OMAHA, Neb. - After picking up a win this morning, the No. 13 Kentucky volleyball team kept the momentum going, taking down No. 18 Southern California, 3-1 (25-16, 11-25, 25-19, 25-19) to wrap up the Bluejay Invitational on Saturday night inside D.J. Sokol Arena. With the win, Kentucky picked up its second win over a ranked opponent this season and improved to 5-1, while the Trojans dropped to 4-2.
"I was pretty proud of our mentality all day long," head coach Craig Skinner said. "We continued to battle, fight and find ways to score points against a very good USC team."
Sophomore Leah Edmond and freshman Madison Lilley were members of the Bluejay Invitational All-Tournament team. Edmond paced the Wildcats for the second straight match with 20 or more kills. Edmond had 21 terminations and added five digs and two blocks in the victory. Lilley posted her fourth double-double of her career in just her sixth match after 47 assists and 10 digs. Lilley now has topped 40 or more assists three times this season.
Edmond registered 60 kills over the weekend, averaging five kills a set and hit .336. The Lexington, Kentucky, native also added 31 digs in the three matches. Lilley distributed 152 helpers in the tournament, averaging 12.67 assists per set.
Freshman Avery Skinner capped her impressive weekend with 15 kills on 29 swings for a .345 attacking percentage. Seniors Kaz Brown and Emily Franklin each added five kills, while senior Darian Mack added six on 14 attacks.
"This weekend I put last weekend behind me and really just focused on playing my game," Skinner said. "My team was also super supportive. Madison makes it easy to produce kills. Her consistency helps because I can go in knowing the ball will be placed well. Kaz and Emily did a great job of pulling the block, a lot of kills I had were because of them."
Brown tallied four blocks, including one block solo. Franklin posted three blocks of her own, while Lilley and Edmond added two.
Defensively, Gabby Curry led the Cats once again after registering 15 digs. Merideth Jewell had nine scoops in the win, coming just one short of her five-set total against UNI this morning. Junior McKenzie Watson added six digs.
"I think the biggest thing for Monday is that we all play our game," Curry said. "Our block worked hard in both matches today and that's the difference for our defense and transition games."
The Wildcats will wrap up the extended road trip on Monday at 2 p.m. ET at No. 8 Kansas. It will mark the fourth opponent who is either ranked in the top 20 or receiving votes. It is the longest stretch of ranked foes in the Skinner era.
Kentucky started the match with four straight points. Three of the first four kills came from Edmond. After a service error from Franklin, UK rattled off another two points from Edmond kills. Both teams traded points until 10-7, where the Cats pushed out four straight, capped by a Franklin ace. An attack error allowed UK to double up USC at 16-8. UK extended its lead to 18-9 after an Edmond ace. UK pushed the lead even higher to 22-12 after a Skinner kill, forcing USC to burn a timeout. Edmond got the final kill of the set to give UK a 25-16 set win. Kentucky held Southern California to just 10 kills and a .114 attacking clip, while Edmond posted eight kills in the set.
USC grabbed the first two points of the set before an Edmond termination and attacking error evened the frame. Teams traded points until USC went on a five point run to go up 8-3. Lilley and Franklin ended the run with a block, while Brooke Morgan got another point on a block. Both squads went back-and-forth until 9-6, where USC put up five-straight points. Edmond stopped the run at 15-8 with USC in the lead. Kentucky managed three more points before falling 25-11.
Mack grabbed the first point of the set. USC responded and went up 2-1 before Mack and Edmond responded with kills of their own. Kentucky went on a 6-1 run to earn an 8-3 advantage before USC used a timeout. The Trojans chipped away at the lead and cut it to 14-11. UK extended that thanks to an Edmond kill and ace as well as a Brown kill to go up 19-12. Southern Cal was able to get the lead down to four twice at 19-15 and 21-17. Kentucky won the set 25-19 after an attacking error. Kentucky hit .471 in the third set, with Mack and Edmond each picking up five kills.
USC earned the first point of the set and Edmond responded with a kill. After allowing the Trojans to go up 3-1, the Cats posted five straight points capped by a Skinner kill. Play seesawed until UK got a Jewell ace already up five to give the Cats a 13-7 advantage. Both teams traded points until USC went on a 3-0 run to cut the lead to 18-14, which was stopped by a Skinner termination. After a service error, a Franklin kill and a bad set from USC forced the Trojans to call timeout at 22-15. USC came out strong after the timeout and put up three straight, forcing a Kentucky timeout. Edmond and Brown stopped the run with a stuff to extend the advantage to 23-18. Edmond finished the frame by scoring the final two points off a kill and then her fourth ace of the match for the 25-19 set victory and UK's second win over a ranked opponent.
BY THE NUMBERS
- 4 - Double-doubles from Madison Lilley this season
- 5.00 - Kills per set averaged by Leah Edmond in the Bluejay Invitational
- 12.67 - Assists per set Lilley averaged in the Bluejay Invitational