Kentucky volleyball wins fifth straight SEC Championship; earns auto-bid to NCAA Tournament


Kentucky celebrates after scoring a point during the University of Kentucky vs. Missouri volleyball game on Friday, Sept. 24, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK won 3-0. Photo by Jack Weaver | Staff

Cole Parke

Kentucky volleyball (23-4) defeated Florida (20-7) 3-0 at Memorial Coliseum on Friday to win their fifth straight SEC Championship. The win also earns UK an auto-bid into the NCAA Tournament.

Though they have yet to finish their conference schedule, the Wildcats’ 16-1 SEC record was enough to crown them as champions, having beaten Mississippi State in October to prevent a tie.

The match was the first of two against Florida, with the Cats only needing to win one to clinch the title. If Kentucky had lost both matches and Mississippi State had won, the title would have been split, though the Cats would have still earned the auto bid by virtue of their head-to-head win.

Kentucky left little doubt, defeating the Gators in nearly every metric on the box score en route to a 3-0 sweep. Alli Stumler led the Wildcats with 18 kills, while Madi Skinner followed behind with 12.

UK dominated the match, having either tied or led the Gators for nearly its entirety, only finding themselves down in the third set, but never by more than one score. 

The Wildcats found themselves on several runs in the first set before jumping out to a 24-17 lead late. An error by Emma Grome sparked a 5-0 Florida run, but an attack error by T’Ara Ceasar ended the run and gave Kentucky the first set 25-22.

The second set followed a similar pattern with Kentucky eventually taking a 24-19 lead before another late Florida run applied pressure to the Cats. This time, however, the run was only able to reach 3-0 before Stumler recorded a kill for another 25-22 set win.

Florida found themselves ahead for the first time all day early in the third set with a handful of one-point leads, but like in the sets before, Kentucky eventually jumped ahead 24-16. The Gators once again gave them a fight, going on a 4-0 run, but Stumler’s final kill won the set for Wildcats 25-20 for an overall 3-0 win.

With Kentucky’s auto-bid to the NCAA Tournament, they keep their chances at being back-to-back national champions alive, having won the title last season defeating Texas 3-1. 

The bracket for the NCAA Tournament will be revealed on Sunday, Nov. 28, at 8:30 p.m. E.T. and will air on ESPNU. All 64 tournament teams will hear their names called, with the top 16 being seeded and given the first opportunities to host the opening rounds.

Kentucky concludes their regular season Saturday, Nov. 27, once again against Florida in Lexington. That match is set to start at 1 p.m. and will air on the SEC Network+.