LEXINGTON, Ky. - Freshmen Avery Skinner and Madison Lilley sparked the Kentucky volleyball team to a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-21) opening-round win over East Tennessee State in the NCAA Tournament in front of 4,005 fans inside of Memorial Coliseum on Friday night.
"One of the things that we wanted to make sure happened as their outside hitters did not have a big night offensively and we did a really good job of that with our defense," head coach Craig Skinner said. "Hats off to our fans for showing up big time tonight and being there for us. Getting over 4,000 in the first round in the NCAA tournament is an awesome deal for us and our athletes. We're very fired up for that and hopefully they come back tomorrow."
Playing in the first postseason of their careers, the freshman tandem exerted a level of comfortability on the big stage. Skinner accounted for a match-high 14 kills on a blistering .407 hitting percentage. She also added two digs and a block. Lilley, the Southeastern Conference's Freshman of the Year, dished out 39 assists and continued to direct one of the most potent offenses in the nation to another stellar night. UK boasted 45 kills on a .337 attacking percentage behind Lilley's management. Lilley also contributed four blocks and a trio of digs.
"I really have to credit Madison (Lilley) and Kaz (Brown)," Avery Skinner said. "I think Madison (Lilley) did a great job of just seeing the court and setting me the ball and Kaz (Brown) did a great job just getting up and pulling the block so that a lot of times I had one on one opportunities."
With the win, Kentucky will march forward in the NCAA Tournament and face WKU on Saturday at 7 p.m. The Hilltoppers claimed a 3-0 sweep of Notre Dame earlier in the evening. Kentucky improves to 27-3 overall on the season. ETSU ends the year with a 19-12 overall record after advancing to the tournament on the backs of a Southern Conference Tournament championship.
Tickets to tomorrow night's showdown between the two in-state schools can be found here. The match will also be streamed live via WatchESPN with Dick Gabriel and Mandy Robbe on the call.
Sophomore Leah Edmond was her usual steady self in another all-around effort with 11 kills, three digs, two blocks and a pair of aces. Seniors Kaz Brown, Emily Franklin, Darian Mack and Ashley Dusek also steadied the ship as the Bucs' scrappiness made every set tight until UK was able to break free late in the frames.
Brown had six kills on a .417 attacking percentage and three blocks. Mack matched her classmates' kill output and also added a dig and a block. Franklin had a match-high six rejections to couple with five kills, while Dusek had a team-high 12 digs and has reached double figures in every match in which she has been UK's starting libero this season.
Freshman Gabby Curry had four digs. Juniors Merideth Jewell and McKenzie Watson contributed seven scoops between them in the winning cause.
Kentucky limited the Bucs to 37 kills on a .129 attacking clip. UK also won the battle defensively with 32 digs compared to 30 for ETSU and nine blocks to the Bucs' two.