visitors. The lead stretched to three at 13-10 following Edmond’s third kill of the set. The Rebels fought back and pulled to within one at 13-12, but UK answered with a kill from Cooper. Paris’ second kill of the set enabled the Cats to have a two-point edge at the media timeout, 15-13. Out of the timeout, Ole Miss scored the next two points before Lilley found Morgan for a big kill. The Rebels would not go away, however, and eventually claimed a 17-16 lead. Kentucky answered with a kill from Stumler who tooled the block followed by a block from Lilley and Morgan to reclaim the lead. Edmond kept the pressure on with a kill down the line for a 19-17 lead. Ole Miss chose to take a timeout. Another Big Blue block, this time from the hands of Paris and Edmond, gave the Cats a 21-18 advantage late in the frame. An ace from Lilley allowed the Cats to earn set point. The Rebels chose to take their final timeout. Following the break, Stumler made two spectacular defensive plays to keep the ball in play and Edmond finished it off with her sixth kill of the set and a 25-19 set victory.
Edmond kept things rolling to begin the second stanza as she laced a kill to get the Cats on the board first. Paris and Morgan both got in on the action with kills and a 3-1 edge early. The Rebels fought back and eventually tied it at five apiece. Lilley found Cooper for an emphatic kill to halt the run. The teams traded points from there until Ole Miss earned a two-point lead at 13-11. Kentucky responded immediately with a solo rejection from Paris. Consecutive kills from Edmond and Cooper enabled the Wildcats to tie things again this time at 14. The Rebels took the lead into the media timeout, but UK found Cooper right out of the gate to tie it at 15. Morgan then came up with a massive solo block to give the Cats back the lead. Ole Miss would not go away and fought back to knot the score at 17. Kentucky responded with a 2-0 spurt of its own with Morgan picking up a kill for a 19-17 lead. The Rebels chose to take a timeout. Kentucky took a three-point lead at 21-18 on an ace from Stumler, but Ole Miss clawed back to tie the score at 21. UK took a timeout to attempt to quell the threat. Ole Miss committed a service error following the huddle and then Lilley found Paris on a slide for a 23-21 lead. The Rebels used their final timeout. Kentucky’s defense forced two consecutive errant Ole Miss attacks to earn the second set win at 25-21.
The Rebels opened the scoring to begin the third with a kill and eventually took a comfortable 4-0 lead. Lilley and Morgan teamed up for a block to snap the string of points for the home team. Kentucky fought back with a 5-0 spurt of its own with another Lilley-Morgan block in the stretch to take the lead. Ole Miss continued to keep the pressure on and eventually earned a three-point lead at 10-7, but Edmond’s 10th kill of the match halted the run. A trio of kills from Skinner enabled the Wildcats to knot the score at 13 apiece, and eventually take a 15-14 lead into the media timeout. Kills from Edmond and Cooper had the Cats the first to 20 and leading by three. After another kill from Edmond pushed UK’s lead to four at 21-17, the Rebels scored two in a row to pull to within two and the Cats opted for a timeout. Following the break, Lilley went back to Edmond who promptly smashed a kill. Watson then served up an ace to give UK a four-point lead once again. Kentucky kept up the pressure as Skinner picked up another kill for set point. Skinner finished it off with her fifth kill of the frame and a 25-20 final set victory.