The No. 7 Kentucky volleyball team traveled to Salt Lake City this weekend to begin their fall schedule. In the opening doubleheader on Friday, the Cats finished in a split record after sweeping the No. 23 Cal Poly Mustangs (25-21, 25-9, 25-20) in the morning and getting swept by the Utah Utes (25-19, 25-16, 25-23) at night. On the following Saturday, Kentucky cemented another sweep of the St. Mary’s Gaels (25-14, 25-14, 25-14) to end the tournament on a win.
Defense was the biggest factor in both the Cats’ wins and losses over the course of the weekend. In the first match, the Mustangs were held to a hitting percentage of .113 overall, largely brought on by nine blocks from the Cats, four each from juniors Madison Lilley and Kendyl Paris.
In the second match, the Wildcats lacked their defensive edge needed to bring down the Utes and it eventually led them to getting swept. Utah took several advantages of the faltering Cats to keep them down to a .056 hitting percentage, and the Cats deepened their hole with several errors on their part.
"Fundamentally, we weren't very good tonight in several aspects," UK head coach Craig Skinner said in a press release. "We need to learn from this and get better. Our determination and fight didn't come until the third set.”
In the final match, Kentucky brought back their defensive heat they had been lacking Friday night to earn the win against St. Mary’s. The Cats stunned their opponents with 13 total blocks as a team, eight of which can be attributed to graduate transfer Leah Meyer.
"I thought we bounced back really well (on Saturday)," Skinner said. "Defensively, to be able to hold a team as good as St. Mary's is an impressive collective effort by everybody.”
Several players also dominated on offense throughout the whole weekend. Senior Leah Edmond had the match-high 13 kills in the match against Cal Poly. Additionally, sophomore Alli Stumler had 11 kills in each of the first two matches.
At the conclusion of the tournament, both Edmond and Meyer were selected for the Utah Classic All-Tournament Team.
The Cats continue their road journey in Cedar Falls, Iowa on Friday, September 6 at 11:30 a.m. for the opener in the UNI Tournament. Friday will be another double header, and the tournament concludes the following Saturday night.