UK volleyball splits Battle of the Bluegrass doubleheader


Kentucky Wildcats outside hitter Madi Skinner (2) hits the ball over the net during UK volleyball’s game against Southern California on Saturday, Sept. 4, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-0. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Trinity Bratchett

After winning their first 12 sets of the 2021 season, they received a taste of their own medicine at the hands of Creighton, the No. 3 Wildcats fell 0-3 (25-19, 25-22, 27-25) in game one of their Saturday double header for their first loss of the season.

Madi Skinner carried the ‘Cats on her back with 14 kills, but wasn’t enough for the Wildcats to hold off the Blue Jays. Skinner was the only Wildcat to hit double digit kills.

After being swept, the Wildcats redeemed themselves against the Southern California (USC) Trojans. Kentucky swept their final Battle of the Bluegrass opponent 3-0 (25-15, 25-12, 25-22).

Kentucky’s Skinner and Alli Stumler had 12 and 11 kills, respectively. Elise Goetzinger also had an impressive game two — she earned a career high of nine kills on a .500 hitting percentage. Emma Grome also had 34 assists.

Game one against the Blue Jays got off to a rocky start in the first set. Creighton led the Wildcats 11-7 halfway through, but Kentucky was able to skim the lead down to just three thanks to two kills from Skinner, as well as two from Elise Goetzinger. 

The set got to a score of 22-17 after an attack error from Creighton. Kentucky could not overcome the deficit Creighton had built early and they closed out the set 25-19, giving the ‘Cats their first set loss of 2021.

Skinner, Reagan Rutherford, and Stumler led the Wildcats with three kills each in set one along with 11 assists from Emma Grome.

The second set was close to the end but the Blue Jays got the better of Kentucky once again. There were 14 ties and only one lead change throughout the set. Four kills from Creighton and a costly Kentucky error led the Blue Jays to go on a 5-0 run. Afterward, the Blue Jays finished the set on a 5-2 run and went up two sets on the Wildcats, 25-22.

Creighton was off to an early lead at the beginning of the third set and the Blue Jays outscored the Wildcats 12-5. Kentucky began to slim down the lead, eventually leading the Wildcats to tie the set 19-19 thanks to an error from Creighton. 

Two timely blocks from Azhani Tealer caused Kentucky to take the lead by two, forcing Creighton to use its final timeout. A kill from Tealer and another from Skinner later pushed the Wildcats to a 23-20 lead. 

Creighton ultimately scored three consecutive points to tie the set. Both squads were going point-for-point until the set was tied 25-25 — two points later, Creighton closed out the set 27-25.

New game, new mindset for Kentucky in game two. The Wildcats did not let their loss against Creighton effect how they played Saturday night.

 “I know this morning wasn’t really what UK fans are used to seeing,” Goetzinger said post-match. “So just getting back in the rhythm of UK volleyball, having a really good warmup, and having a really good practice beforehand.”

The first set was dominated by Kentucky. After a 6-0 run at the beginning to put them up 8-4. Azhani Tealer and Goetzinger each earned two kills early which gave Kentucky the lead for the rest of the set. Skinner had three crucial kills which put the Wildcats up 20-12. Tealer’s two late kills led the Wildcats to win the set 25-15.

“At any moment, anyone can go on a two or three point run,” Head Coach Craig Skinner said about the advantages a scoring run has . “You know, it’s all about if you can get three point runs in a set you typically win … Tonight there were a lot of gaps … That obviously created some scoring opportunities.” 

 In the second set, the Tojans’ four consecutive errors at the beginning of the set opened the door for Kentuky, giving them a huge advantage to win the set 25-12.

Stumler recorded three kills, putting the Wildcats in position for a second set victory. A 7-1 scoring run from the Wildcats put them up 21-11 and two kills from Reagan Rutherford and an attack error from the Trojans sealed the deal on this set.

Set three was off to a rocky start, as Kentucky made a few errors in the beginning of the set. Things looked up with a 7-0 Wildcat run going from trailing, to leading the Trojans 13-8. This run saw three kills from Rutherford and two from Stumler. 

Things started getting chippy when USC went on a run of their own, tying the set 15-all. Three late kills by Skinner and an error from the Trojans helped push the cats to a 24-20 lead. A kill by Stumler capped things off, and the Wildcats won the set 25-22 and Kentucky escaped the Battle of the Bluegrass with a 2-1 record, 5-1 overall.

No. 3 Kentucky will travel to Madison, Wisconsin to face off against No. 2 Wisconsin this Friday, Sept. 10 at 9 p.m. E.T. on the  Big Ten Network.