By LARRY VAUGHT
Sophomore Alli Stumler had a combined 36 kills in Kentucky’s wins over Mississippi State and No. 19 Missouri last week to lead the team to a pair of victories. Her play was so impressive that she was named the Sports Imports/American Volleyball Coaches’ Association National Player of the Week and was also named Southeastern Conference Player of the week.
She hit .345 on the weekend with a service ace and 14 digs to help UK get off to a 2-0 SEC start as it goes after its third straight league title.
Stumler knows league opponents all want to beat UK, something that was driven home against Mississippi State. Kentucky won the first two sets but State fought back to win the third set before losing on four sets.
“We just talked about that how no team whether a team is at the top of the SEC or the bottom, no team is going to come out and play flat against us,” Stumler said. “Obviously we have a huge target on our back since we won it outright last year and tied the year before.
“Just knowing that teams are going to want to beat us and take us down. That’s a huge thing for us to overcome and step up and take that challenge.”
One positive for Stumler and her teammates is that knowing UK is a target for every team motivates them even more in conference play.
“Heck yeah. We love challenges,” Stumler said. “I know personally I do and playing along side these girls I know they do, too. We are a competitive bunch and love to get after it.”
Kentucky, ranked 16th, resumes SEC play Friday night when it hosts South Carolina and then faces a showdown with Sunday afternoon with No. 16. Kentucky has won 27 straight SEC games since a Nov. 1, 2017, loss to Florida.
Junior setter Madison Lilley has been on a roll lately, too. She had her fourth 40-plus assists match of the season against Mississippi State. She also had a season-high six kills against Missouri.