Behind three double-digit kill efforts, the No. 7 Kentucky volleyball team took down Alabama, 3-1 (25-15, 25-23, 23-25, 25-19) inside Foster Auditorium on Wednesday night.
“I was proud of our effort at the end of the fourth,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “Ashley Dusek was big time for us making plays. The team did a good job of responding when we needed it.”
The Wildcats improved to 21-3 and 12-1 in the Southeastern Conference, while Alabama fell to 16-11 and 4-9 in the league. The Cats will return to state on Sunday when they face Auburn at 2:30 p.m. ET.
Kentucky was paced on offense by sophomore Leah Edmond, who was stellar once again. Edmond produced 21 kills, her sixth match of 20 or more terminations this season. Joining her with double-digit kills were freshman Avery Skinner and senior Emily Franklin. Skinner had 16 hammers on 35 swings, while Franklin had 13. Franklin’s kill total was one off her career high, and her hitting percentage of .458 was the 16th time she’s reached the .400 mark this season. Senior Kaz Brown chipped in with six kills, and junior Brooke Morgan had three.
Senior Ashley Dusek put up 28 digs in the four-set win, the highest total for a Wildcat this season. Dusek’s 28 scoops blew past her season high of 18, which she recorded at Marquette. Freshman Madison Lilley chipped in eight digs of her own, while Edmond and Franklin had five each. Eleven Wildcats recorded at least one, while the team as a whole had 63.
Lilley continued what she’s done all season on offense. She posted her 13th match with 40 or more assists with 48, while helping the Cats rack up 64 kills and hit .269. She had one ace and one kill as well.
UK recorded 12 blocks as a team, and was led by Brown who had seven, including three solo stuffs. Franklin and Morgan each had three, while Edmond had one solo and one assisted block. Skinner and Lilley also recorded one block each.
For the second match in a row, serving was a major factor. UK had eight aces, including four in the first set alone. Franklin and junior McKenzie Watson had two a piece, while Lilley, Edmond, Dusek and freshman Gabby Curry had one.
Alabama started the match with a block to take an early advantage. Edmond tied it with a kill that started a three-point run that included a Curry ace and stuff from senior Darian Mack and Franklin that put UK up 3-1. Kentucky took a three-point advantage after kills from Brown and Edmond to go up 6-3, but Bama responded with two points of its own, cutting the Kentucky advantage to 6-5. A service error ended the run, and Skinner grabbed a kill at 8-5. Again Skinner had a kill at 9-7. Alabama took the lead after three straight points to go up 10-9. UK answered back with kills from Franklin and Skinner to retake the lead, 11-10. At 11-11, UK went on a 6-1 run that was capped by a Brown kill and forced Alabama to take at timeout at 17-12. The Crimson Tide scored out of the break, but Kentucky scored three more after a kill from Mack, block from Brown and ace from Watson to go up 20-13, where Alabama used its last timeout. Watson recorded another ace out of the timeout, and then Edmond had a massive hammer to take a 22-13 lead. UK went up 24-15 after an Edmond ace, and won on a Lilley kill, 25-15. The Wildcats recorded four aces in the first set while hitting .278 as a team.
Mack got a kill to start the second set for UK. A Lilley ace put UK up 2-0. Bama tied the set at 2-2, but UK responded with a Franklin termination, helped by Lilley. A service error from UK knotted the set at 3-3. The Cats went up 5-3 after kills from Edmond and Mack, but Alabama was able to tie the set at 6-6. The squads traded points until the Crimson Tide was able to take an 11-9 advantage and force UK to burn a timeout. Out of the timeout, Kentucky tied the set at 11 with kills from Skinner and Franklin. Bama gained the lead with a service error form Curry, but a solo stuff from Edmond knotted the set back up. Edmond knotted the set up once again at 13-13, this time with a kill. Teams traded points until 15-15, when UK went on a three-point run after kills from Skinner and Franklin and a Dusek ace to force Bama to use a timeout at 18-15. The Crimson Tide scored out of the timeout and teams traded points before UK found itself up 21-17 after terminations from Skinner and Edmond. Play went back-and-forth until 24-20, when Alabama used a timeout. Kentucky won the set, 25-23, on a Skinner termination.
Morgan started the set with a termination, but Alabama responded with four points. UK went on a four-point run, capped by a Franklin ace, to take a 5-4 advantage. UK went up 8-6 after a solo stuff from Skinner. Alabama took the lead after a four-point run to go up 10-8. Brown stopped the run with a termination, but UA put up two more to take a 12-9 lead and forced UK to burn a timeout. Franklin grabbed a kill out of the break. After a Bama point, Skinner and Morgan cut the Crimson Tide advantage to 13-12. Bama went up 14-12 before UK regained the lead with an Edmond kill and blocks from Brown and Edmond. Edmond tied the set again, this time at 16-16 with a termination. Kentucky won a challenge on a touch to tie the set at 17. Teams traded points until Alabama gained a 22-20 lead, and UK called a timeout. Play seesawed until 24-23. Alabama won the set 25-23.
Alabama won the first two points of the set. Kentucky scored on a service error and Brown and Morgan stuff. Bama regained that two-point advantage, but a Brown kill ended the run. The teams traded points until UK was able to tie the set at 6-6 thanks to a Franklin kill. Runs from both teams knotted the set at 10-10, and Edmond gained the lead for the Cats at 11-10. Alabama went on a three-point run to force UK to burn a timeout down 13-11. Kentucky evened the frame at 14-14 after a stuff from Brown and Morgan and again at 15 after an Edmond kill. Alabama called timeout after Kentucky pulled ahead thanks to a Franklin termination at 18-17. Skinner capped a four-point run with a hammer at 20-17. Kentucky would allow just two more points and win on a Skinner hammer, 25-19.
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