UK advances to Elite 8 after completing another comeback


Kentucky celebrates the game winning point during the match against BYU on Friday, December 8, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Photo by Chase Phillips | Staff

Keyera Jackson

After being down 2-1 to BYU, Kentucky volleyball forced a fourth set, then rallied in a fifth set win that advanced the team to the Elite 8.

The match started with a serve by BYU, and it was a battle for every point from there. BYU established the first lead of 10-5 over Kentucky. BYU did a good job defending UK’s outside hitters, holding them to a .175 hitting percentage.

Kentucky also struggled to get the ball over the two defenders BYU was sending at them. The Cougars got back-to-back kills over the Cats, extending their lead to 16-8 and sending Kentucky into a timeout. 

After the break, Leah Edmond contributed kill that sparked the Cats on a 4-0 run.

With the help of Kentucky’s outside hitters, the Cats were able to come within five points of the Cougars’ lead, but then BYU’s hitters got a few points of their own, which were enough to close the first set 25-20. 

With the first set in the past, the Cats started the second set with high intensity, and it led to their 9-7 lead over the Cougars early in the second set.

Edmond’s tough mentality was showcased as she had three important plays that sent Kentucky on a 4-0 run after BYU tied the set at 10.

After a timeout by BYU, the Cats went on another 3-0 run to take a 20-15 lead. They were controlling the tempo of the game by slowing the Cougars’ offense while their hitters connected to the floor. This led to the Cats’ winning the second set 25-17. 

The third set was close all the way down to the score being 22-22, but BYU, led by Roni Jones-Perry, put up an important kill that gave her team the lead, and eventually the set over the Cats.

Down 2-1, Kentucky was faced with possible elimination just six days after being down 0-2 sets to Western Kentucky in the second round.

The Cats went into the set strong, establishing the first lead at 7-2 and sending BYU into a timeout. The Cats went on to win the fourth set with good defense, holding BYU to a hitting percentage of .087.

After Kentucky forced the fifth set, 15 points was all it took for either team to advance in the Elite 8. Kentucky started with a few errors that gave BYU a 5-1 advantage. The Cats were down but not out. 

“The biggest thing was just relax and play how we know we can play. You can’t really do anything extra in the moment, you have to trust your training,” Avery Skinner said.

Trusting each other worked well for the Cats because they were able to storm back into the set. Five different hitters were able to be a threat at the net, which became an issue for BYU’s fatigued defense. 

“This time of year you have to have more than one or two options. Even in this match, you saw some people hot and you saw some cold or started cold and got hot, and in a fifth game we have three, four, five options that we can go too,” head coach Craig Skinner said.

Kentucky also defended well against the Cougars, and a block by Edmond and Emily Franklin gave Kentucky its first lead in the fifth set, making the score 8-7.

Avery Skinner closed the set with a match-winning kill, her 20th of the match, which surpassed her previous career-high record of 19.

Several other players had career performances: Kaz Brown reached her 1,000th kill in her career. Brooke Morgan tied her career high in kills with 12 and Madison Lilley posted 63 assists. This is was her eighth match of the year where she recorded 50 or more assists.

The Cats bounced back from another deficit and are heading to the Elite 8, which will take place Saturday, Dec. 9 in Memorial Coliseum at 4 p.m. The Cats will face Nebraska, who swept Colorado in their Sweet 16 matchup.