Following a dominant display in its season opener, No. 3 Kentucky volleyball secured another win over Tennessee on Saturday night in Memorial Coliseum.
After not claiming a single set on Friday, the Vols brought a new level of focus into Saturday’s game. Volunteer coach Eve Rackham-Watt also made a major adjustment, putting hitter Danielle Mahaffey on the right side instead of the left like in Friday’s match. The move paid off, as junior’s play was a huge reason Tennessee held the lead throughout the first set, ultimately winning it 26-24.
Trailing in sets for the first time in the young season, the Cats needed to respond. The Volunteers kept coming with consistent blocking at the net, staying neck-and-neck just as they did in set one. But Kentucky stayed persistent, pulling out the tight set 25-23 off a huge kill from Avery Skinner that evened the match score.
Both teams scrapped in the third set, as neither team could get in front by more than two through the first 34 points. Kentucky was able to pull slightly further in front down the stretch, getting contributions from many different players as they edged out a 25-22 set win.
The Cats’ momentum from the third set transferred into the fourth, as they went on a 10-1 run to push ahead and never look back. An ace from Alli Stumler sealed the deal, giving Kentucky the fourth set 25-13 and the match 3-1.
Avery Skinner had another star performance for the Cats, recording a career high-21 kills to go along with only 3 errors. Stumler played a great second fiddle with 15 kills and 13 digs.
Coach Craig Skinner was satisfied with his team in spite of their struggle early on. He said they are “still so young” in their offense and hadn’t yet seen that “you can never expect the second night to go like the first night”.
Blocker Elise Goetzinger started the match, tallying seven kills and five blocks, including a few key rejections in the third set. The freshman was surprised to start, but thought she “played pretty well”.
Prior to the game, senior setter Madison Lilley was honored as UK’s all-time leader in assists during the rally scoring era. Coach Skinner gave her a good deal of credit for Kentucky’s performance, saying it helped to have such an “experienced setter”. Lilley had 48 assists and 15 digs in the contest.
Mahaffey led Tennessee with 17 kills.
Kentucky’s next matches come on the road against Missouri on October 28th and 29th. Both are scheduled for 9:00 p.m. ET and will be televised on ESPNU.