CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – Paced by four players with double-digit kills and a season-high 54 assists from junior setter Madison Lilley, The No. 12 Kentucky Volleyball team picked up its second win against a ranked team on Friday night, defeating No. 15 Southern California three sets to one.
It was the defense that made the difference in the match for the Wildcats, as libero Gabby Curry stifled the Trojan offense with 31 digs in the match, helping to hold USC to just .147 hitting all night. Curry was one of three players with double-digit digs for UK, joining sophomore Lauren Tharp (11) and sophomore Alli Stumler (10).
“I thought we showed some impressive resiliency after letting the third set slip away,” Craig Skinner, UK head coach said. “Kendyl Paris and Leah Meyer did an exceptional job of hitting behind the setter, which led to a lot of points tonight. Defensively, we were a lot better tonight as opposed to this afternoon, so it was goof to see the players make the adjustments necessary to be successful.”
Edmond was the Kentucky offensive leader in the match with 17 kills, one of four Wildcats with 10-plus kills in the match. Stumler notched the double-double with 13 kills to go along with her 10 digs, Leah Meyer had 12 terminations and junior Kendyl Paris had 10.
Lilley continued to shine, assisting on 54 of Kentucky’s 63 kills in the match and also adding in a kill and three blocks to her stat line.
Kentucky closes out the 2019 UNI Tournament on Saturday night at 8:30 p.m. ET against the host Panthers. The match will not be streamed, but live stats will be available.
Kentucky reversed the trend from its morning match with Creighton and took control early, winning the first four points by getting a first-ball sideout and three points on Alli Stumler’s serve. After the Trojans rallied to take their first lead of the set at 13-12, the Wildcats put four points in a row up on the board again to lead, 16-13. Leah Meyer and Madison Lilley had a huge stuff block at the net to keep the Trojans from getting any momentum coming out of the timeout. Kendyl Paris got her first kill of the set from the right side to put the Wildcats up 19-15 and forced USC into its second timeout of the set. A Leah Meyer kill at the right side ended the set it UK’s favor, 25-18.
After two challenges that took over three minutes each, both resulting in UK points – the Wildcats won back-to-back points to sandwich the media timeout and take a 16-14 lead. Freshman Azhani Tealer came in and contributed good swings, while Madison Lilley and Leah Meyer continued to excel defensively at the net. After USC burned its third challenge of the set, Tealer and sophomore Alli Stumler hammered home back-to-back kills on the right side to push the UK lead to 22-20 and force the Trojans into a timeout. A service ace closed the set at 25-22 in favor of the Wildcats.
Kentucky jumped out into a 5-3 lead in the early going of the third set, but it was USC that controlled a majority of the lead for the third set. The Trojans led by as many as three at 10-7, before excellent serving from Lauren Tharp and clutch kills from Tealer clawed the Wildcats back into the match. After UK won two extended rallies, including the longest of the match on a kill by Leah Meyer – the Trojans used a timeout trailing for the first time since 5-3 at 19-18 in the frame. Edmond skied from the back row to put the Wildcats up 23-19, their largest lead of the set at that point. That was followed by a Paris kill on the right side and gave UK four match points. USC rallied to win six-straight points from that spot and ended up winning the set 26-24 on a miscommunication along the Wildcats.
Tealer gave UK an energetic start in the fourth set as her kill put the Wildcats up 6-3 in the initial stages. Stumler then broke the USC momentum after they climbed back into it with an off-speed shot that found the floor followed by a dump from Lilley for a 9-6 lead. Following kills from Stumler and Meyer, the Trojans took a timeout trailing, 12-7. Kentucky took control in the middle portions of the set, as the Wildcats lead was extended to a much as 23-15. The Trojans continued to push the envelope and won four points in a row to crawl to within 23-19 and force the Wildcats into a timeout. A double contact was called on the next point to set up five match points for UK at 24-19. Tealer’s stuff solo block at the net ended the match, 25-19 in the fourth set.