19- 9:46:10 VB Bluegrass Battle

Kentucky sophomore Alli Stumler spikes the ball during the game against Florida Gulf Coast University in the Bluegrass Battle on Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 3-1. Photo by Jordan Prather | Staff

The No. 15 ranked Kentucky volleyball team (11-4, 4-0 SEC) got a five set victory Sunday afternoon at Memorial Coliseum in a top 15 matchup against their SEC rival No. 12 ranked Florida Gators (11-3, 2-1 SEC). UK won the first set 25-12, then lost the next two sets, before it finished the match winning the final two 25-19 and 15-8 to continue a five-game winning streak. 

The Cats’ used the electric atmosphere and energy at Memorial Coliseum to keep composure during the game. Even as Florida went on its run winning the second and third set, that composure stuck with the Cats, thus enabling them to be focused enough to come back and win the game. 

“I think we’ve struggled with energy in the past in five-set matches, but we emphasized a lot this week a five-set mentality and how we need to go about those sets, which was a big part of the game.” Cats’ libero Gabby Curry said after the game. 

UK outside hitter Leah Edmond, who led the team in kills again with 19 and had a career high in digs in an SEC match with 12 for the game, said after the game that, in the huddle going into the fourth set after going down 2-1 in the match, the Cats “focused on having a fire” while telling her teammates to “put everything on the line for every single person here.”

It was not just keeping that composure that made a difference for Kentucky. They also attacked at a much higher percentage after the third set. The Cats in the second and third sets hit below .100 and Florida had 10 blocks between those two sets. But that turned in the fourth and fifth sets as Kentucky had an attacking percentage above .400 for both sets and the Gators only had three blocks combined. UK setter Madison Lilley contributed to a lot of the offensive turn around. She distributed the ball to many different hitters, leading to the attackers to find the holes in the Florida front line. Three players had above 10 kills for the match, a lot of which came from the last two sets.

“I thought she [Lilley] took over the match in the fourth and fifth sets.” UK volleyball head coach Craig Skinner said. “She did a good job of using the right play at the right time.”

Curry also gave credit to Lilley for the Cats’ turn-around offensively, saying, “Madison ran the offense so well, I give her a lot of that glory along with the hitters hitting high, which was key in Florida not having as many blocks.”

The win not only extends Kentucky’s winning streak and continues the momentum they have gained since the sweep against Louisville, but it helps keep the likelihood of another SEC title alive. The Cats’ next go up against their SEC foe Georgia Bulldogs this Friday night at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. SEC Network Plus will have the broadcast.