No. 13 Kentucky Faces Tough Road Challenge at Bluejay Invitational

No. 13 Kentucky Faces Tough Road Challenge at Bluejay Invitational

by Mike Scholze

OMAHA, Neb. – Two ranked teams and one receiving votes await the No. 13 Kentucky volleyball team as the Wildcats embark on their first road trip of the 2017 season. UK will face No. 7 Creighton on Friday at 8 p.m. ET. The Cats will face Northern Iowa on Saturday morning at 11 a.m. ET and finish the tournament with No. 18 Southern California at 7 p.m. ET.
All matches this weekend will be streamed online. The Cats’ Friday match can be watched live on FoxSportsGo.com and the Fox Sports Go app, while the other two matches can be seen on GoCreighton.com/Watch.
After the Bluejay Invitational, Kentucky will travel to No. 9 Kansas on Monday where first serve is set for 2 p.m. UK has never faced three ranked teams in a four-day span. The Wildcats last saw two ranked opponents in the same weekend in 2010, when UK opened the season at No. 2 Nebraska and faced No. 9 Iowa State the next day.
Scouting the Opponent – Creighton
Creighton, the host of the Bluejay Invitational, is unbeaten after the first weekend. The No. 9 team in the nation returns five-starters from a season ago and has one top-25 win after its upset of No. 3 Washington on the road.  The Bluejays were the champions of the Husky Invitational and Marysa Wilkinson was named the MVP after registering 2.90 kills per set and 1.50 blocks per set. Lydia Dimke and Megan Ballenger were named to the All-Tournament team.
Scouting the Opponent – UNI
UNI heads into the Bluejay invitational undefeated. Northern Iowa started the season with an upset of No. 19 Missouri on a neutral floor and the Panthers are currently receiving votes in the latest AVCA Top-25 poll. Piper Thomas was named the Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Week while two players – Karlie Taylor (23) and Bri Weber (22) – hit 20+ kills in the win over Mizzou. UNI had not had two players hit over 20 kills since 2009.
Scouting the Opponent – USC
Southern California is a perfect 3-0 with one top-25 win after taking down No. 16 Michigan last weekend on its home court. USC is led by Khalia Lanier, a freshman with 4.36 kills per set and 2.45 digs per set on an impressive .400 attacking percentage. Lanier was named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the week for her performance last weekend. 
Chasing Records
Kaz Brown is climbing the 25-point rally scoring era record book in multiple categories. The Waterloo, Iowa native is currently in second in block solos (45), block assists (400) and total blocks (445). Brown is three away from tying the all-time leader, Becky Paven in block assists. The senior is also eighth in kills at 747, 10th in attack attempts at 1,558 and third in attacking percentage at .340.
Emily Franklin is currently ninth in block solos with 28, seventh in blocks assists at 261 and sixth in total blocks at 289. Franklin also has the seventh-highest attacking percentage win the rally scoring era at .307.
Darian Mack is moving up the 25-point rally scoring era record book in kills and points. Mack is ninth all-time with 676 kills and 10th in attacks with 1,821. In total points, she is in ninth with 770.5.
Ashley Dusek is currently fourth in the rally scoring era with 1,169 digs and eighth in assists at 182.
Not a Bad Start
Madison Lilley registered two double-doubles in her first two career matches for the Wildcats. Lilley opened her career with 30 assists and 11 digs against Arkansas State and helped UK earn a top-25 win over Utah with 42 assists and 12 scoops. She became the first UK setter since UK Hall of Famer Sarah Rumely in 2009 to have a double-double in two of her first three matches of a season. Lilley’s the first ever to start her career with back to back double-doubles in the 25-point rally scoring era.
Bluegrass Battle Champions
After going 3-0 on opening weekend with wins over Arkansas State, Cincinnati and No. 23 Utah, Kentucky took home the Bluegrass Battle championship. Leah Edmond was named the tournament’s MVP after recording 45 kills during the three matches. She was joined by Kaz Brown and McKenzie Watson on the all-tournament team. Brown had 21 kills and 16 blocks over the weekend, while Watson recorded double-digit digs in back-to-back matches.
Anna Nyberg Impresses
Anna Nyberg had just nine kills in 2016. In the sweep of Cincinnati, she earned her opportunity to play and did not disappoint. She posted seven kills on 17 swings. Nyberg also posted a dig, block and ace in the win.
Career Leaders
Kaz Brown is currently third in the country among active players in career blocks. Her 445 total blocks are behind Faith Dooley of North Dakota (509) and Rhamat Alhassan of Florida (493). After just two seasons, Merideth Jewell is No. 66 in the nation in career leaders with 902 kills. Jewell played her first two seasons at Morehead State before transferring to Kentucky.
AVCA Ranking
The Wildcats are ranked after week one, moving up one spot the American Volleyball Coaches Association poll at No. 13. Under head coach Craig Skinner, the team has been ranked for 102 weeks, and currently has appeared in the poll for 11-consecutive weeks. Skinner’s highest ranking was No. 7 in 2009.
Follow along with the Cats on TwitterFacebook and Instagram, and on the web at UKathletics.com

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