7:55:03 VB vs. Michigan

Kentucky junior Madison Lilley sets the ball during the second round game of the DI NCAA Volleyball Tournament against Michigan on Saturday, Dec. 7, 2019, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 3-0. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

The No. 3 ranked Kentucky volleyball team got its season off to a hot start, sweeping the Tennessee Volunteers 3-0 in the Cats home opener. 

UK maintained the lead for every set, winning the first and third 25-15 and the second 25-16. 

The Cats came out blazing, and their team effort throughout the match was outstanding. It was clear that they missed being out on the court and competing.

“It feels amazing to be back and playing other people,” outside hitter Avery Skinner said. The senior had a stellar performance, leading the way with 13 kills and no attacking errors in the game.

In Kentucky’s first game without Leah Edmond on the roster since 2015, she stepped up and showed she’s ready to try and fill the massive shoes of the two-time SEC Player of the year.

“She earned the opportunity to do this and took advantage of it,” coach Craig Skinner said proudly.

Tennessee did not have an answer for Kentucky’s depth. The Wildcats had a great showing from their rookies, and Coach Skinner seemed very pleased with those freshmen players after the game. Outside hitter Reagan Rutherford shined in particular, contributing 9 kills in the win. 

Avery Skinner also complemented the freshmen on their performances and ability to bring energy.

“They went out and played like they had been there before,” she said.

The Vols also couldn’t account for Azhani Tealer, who recently transitioned to a middle position. The sophomore was “all over the place”, according to Coach Skinner. Tealer said she was “definitely nervous” coming into the game, but thought “it turned out well”. She was third in kills for the Cats with eight. 

Early in the second set, Tennessee was hanging tough. However, halfway through the set, UK began to pull away again, as the Vols did not have an answer for the Cats’ outside hitters.

Junior outside hitters Raquel Perinar and Ava Bell led the way for Tennessee, combining for 14 kills. 

Tennessee and Kentucky will face off again on Saturday at 7:00 p.m.