Kentucky volleyball advances to NCAA regional semifinals


The University of Kentucky Women’s Volleyball team celebrates after a point in their game against Murray State. The cats won the first game of the NCAA tournament 3-0 on Friday, Nov. 30, 2018.

The first round of the NCAA tournament brought the Kentucky Wildcats yet another sweep in their 3-0 (25-18, 25-17, 25-19) victory over the Murray State Racers.

From the naked eye, the Racers were a much smaller team than the Wildcats— Murray State didn’t have a single player over 5-foot-11, while Kentucky’s roster has eight. However, the Racers used their athleticism to keep up with the Cats at the net.

“They’re very athletic. I mean you saw how high some of those kids jump and they compete,” Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner said. “I mean you could see it in their eyes, they were not scared of the moment, not scared of Kentucky or the venue…”

Although Kentucky came out on top every set, all three were close. To start out the first, Murray State took the opening point from a Dacia Brown kill, but Kentucky middle Brooke Morgan responded with two kills in a row to take the game to 2-1 lead and the Cats never looked back. A 5-0 run and several attack errors on the Murray State side towards the end of the set gave Kentucky some insurance to close it out, and in the midst of that run, Morgan totaled four digs, tying her career high in just one rally.

“I don’t know, that was pretty cool I think. Taking over Gabby’s (Curry) place,” Morgan said. “Just kidding, but I don’t know, I’ve just done it every day in practice.”

The second set went back and forth and had several lead changes, unlike the first. Skinner says he thinks his team could’ve done a better job defensively of slowing the Racers down and credits their complicated offense.

“They set the ball really high, we don’t see that very often in our league and against some teams we’ve played so far this year it’s the highest sets we’ve seen so far, to the antennas,” Skinner said. “So the timing of it is difficult so you’re jumping and falling and that’s why you saw so many net violations tonight.”

After several lead changes and a tie game at 14-14, Kentucky’s hitters came up big to help pull away from the Racers. Freshman Alli Stumler, junior Leah Edmond and Morgan combined for eight kills the rest of the second set to give the Cats the match. Edmond attributes her team’s ability to separate themselves to being able to “weather the storm.”

“We’re just really good at being able to work our way through,” Edmond said.

Set three was Murray’s highest scoring set of the game, but it wasn’t enough to offset the Cats and take them to a fourth set. Edmond, who tallied 17 for the night, notched four more kills to help propel the Cats to a victory.

The Cats have a quick 24-hour turnaround and will play again Saturday evening against the Purdue Boilermakers at 7 p.m.

“I think it’s going to be a different kind of match for us. We’re going to have to do some different things to win, but I’m so confident in the team that we can do those things and we obviously don’t have a ton of time to prepare for that, but it’s nothing that we can’t do.”