Kentucky's season ends in Regional Semifinals
LEXINGTON, Ky. - In perhaps their gutsiest effort to date, the No. 6 Kentucky volleyball team fell just short in a 3-1 (19-25, 22-25, 27-25, 22-25) loss to No. 5 Nebraska in front of 4,464 fans in Memorial Coliseum in the Regional Semifinals. UK staved off three match points in the third set to force a fourth frame and continued to rally to the very end.
"I'm just really proud to have been able - with myself and our staff - to be able coach this team, and they did everything right," head coach Craig Skinner said. "You struggle to find the words at the end of a season to make it feel right, but everybody in that locker room knows what they've done and how proud they should be."
With the loss, Kentucky concludes its season with a 29-4 overall record after making its first appearance in the Regional Finals for the first time in the modern era of the tournament in program history. Nebraska moves on to the National Semifinals with a 30-4 overall record.
The box score points towards one of the best matches inside of Memorial Coliseum in an equally electric environment. Nebraska accounted for 61 kills. UK had 60. Kentucky had two more assists and four more digs. Both teams finished with 12 blocks.
"If you look at the stats, that was about as even as a match you could get," Skinner added. "Four and Five seeds going at it toe-to-toe. They probably won the serving battle, which would have been the difference in the match, but give a lot of credit to Nebraska."
Sophomore outside hitter Leah Edmond produced a match-high 20 kills - her third-consecutive match with 20 or more hammers. She also added 11 digs and a trio of blocks in an all-around effort. Edmond now has four career matches with 20 or more kills in the NCAA Tournament, the most of any player in the Skinner era. She was named to the Lexington All-Region team for her efforts. Edmond finishes her sophomore season with 539 kills, the most in a single year in the 25-point rally scoring era under Skinner.
Freshman Avery Skinner joined Edmond on the All-Region Tournament squad following a 10-kill performance. She finishes the season reaching double-digits in the kills' column in 10 consecutive matches, including all four in the tournament.
Led by the senior trio of Kaz Brown, Ashley Dusek and Emily Franklin this Kentucky team showcased the heart and resilience it has shown all year. Brown and Edmond both finished their careers with 11 kills and five blocks apiece in their final collegiate match. Dusek had a match-high 19 digs and made countless rally-saving plays that will not show up on a box score. Ignited by their play, the raucous crowd clad in Blue and White nearly willed the Comeback Cats to a third consecutive five-set match.
Junior McKenzie Watson and freshman Gabby Curry continued to provide a steady presence on the backline with nine and eight digs, respectively. The duo combined for 63 digs in the NCAA Tournament and an average of 3.71 a set.
Freshman Madison Lilley had 52 assists, four digs and two blocks. She directed the Wildcats to the tune of 60 kills and a .252 attacking clip. Lilley's 52 assists marked the ninth time this season she has topped that mark Junior Brooke Morgan chipped in with seven kills, four blocks and three digs.