Kentucky volleyball’s historic season ends in the Elite 8


Kentucky deals out high fives before the match against Nebraska on Saturday, December 9, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Keyera Jackson

On Saturday, UK volleyball’s season ended with a loss to Nebraska in the Elite 8 with a 3-1 series.

Even though they did not achieve a national title, the Cats have grown their support base as 4,464 fans come to Memorial Coliseum for tonight’s match, the fifth best in school history at Memorial Coliseum.

The Huskers came out with high intensity to start and set a 5-1 lead early in the first set. Outside hitter Mikaela Foecke led the way for her team, contributing 7 kills for the first set hitting at a .500 percentage. 

Foecke sparked the other Huskers for big kills at the net and together they expanded their lead to 17-9.

Just when the momentum changed in the Cats’ favor, errors became an issue for Kentucky and Nebraska took the first set 25-19.

In the second set, Kentucky did not allow Nebraska to get too far ahead of them again and kept the score at close 15-11.

Leah Edmond was the glue that kept the Cats together as she had big finishing plays at the net to keep Kentucky within striking distance in the second set.

Kentucky tried to find a rhythm but was slowed by Nebraska’s defense, giving the Huskers the advantage. Their outside hitters continued to find the gaps in Kentucky’s offense and take the second set 25-22.

Kentucky was down 0-2 going into the third set, but that was a position they been in before, as they had to comeback to win their previous two NCAA Tournament games.

The Cats came out of intermission looking better than they did in the first two sets, and fought the Huskers to a tie of 18 late in the third set.

An attacking error from Annika Albrecht led to another tie at 24. Needing to win by two points, Edmond connected to the floor and gave Kentucky that advantage. Brooke Morgan closed the set with block.

Kentucky still faced possible elimination going into the fourth set and fell behind 6-2.

“We knew we were down two sets and we still had to push and we had nothing to lose, so we just went out there and played our game,” Ashley Dusek said.

Kelly Hunter was a catalyst for Nebraska, fueling her hitters and giving them the angles they needed to hit over and through Kentucky’s defense. 

Four players were in double-digits for kills for the Huskers, and it was hard for Kentucky to defend.

Kentucky did not give up and managed to stay within the Huskers 23-21. However, a kill by Jazz Sweet and a serving error from Dusek led to the win for Nebraska, ending Kentucky’s season and advancing them to the Final Four. 

The loss was a painful one for the Cats, but what the team has accomplished will help ease their pain as the days pass.

“There’s only 10 programs in the country that has ever won a national championship in our sport. The dream of mine and our staff when we got here was to become an elite program, and there’s only 10 teams in the country that have been to 13 straight NCAA tournaments. We’re one of them,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “Our dream is to be an elite program and compete for a national championship. That was on these seniors minds all year long, was to compete for a national championship.” 

Kentucky did not achieve the dream of a national title, but the seniors have left their legacy for the rest to follow.