For the 12th time in a row, no. 16 ranked Kentucky volleyball defeated the Mississippi State Bulldogs Friday night in its SEC opener in Memorial Coliseum. The final score was 3-1, as the Cats’, who had to battle against an improving Mississippi State team, took the first two sets 25-17 and 25-11, then dropped the third set 25-21 before ending the game in the fourth with a 25-23 set victory.
Kentucky had to do it mostly without star senior outside hitter Leah Edmond, who went down in the first set with a lower-leg injury and did not return.
UK head coach Craig Skinner did not specify how long Edmond would be out, but did say immediately “she’s good” after being asked about her status. Then when asked if she could have played tonight after coming back to the bench in the third set, he said, “Yeah I think depending on the situation, we could have used her if we needed to.”
In the absence of Leah Edmond, Kentucky still had plenty of bright spots. Outside hitter Alli Stumler, who had fans in the stands chanting “you can’t stop her” in the fourth set, had a career high 20 total kills and added nine digs as she stepped up once Edmond went out.
“It was a good game all around," Stumler said. "Obviously they tested us in different ways, and just compared to last year, we weren’t expecting that kind of Mississippi State team to come out, which showed us we all need to step up in different ways.”
Stumler says felt confident about stepping up after Edmond left the game.
“I knew it was my time where I could really step up and show the team that they can trust me,” Stumler said.
Outside Hitter Avery Skinner also played a role as she had a season tying 11 kills in the game, and setter Madison Lilley had another double-double with 43 assists and 11 digs. The team in total out-hit Mississippi State .304 percent to .164, and out-dug the Bulldogs 57-44. With that said, Kentucky still does not feel as if they have reached their ceiling.
“Coming off of a couple of tough five-setters (in non-conference), I think we definitely have things on the to-do list that we want to get better at.” Lilley said after the game.
“We feel good about a lot of things, and I think they showed tonight, but there’s always things to get better and work on,” Lilley said.
Kentucky had a test tonight against a much improved Mississippi State team that got even tougher after Edmond went down, but they found ways from multiple players stepping up to earn a win in the opening conference game.
The Cats’ next go up is against no. 19 ranked Missouri on Sunday at 3:00 p.m. on ESPNU in what will be a crucial match early in the SEC race.