Wildcats win in three sets to cap off fall season 8-0 in SEC
STARKVILLE, Miss. – Junior outside hitter Alli Stumler had 11 kills and freshman Riah Walker contributed 10 digs to lead the No. 2 Kentucky Volleyball team to cap a perfect 8-0 fall season with a sweep of Mississippi State 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-16) Saturday afternoon in Starkville.
Kentucky closes the 2020 season as the only undefeated team in the Southeastern Conference, and will take at least a one-match lead into the spring season. More information on the spring season will be announced at a later date by the conference office, including dates, opponents, times and television assignments.
The Wildcats battled to maintain a steady lead by the midway point in all three sets, pulling away with a seven-point margin in the first two sets followed by an eight-point lead in the third to round out the match.
Freshman Riah Walker set a career high with 10 digs in the match. Lauren Tharp had six, and Gabby Curry had five.
Senior setter Madison Lilley had 31 assists in the match to go along with four digs and a trio of blocks.
It was an early set of runs, as the Wildcats took a commanding 9-4 lead thanks to a 5-0 run at the service line by Azhani Tealer and kills from Alli Stumler and Madi Skinner. MSU responded with a 4-0 run of its own, as they climbed back to within two at 10-8. Kentucky then ran off three in a row to lead into the media timeout punctuated by a kill from Madison Lilley to take a 15-9 lead into the timeout. Kentucky took the first timeout of the set, leading 16-13 after the Bulldogs ran off four points in a row to pull within three. Stumler recorded a back-row kill to put the Wildcats up six points at 19-13 and Mississippi State called its first timeout. The run ended with Stumler at the service line at 21-14 Kentucky and the Wildcats ran away and hid for the opening set win. It was the offensive attack that made the difference, with four players for UK registering two or more kills as the Wildcats hit .226 as a team.
Kentucky opened the second set with a strong start, as Sophie Fischer led the way with six early kills and the UK offense much smoother in the frame, hitting .467 as a team. Kentucky stretched its lead to six points at 19-13 in the second set after a double contact was called on the Bulldogs, and MSU elected to call its first timeout. UK ran away to close out the frame, 25-16 with Azhani Tealer’s fifth kill of the match. The Wildcats hit .414, their highest hitting percentage of the sweep and added to their ace total to bring it to five for the match.
The third set started out competitively and then Bella Bell came into the match and brought in a nice burst of energy to the Wildcats on the floor, with a kill and a block inside the first three points. Kentucky then hit a comfortable stride shortly after the midway point to break away with as high as a 12-point lead on the Bulldogs, sending Mississippi State into a timeout. The Wildcats lead continued after a Stumler kill to get into double digits, and an Azhani Teal block at the net. After the Bulldogs called their final timeout, Madison Lilley contributed her 31st assist of the game to Freshman Madi Skinner to finish out the match with a kill and closing with a 25-16 win in the final set.