Wildcats Open 2017 Campaign with Sweep of Arkansas State
LEXINGTON, Ky. – A collective effort in all phases of the game led the No. 14 Kentucky volleyball team to a season-opening 3-0 (25-23, 25-15, 25-19) sweep of visiting Arkansas State to begin the Bluegrass Battle on Friday morning. UK fired on all cylinders in a dominating effort which saw sophomore Leah Edmond post 12 kills and senior Kaz Brown add eight blocks in the win.
“We did a really good job defensively in the second and third set,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “We have a great senior group. They’re quality leaders and physically talented on the volleyball court. They did a great job stabilizing us.
Kentucky improves to 1-0 on the year, while Arkansas State drops to 0-1. UK will return to action later this evening for a 9 p.m. ET tilt against No. 23 Utah. The match is slated to air live on the SEC Network with Courtney Lyle and Jenny Hazelwood on the call.
Edmond was one of many UK offensive stalwarts. Seniors Emily Franklin and Darian Mack opened their seasons in impressive fashion. Franklin logged nine kills on a .667 hitting clip and had three digs. Mack posted eight hammers on a .615 clip with five blocks. Brown chipped in with six kills and the team-high eight blocks.
Freshmen Madison Lilley, Avery Skinner and Gabby Curry made their first career starts. Lilley dished out 30 assists and added 11 digs in the first double-double effort of the year for the Blue and White. Curry started at libero and had 10 digs and an assist. Skinner started at outside hitter and had three kills and a dig.
Junior Merideth Jewell made her debut for the Wildcats after transferring from Morehead State. She contributed an ace and three digs in the win.
After Arkansas State opened the match by scoring the first two points, the Wildcats rallied with three of their own behind strong serving from Jewell. An Edmond-Brown block gave UK its largest lead of the early going at 6-3. The Red Wolves would eventually claw back and take a 10-9 lead, but Franklin laced one down the line to spell the threat. Following a media timeout, the Red Wolves earned a 16-14 edge. The visitors extended their lead at 19-16, forcing the Cats to take a timeout. Franklin converted on the slide to snap the run. A Skinner kill brought UK within one at 20-19 and then a smash from Mack knotted the score at 20 apiece. The teams would exchange points until a Brown-Mack rejection lifted UK to a 22-21 advantage. Edmond closed out the frame with a kill and a set-clinching ace for the 25-23 win. UK boasted a .417 hitting percentage with Edmond posting five kills to lead the way. Brown led the way defensively as she was a part of all three blocks in the set. Lilley dished out 12 assists and three players corralled a pair of digs.
Mack’s hot hand continued into the second stanza as she led off the scoring with a kill down the line. Mack pushed back an Arkansas State attempt and was the spark to a 4-0 lead for the Cats. Watson, UK’s leader in aces a season ago, recorded her first of the 2017 season to push the lead to 6-1. Franklin’s excellent start to the season carried over to the second set as well with her second kill of the frame to increase UK’s lead to 12-7 midway through the frame. Following a spectacular rally by both teams, Edmond found a hole in the middle of the Red Wolves’ defense for the point and a 17-8 lead. A solo block from Lilley lifted UK to a 10-point lead at 21-11. Franklin capped the set with another monster kill off the slide for a 25-15 win. She also paced the offense with four kills in the set. Curry and Lilley both had four digs, while Brown had three blocks.
The Red Wolves opened to a 2-0 edge before Mack laced one down the line to get the scoring started for the Cats. Edmond followed with a kill of her own and then an attacking effort by the visitors gave UK its first lead of the set. After UK grew its lead to four, Arkansas State pulled back and tied it at 12. A Franklin kill snapped the run and propelled UK to a 6-0 run for an 18-12 advantage. It was all the more room the Cats would need to close out the sweep with a 25-19 win. Edmond’s five kills led the offensive effort, while Lilley’s five digs topped the defensive side. Brown contributed two more blocks, while UK limited the Red Wolves to a .026 hitting clip in the final frame.
BY THE NUMBERS
.615 – A career-high hitting-percentage for Darian Mack. Her previous best with at least 10 attempts was .571.
19 – Today’s match marked the 19th time that Kaz Brown has logged eight or more blocks in a single match in her career. She leads the program in that category during the 25-point rally scoring era.
1 – Madison Lilley posted the first double-double of her career with 30 assists and a team-high 11 digs.
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