Volleyball clinches fourth straight SEC championship with second sweep of Alabama


UK celebrates a point during the University of Kentucky vs. University of Alabama volleyball game on Wednesday, March 24, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-0. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Braden Ramsey

Three Wildcats recorded double-digit kills, Madison Lilley racked up 29 assists and Kentucky notched its 15th sweep of the season on its way to a fourth straight SEC title Thursday night. The dynastic run for the Cats is an unprecedented one for the program, which had never won more than two successive titles prior to the current streak.

“It’s pretty darn sweet,” head coach Craig Skinner said post-match according to the university. “That feeling doesn’t get old.”

“I’m really proud of these guys,” he continued. “I can’t tell you how many ups and downs we’ve been through.”

Avery Skinner and Azhani Tealer each tallied eleven kills to tie for the Wildcat lead in the category. Alli Stumler was right behind them, swatting ten kills to round out the double-figure trio. She put Kentucky on the scoreboard first with her third kill of the opening set, sealing it 25-16 in UK’s favor.

Set two was an even more dominant display by the Cats. They yielded back-to-back points to the Crimson Tide just one time as they flexed their muscles. Maddie Berezowitz capped the showing with a service ace, setting UK on the precipice of a championship.

Kills from Stumler, Lilley, libero Gabby Curry and Tealer kept the Cats rolling to begin what would be the final set. Kentucky built a 21-8 lead in the third, finally claiming their expected title courtesy of a Reagan Rutherford kill.

The Wildcats are the SEC automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament with the first place finish. This year’s event takes place entirely in Omaha, Nebraska from Apr. 13-24 and is currently set to include 48 teams. Coach Skinner and Co. hope to make tonight’s celebration just the first for a championship romp.

We’ve had a goal to compete for a national championship all year,” Skinner said according to the university. “The SEC championship is a big deal but I think this group is competitive enough and has proven themselves enough to go for it.”

Kentucky will learn who lays in its path to a potential first-ever Final Four appearance on Sunday, Apr. 4 during the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show. ESPNU is set to carry the broadcast reveal at 4:00 p.m. E.T.