CEDAR FALLS, Iowa - The No. 12 Kentucky Volleyball team again used a stellar defensive effort for the second match in a row to thwart off Northern Iowa on its own turf, sweeping the Panthers 3-0 (25-18, 25-20, 25-20) on Saturday night to conclude the UNI Tournament 2-1 overall.
With the win, Kentucky improves to 4-2 on the season after a pair of 2-1 weekends to open the 2019 season in two successive tournaments.
"Outstanding defensive effort tonight," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "I thought we did a really good job on some fantastic attackers and our offensive execution went to another level today."
Gabby Curry, who had 31 digs in the Wildcats win over No. 15 USC on Friday and helped Kentucky hold UNI to just .092 on offense Saturday night was named to the All-Tournament Team, in addition to Lead Edmond - who had 12 kills in the match on 23 swings.
Kentucky will commence its home schedule in its next match out, as the Wildcats will host the 2019 Bluegrass Battle at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington. The four-team tournament featuring Cleveland State, Florida Gulf Coast and Indiana will start Friday at 10 a.m. ET with Indiana playing FGCU. Kentucky and Cleveland State will follow at Noon ET. All of Kentucky's matches in the tournament will be streamed on the SEC Network+, ESPN3 and the ESPN app.
After a back-and-forth early stage to the set, Kentucky created separation in the middle stanza of the frame to take a 16-13 lead and force the Panthers into their first timeout. The 3-0 run was stretched to 5-0 as the Wildcats won back-to-back points on outside swings from Alli Stumler and Azhani Tealer to make it a 18-13 lead and force the Panthers into another timeout. Kentucky closed out the set with a 25-18 win, hitting .234 while holding the Panthers to just .051 offensively. Leah Edmond and Tealer both had four kills to lead all players.
UK won eight of nine points to take an 8-4 lead early in the set and push the Panthers into a timeout trailing by four. Tealer slid home her fifth kill of the match on the right side to up the Wildcat lead to 13-7 and after an unsuccessful challenge, UNI found themselves down six. After crawling to within three points at 16-13, the Panthers forced UK into a timeout. Kentucky responded by winning the next two successive points capped off by an ace from Edmond to push UNI into its second called time, trailing 18-13. The Panthers got three-straight points from UK errors to tie the set at 19 all and UK halted play to talk things over. Stumler re-lit the Kentucky offense with two kills in the next three points to put UK up 22-19 and catapult a 4-0 run for UK. Kentucky ended the set with a Stumler service ace off the tape and to the floor to take a two sets to love lead.
Madison Lilley had a solo block at the net in the early stages of the third set to push the UK lead to 6-2 and force the Panthers into using another quick timeout in the match. After the Panthers pulled to within 9-8, UK used its presence at the net to hammer home a three-point lead at 16-13 with the power of Ali Stumler and Edmond. Stumler continued to hammer home kills in crunch time, pushing UK's lead to 19-17 before a Lauren Tharp service ace made the Panthers call a timeout trailing 20-17. UK ended the match with a Madison Lilley kill on a long rally to complete the sweep of the Panthers.