Balance Leads No. 15 Kentucky to Sweep at LSU

Balance Leads No. 15 Kentucky to Sweep at LSU

by Deb Moore

BATON ROUGE, La. – Led by a balanced and efficient offensive effort and another stifling defensive performance, the 15th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team earned a 3-0 (25-14, 25-16, 25-21) win at LSU on Friday. It marked the 10th consecutive win for the Wildcats and its first during its three-match road swing.
Kentucky improved to 13-4 overall on the season and a perfect 7-0 in Southeastern Conference play. LSU fell to 7-12 and 2-6 against league foes. UK will return to the court at Texas A&M on Sunday for a 2 p.m. ET first serve with the match set to air live on SEC Network+.
The Wildcats had 44 kills on an efficient .327 hitting percentage with four players having more than 19 attempts on the night. Junior Leah Edmond and senior Brooke Morgan both had 10 kills to lead the way. Sophomore setter Madison Lilley dished out 30 assists and had a career-high-tying 16 digs as her play defensively was equally as important to UK’s winning cause.
“I was very pleased with our balance on offense and floor defense,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I felt like we were exceptional in those areas tonight. Gabby (Curry) was all over the floor making plays.”
Sophomore libero Gabby Curry topped the 20-dig plateau for the second-consecutive three-set match with 21 digs in today’s win to lead the defensive charge. She also contributed five assists. Kentucky’s defense smothered LSU into just 10.33 kills per frame and a .090 hitting clip. Each of UK’s last nine opponents have managed a mere .199 percentage or lower.
Freshman Alli Stumler chipped in with seven kills and five digs. Junior Caitlyn Cooper added six hammers, two blocks and a dig. Sophomore Kendyl Paris had four kills on a .429 hitting percentage, while classmate Avery Skinner chipped in with an additional four kills.
Freshman Lauren Tharp added four digs and senior McKenzie Watson totaled a trio of scoops to add to the defensive effort.
“I just looked at the box score and seven hitting errors in a three-set match in league play is pretty impressive,” Craig Skinner added. “Focus is one thing and execution is another and obviously you want a combination of both.”
Stumler opened the frame with an ace to get the Cats on the board first. A 5-0 run with Paris contributing a pair of kills pushed the lead to 9-3 in the early going for the visitors, forcing LSU into a timeout. Kentucky found success offensively from the middle with Paris and Morgan picking up four kills in a 4-2 run midway through the frame to make the lead 14-8. Morgan produced her fifth kill of the stanza and then followed with an ace for a 17-9 edge. Back-to-back kills from Cooper lifted the Cats to a 10-point lead for a 22-12 score. Morgan laced her sixth kill of the frame to clinch the opening stet by a 25-14 margin.  
LSU opened the scoring to begin the second stanza and raced out to a 3-0 lead. Stumler finally got the Cats on the board with a kill from the left side. Kentucky eventually knotted things at four apiece after forcing consecutive erroneous attacks by the home team. A 4-0 run with an ace from Lilley and a trio of LSU errors aided the Wildcats who took a 9-5 edge. UK’s defense continued to give the Tigers problems. The Wildcats led 15-9 at the media timeout with LSU managing a -.053 hitting percentage midway through the frame. UK scored three of four to take a 19-13 advantage forcing the Tigers to use a timeout. Another 3-0 spurt by the Cats with kills from Stumler and Morgan enabled UK to take a comfortable lead late at 22-15. It was all the more breathing room the Cats would need as Cooper finished it for a 2-0 edge in the match behind a 25-16 set victory.
The Tigers got out to an early 3-1 edge once again. Kentucky fired back with a 3-0 run of its own to take a 4-3 lead with Edmond and Lilley recording kills during the spurt. A 7-3 run by the Cats forced the Tigers into an early timeout. Kills from Skinner and Edmond made it 13-8 in favor of Kentucky, forcing LSU into its final timeout. Out of the break, Lilley and Morgan teamed up for a block to keep the pressure on. LSU would not go away and eventually pulled back to within two at 21-19. Kentucky chose to take a timeout. Skinner came up with a kill to snap the Tigers’ run out of the break. Fittingly, it was Skinner who finished it out for the Cats with a kill and a 25-21 final set win to preserve the sweep.
Follow along with the Cats on TwitterFacebook and Instagram, and on the web at UKathletics.com

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