LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 10th-seeded Kentucky volleyball team advanced into the second round of the 2018 NCAA Volleyball Championship on Friday night with a 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-19) win against Murray State in front of 2,881 fans inside of Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky will face Purdue for a spot in the NCAA Regional Semifinals on Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET. The Boilermakers swept East Tennessee State, 3-0, in the first match of the sub-regional. Saturday’s match will be broadcast live on the SEC Network+, ESPN3 and the ESPN app with Dick Gabriel and Kathy DeBoer on the call.
Tickets for the match on Saturday can be purchased ahead of time online at UKathletics.com/NCAATickets
With the win, Kentucky improved to 25-4 on the season, while Murray State concludes the 2018 campaign with a 22-10 mark. UK pushed its winning streak to 22 matches, two shy of the all-time program record.
“A lot of respect for Dave (Schwepker) and his program and what they’ve done, so congratulations to them and on their season,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “I thought we did a really good job of siding out, receiving serve and scoring when Murray was serving. They have some different serves that, you know, they serve from way off the court that are bombed which took a little bit to get used to, but for us to have 51 kills in that match is impressive defensively and I thought we could’ve done a better job slamming them down, but hats off to them and the way they played the game.”
Freshman Alli Stumler logged her fourth career double-double behind 12 kills and a career-high 15 digs. Senior Brooke Morgan was equally as vital to UK’s opening-round victory with 10 kills and a career-best seven digs, including four in one rally during the opening set. Morgan utilized a match-high .667 attacking percentage.
Junior Leah Edmond had a match-high 17 kills on a .324 rate. She added one block and a dig to the winning cause. Sophomore Kendyl Paris chipped in with five kills on a .400 percentage and a team-high four blocks. Junior Caitlyn Cooper added four kills at a .375 clip, two digs and a pair of blocks.
Sophomore setter Madison Lilley dished out 43 assists and had three digs and two blocks. The offense hit nearly .400 for the day with a .398 attacking percentage and 51 total kills.
Sophomore libero Gabby Curry led the defensive effort with 16 digs. Freshman Lauren Tharp amassed 11 to tally her third-career match with 10 or more digs. Seniors McKenzie Watson and Merideth Jewell each added a dig and ace to the winning effort.
Lilley helped Kentucky take control midway through the second set, as she had 15 assists through the opening 30 points of the match. The Wildcats took a 19-16 lead off a kill from Morgan on the right side of the net. Out of the timeout, Morgan recorded her third kill of the match, which was followed by a swing from Edmond – her seventh kill of the set as UK extended its lead to 22-15. Edmond and Stumler had a big block on the left side to set up set point in the opening frame, and an attack error on the left side of the Racers’ attack ended the first set, 25-18. Kentucky swung at a .385 clip paced by Edmond’s seven kills. Lilley finished the set with 17 assists, and the UK defense held MSU to just .182 offensively.
Stumler and Paris sparked the Kentucky midway through the second set after a slow start on a block at the net to even the frame at 12-12. UK took its first lead on the next point as Paris teamed with Cooper to stuff a Racer attack at the net along the left side. Stumler threw one to the floor to put the Wildcats up a pair and a kill by Morgan saw Kentucky take a 15-14 lead into the media timeout. A 3-0 run out of the media break punctuated by Stumler’s eighth kill of the match forced the Murray State bench into a timeout as Kentucky took an 18-14 lead, its largest of the set at that time. Edmond slammed to the floor her 11th kill of the match to put UK up 21-16 and Murray State called its final timeout of the set. Stumler ended the set with authority from the middle and put Kentucky up two sets to love with a 25-17 second-set win.
The Racers had as much as a 4-1 lead in the opening stages of the set, but Kentucky quickly worked its way back to level terms and won the next three successive points to square it at four all. A nice pass above the net from Lilley to Paris put Kentucky ahead 15-14 at the timeout of the third set after a tight start to the frame. Kentucky would extend its lead to 20-15 after Curry’s first ace of the match and second ace total for UK. An ace from Jewel set up match point at 24-18 and the Wildcats closed the match on an Edmond swing from the left side to seal a spot in the second round on Saturday night.