Fourth ranked Kentucky played the 29th ranked WKU in Memorial Coliseum on Saturday night, and there was much at stake. The winner moved on to the Regionals, which will be hosted by Kentucky. It was a great atmosphere which ultimately benefited both programs. Kentucky wore the home white jerseys while WKU wore the the road red jerseys. It was a five set thriller, with Kentucky coming out on top with scores of 16-25, 22-25, 25-19, 25-21, and 15-12. Leah Edmond led the charge with 22 kills, Kaz Brown has 9 blocks, Madison Lilley had 55 assists, and Ashley Dusek had 16 digs. It was a complete effort by Kentucky, and leaves much more on the table.
It was a fast start for WKU, with the Toppers leading by as much as 6 early. Kentucky came out flat, and WKU took advantage of the the Kentucky defense. Thus, resulting in a UK timeout. Kentucky cut the lead down to three, and it began to look like Kentucky found their rhythm. Then came another WKU run. The lead grew to 7 for WKU, causing UK to take it’s final timeout. The defense was sloppy for Kentucky, and the passing was not like it usually was in the regular season. The Cats were looking for ANY momentum coming out of the timeout, but time was running out. Kentucky couldn’t get the timely hits, and struggled to determine which WKU hitter would hit next. They won the set 25-16 and Kentucky was shell shocked. Senior Kaz Brown led the charge for the Cats with 5 kills and the only block of the set.
Kentucky found its first point yet again off of Kaz Brown, the bright spot of the game up until that point. Kentucky seemed to have received the message from Coach Craig Skinner, coming out balanced and ready to play. WKU went on another run, and led 8-4 early. It was unforced errors that doomed the Cats, but the bench was continuously positive and was getting ready for the next point. Kentucky went on 3 point run, to cut the lead to one when McKenzie Watson, arguably the best server on the team for Kentucky. A sustained rally by both teams ended up with equal game in the second set. Tough serving was the name of the game, creating out of system attacks for both teams. A solo stuff by Leah Edmond had Memorial rocking. During the media timeout, WKU led by two. WKU came out of the timeout with a service error and a block by Brooke Morgan and Kaz Brown, getting Kentucky rowdy. UK took a two point lead, and “GO BIG BLUE” began to be chanted. Kaz Brown came up with huge kills and sustained the UK lead. Underclassmen Avery Skinner and Leah Edmond came up with two straight kills, causing WKU to take its first timeout of the set while trailing 20-17. At this point the crowd was involved and LOUD. The game was tied at 20, so UK took a timeout. WKU took a 23-21 lead, resulting Kentucky to take its final timeout of the set. WKU got the point, and Senior Emily Franklin responded. WKU took the second set 25-22 and went into the locker room up two sets to none.
Set three started out great for WKU, but the momentum being shifted by a overturned call by the head referee. Kentucky went from three down to things being tied up within a matter of 30 seconds. WKU rattled off two straight points to regain the lead, 8-6. Then Kentucky repeated the favor. It was a back and forth affair, and neither team wanted to up any points. Each team traded points, and it was getting intense. A Madison Lilley ace tied up the match at 12, then Leah Edmond got the block to take the lead. WKU went into the media timeout leading by one, for the third straight set. Brooke Morgan tied the game up twice with two right sided kills. The Cats took a three point lead, and Memorial Coliseum was nuts! It caused WKU to take a timeout and slow down the Kentucky offense. A stuff from Kaz Brown and Madison Lilley followed by a UK tip had Kentucky rolling. A net violation ended the Kentucky rally, but Kaz Brown got the ball back soon after the last point. Leah Edmond sent a rocket to the WKU defense, and it was back to a five point lead. Another Leah Edmond kill brought UK its first set point, and they capitalized. Kentucky won that set 25-19 and forced a fourth set.
WKU took the first point, but the score was evened off of a service error by the WKU setter. UK took its first lead of the set off of a mis hit on WKU. UK was feeling it, and didn’t want the journey to end now vs. WKU. A BIG BLUE BLOCK by Senior Kaz Brown followed by a Leah Edmond kill had the Cats up by three and forced WKU to take its first timeout only 11 points into the set. Setter Madison Lilley fired off an ace, and Kentucky led 11-7. WKU went on a 2 point run to make the set tighter. When Gabby Curry went out of the game due to injury, the Cats rallied and got a few points. Kentucky took a 14-11 lead and was pumped. WKU went on another two point run but Kentucky got the ball right back. WKU cut it down to one but UK responded with a huge kill by Franklin. Leah Edmond was feeling it and UK took a 19-16 lead. A Franklin kill helped UK maintain a three point lead. It was UK set point, in order stay alive. Of course, Leah Edmond delivered.
Groove Street. Senior Kaz Brown delivered first and it was a race to 15. Kentucky opened the set off with four straight points, and WKU needed a timeout. WKU cut the lead to one, and suddenly things were very tense in Memorial. Leah Edmond came up with a kill to put UK up 6-4. Madison Lilley had a service ace, followed by a UK and WKU service error. The teams switched sides and UK was up 8-6. It was 9-8 off of a WKU kill. 11-8 UK off of a Avery Skinner kill. WKU took their final timeout of the game and everyone was nervous in Memorial Coliseum. WKU got the ball back on a kill from the setter. The score was 11-10 but WKU committed a service error so it put the Cats within three. It was a one point game, with UK on top. Tied ballgame. This is a first to 15, and you must win by two. Kentucky comes out with a Leah Edmond kill. Another Leah Edmond kill gives UK two set points. KENTUCKY WINS IT!!! COMEBACK COMPLETE!! A net call for WKU gives UK the set and the game 15-12.
Kentucky will host next weekend, and will make the Sweet Sixteen for the first time since 2012. Come out and support your Cats! Kentucky will play #13 BYU in the Sweet 16 at Memorial Coliseum on Friday. Tickets go on sale Sunday morning, and BBN we need you!!! Nebraska and either Colorado or Baylor are also in our region. A win in the Sweet 16 would tie the best result in the NCAA tournament. Thanks for reading and Go Cats!