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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference
NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship - First Round

No. 7 Kentucky dismantles SE Missouri to advance

211 days ago
SEC Network
Photo: Kentucky Athletics

There are players who rise to the occasion during the postseason and those who fold under the pressure. Through the first six matches of her career at Kentucky, outside hitter Madi Skinner would absolutely be one of those who steps up when it matters the most.

Skinner proved that fact again on Friday night as Kentucky topped Southeast Missouri State 3-0 in the first round of the 2021 NCAA Women's Volleyball Tournament at Memorial Coliseum.

The Katy, Texas, native had it going early and often for the Cats as they began defense of their national championship. Skinner had a match-high 13 kills and just two errors on 21 swings in Friday's win. That's a .524 hitting percentage.

Friday's match was the latest in a line of outstanding postseason performances for Skinner. It started in last season's NCAA Tournament where she had 11 kills and hit .533 against UNLV. It continued in last season's Sweet 16 win over Western Kentucky, where Skinner had 11 kills and hit .400.

In the Elite Eight win over Purdue, Skinner had nine kills and hit .286. But she really came alive in the Final Four. There, she had 13 kills and hit .360 against Washington and she followed that with the best match of her freshman season, with 19 kills and a .455 hitting percentage in the national championship game win over Texas.

So, what is it about the postseason that brings out the best in Skinner? Even she could not explain it.

"I don't know," Skinner said. "Just excited that we can see all of the stuff that we've been working on in the gym pay off. It's time for us to go against different people that we're not used to seeing in our conference and show off what we can do."

Skinner and senior Alli Stumler paced the offensive attack that produced 50 kills and a .446 hitting percentage in Friday's match. Stumler pointed out how she and Skinner make each other better every day, especially when attacking from the back row.

"Madi is always phenomenal in the back row and she pushes me to get better," Stumler said. "Kudos to Madi for making me better."

UK head coach Craig Skinner, no relation, was pleased with his team's offensive effort in the win over SEMO.

"I thought we came in and were very efficient offensively for most of the match," Skinner said. "Had a lot of balance offensively. Emma did a good job of getting us balanced offensively and making things happen."

Southeast Missouri tried to stop the UK attack, especially Skinner and Stumler, but they had to pick their poison, according to head coach Julie Yankus.

"The difference is, the pace of when they set that outside ball," Yankus said. "A lot of it was, we wanted to double block the outside as much as we can but Kentucky is so well-balanced, we have to respect all of their attackers. Obviously, they were tough to defend. They showed that today and played very well."

Kentucky now advances to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, where the Cats will face Illinois. Kentucky is hoping that Madi Skinner continues her magical run of postseason play on Saturday.