WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Despite double-figure kills from senior opposite hitter Anni Thomasson and freshman outside hitter Leah Edmond, the Kentucky volleyball team opened the 2016 season with a rough, 3-0 (25-17, 25-22, 25-17) loss to the Washington State Cougars on Friday morning inside Holloway Gymnasium.
"First off, I need to give credit to Washington State," 12th-season head coach Craig Skinner said following the match. "They did a great job with their first contact, both serving and receiving and did a better job executing their plan. We've got some fine tuning to do before Wyoming and we'll look to be more aggressive moving forward."
The Wildcats move to 0-1 with the loss, while Washington State opens its season at 1-0. Kentucky continues the tournament at 5:30 p.m., facing the Cowgirls of Wyoming, who dropped their season opener to Purdue, 3-0, immediately before the matchup between the Wildcats and Cougars.
Ten members of the Kentucky squad played in the match, as Edmond led the Wildcats in kills in her collegiate debut, earning a match-high 12 kills on 29 attempts. Thomasson joined Edmond in double figures, charting 11 kills in the outing, good for second best in the match. The senior also came two digs short of a double-double with eight in three sets. All-Southeastern Conference junior middle blocker Kaz Brown posted seven kills, while classmate middle Emily Franklin contributed four kills and a pair of blocks. Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey guided the offense with 30 assists, a kill and an ace while adding three digs. Junior Darian Mack (three kills, one dig) and sophomore Anna Nyberg (one kill, four digs) also contributed on the offensive end.
The defense was guided by reigning SEC Libero of the Year, Ashley Dusek, who paced the team with 11 digs. Sophomore defensive specialist McKenzie Watson added two digs during the contest.
Edmond opened the 2016 season with two kills to give the Cats a 3-0 lead. The Cougars responded with three of their own, tying the set before alternating sideouts evened the score again at 5-5. The sides continued to trade points, with Kentucky gaining a 9-8 edge off of kills from Mack and Brown before a 4-0 Washington State run prompted a UK timeout. The Cats pulled within one after a block from Edmond and Franklin and a Cougars' service ace. Washington State rallied, however, opening up a 10-2 run to jump ahead, 22-13. UK posted a few more points before eventually dropping the first frame, 25-17.
Kentucky and Washington State jockeyed for the lead in the early going, with Franklin, Edmond, Brown and Mack all registering kills to pull UK within one, 6-5. WSU responded with four points in a row, prompting a Kentucky timeout. The Wildcats responded, opening up an impressive 11-5 run, including a run of three kills from Brown to tie the match at 16-16. Kentucky and Washington State traded the next six points before a 3-0 run by the Cougars forced Kentucky's hand and a timeout. Kills by Franklin and Edmond pulled UK within one at 23-22 before Washington State sealed the match, 25-23.
Both sides traded points early on, tying at 2-2 before Washington State took the lead. Washington State strung together three-straight points before Dailey's lone kill stopped the run at 5-3. The sides traded the next six points before Washington State opened a 4-2 run to take a 13-8 lead. Kentucky retaliated with kills from Thomasson and Nyberg to pull within three before back-to-back strikes from Edmond brought Kentucky to as close as two points from tying at 15-13. The Cougars took seven of the next eight possible points. The run proved too much for Kentucky, as Washington State won the final set, 25-17.