LEXINGTON, Ky. – Freshman Madison Lilley directed the sixth-ranked Kentucky volleyball team to a bounce-back 3-1 (20-25, 25-15, 25-22, 25-16) win over visiting South Carolina on Sunday. She helped three Wildcats reach double-figure kills in the win, UK’s 20th of the season. Kentucky dropped the opening set before rallying to take the final three to secure the win.
“My favorite part of the match is that we got better each set,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “We did start slow, but I’m not going to take anything away from South Carolina. That’s an athletic team and they’re playing very hard for their coach right now. I’m pleased, especially in set four, with the way we really came on offensively.”
Kentucky improves to 20-3 overall on the season and 11-1 in Southeastern Conference action, while South Carolina falls to 11-13 on the year and 4-8 against league foes. Today’s win signifies the 10th season and seventh-consecutive year in which Skinner has directed a team to 20 or more wins. UK returns to action with a midweek tilt at Alabama on Wednesday. First serve is set for 8 p.m. ET and the match will air live on the SEC Network.
Lilley once again topped 40 assists with 44 helpers on the day. She also contributed eight digs, a match-high five blocks and three kills in the winning effort. As a unit, Kentucky combined for 57 kills – 10 more than South Carolina – and utilized a .276 attacking percentage. Three players reached double figures in the kills’ column, led by sophomore Leah Edmond. Edmond boasted a match-best 19 kills on a .351 attacking percentage, but perhaps made the biggest difference from the service line. Edmond had a career-high five aces, while also adding 11 digs for her 14th career double-double and fifth of the season. Her previous career high in aces was four in a win over Southern Cal earlier this season.
Freshman Avery Skinner notched 15 kills and also chipped in with three digs and a pair of blocks. It’s the 13th time this year she has topped 10 or more kills in a match. Senior Emily Franklin had 11 kills on a team-high .450 hitting clip. She’s reached a .400 hitting clip or better on 15 occasions. Franklin added four blocks and a pair of aces to the winning cause. Senior Kaz Brown added seven kills and three blocks, while junior Brooke Morgan and Darian Mack each posted a kill. Morgan also added a trio of rejections.
Senior Ashley Dusek had 13 digs and four assists. Junior McKenzie Watson added five digs, while freshman Gabby Curry had four. Dusek has reached double-digit digs in 15-consecutive matches.
South Carolina grabbed the first two points of the set. Franklin got the Cats on the board with a kill to cut the SC advantage to 2-1. Play seesawed until a service error and a Big Blue block from Lilley and Brown tied the set at 5-5. SC answered with a three-point run, and UK was able to end the run with a Skinner termination. Points went back-and-forth until 12-8, when SC earned a kill and forced UK to burn a timeout. Out of the timeout, Edmond earned back-to-back kills to cut the Gamecock advantage to 12-10. SC pushed its lead back to 14-10 before a service error. A ball handling error made it 15-11. An Edmond kill and an ace got the SC lead back to two at 15-13, but South Carolina answered right back with two points of its own. Play went back-and-forth until the Gamecocks took a 23-18 advantage. UK got two kills from Brown, but SC won the set 25-20.
The Wildcats started the second set in front after a kill form Edmond. SC answered and play seesawed until UK gained a 5-3 lead after a solo stuff from Lilley and a Skinner termination. SC was able to take the lead at 7-6 as part of a three-point run. UK answered with a five-point swing that was capped by an attacking error that gave UK a 12-7 lead and forced SC to burn a timeout. . The run had a block from Franklin and Morgan and a kill from Franklin. UK went up 14-10 after a block from Morgan and Brown. After teams traded points, an Edmond kill, ace and an SC attacking error gave Kentucky an 18-12 advantage and forced the Gamecocks to use their second timeout. Out of the timeout, the Gamecocks were called for an illegal attack. The Gamecocks stopped the five-point run with a kill, but UK grabbed two more to go up 22-13 after a Skinner kill. Skinner got a solo stuff to put the Cats up 24-15, and a Lilley ace won the set for UK at 25-15.
The Gamecocks took a 1-0 lead, but a Franklin hammer tied the set early. SC grabbed the lead once again but UK responded with a four-point run capped by a Franklin ace, her second of the run, to take a 5-2 advantage. UK went up 7-3 with an Edmond termination. SC took back-to-back-points, then the Wildcats went on a four-point run to go up 11-5, capped by an Edmond ace and a Skinner kill. South Carolina was able to get the lead to 13-9, but a Franklin kill and an attacking error by the opponents extended UK’s lead to 15-9. The Gamecocks went on a four-point run to cut the lead to 15-13, but UK responded with three of its own after kills from Morgan and Edmond and a block from Morgan and Brown. UK grabbed its biggest lead of the set at 22-15 after a service error and two attacking errors. South Carolina fought back with a four-point run and forced UK to burn a timeout up 22-19. An UK attacking error cut the lead to 22-20, and the teams traded points until Kentucky won with a Skinner kill, 25-22.
South Carolina took an early lead, but Franklin tied the set at 1-1 with a kill. After SC took the lead once again, UK had three-straight Edmond hammers to earn a 4-2 lead. SC stopped the Edmond run, but Edmond had another kill to put the Cats up 5-3. The Gamecocks managed to get the UK advantage down to 6-5, but two Skinner kills made the set 8-5. SC tied the set at 8-8 and took the lead on a block at 9-8. Kentucky rattled off five straight to take control at 13-9 with the help from Skinner, Franklin and Lilley with kills. Play went back-and-forth until SC was able to cut the lead down to 18-15. Kentucky responded with kills from Lilley and Skinner and a Big Blue block from Franklin and Lilley to go up 21-15 and force SC to use a timeout. Kentucky grabbed two more to take a 23-15 advantage. Lilley and Franklin teamed up for a block to lift UK to match point. Kentucky’s defense forced the 21st attacking error of the match by the visitors for the clinching point and a 25-16 set victory.
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