The historic Kentucky volleyball season ends with a national championship.
The # 2 Wildcats dropped the first set but won the next three to beat the Texas perennial force # 4 in four sets (20-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-22) on Saturday night.
This is Kentucky’s first national title in program history and they were the first SEC team in history to win the title.
In five tournament games played, the Wildcats lost only two sets in the entire postseason.
Alli Stumler was leading with 26 kills. Madi Skinner had 19 and Avery Skinner had 14th AVCA Player of the Year Madison Lilley was huge with 53 assists and 19 digs for the team and was named the most outstanding player of the championship.
This team played inspired for a number of reasons. Bringing this trophy to Lexington not only for the volleyball community but also for a hurtful sports program.
Kentucky honored fallen basketball player Terrence Clarke before the game on Saturday after him died in a car accident just two days earlier. The team said they were playing “at # 5”.
The match was a fight from start to finish with the first set that set the tone of the match.
Both teams traded points throughout the set, but a Skylar Fields kill gave the Longhorns some breath and a 14-10 lead, forcing Kentucky and AVCA Coach of the Year Craig Skinner to take a break. The Wildcats would try to respond but never fully recovered from the deficit when Texas hit .216 .455 versus Kentucky’s .216 .455, which was enough for the 25-20 win in the opening frame.
Kentucky came out much better in the second set and, thanks to a 4-0 run and big blocks from Azhani Tealer, had a 15-10 lead. From then on, it was all Wildcats who ended the set with a service ace from Stumler, to win set two by 25:18 and end the match with 1.
The third set was tied at 13 before Kentucky found some room to take a 15-13 lead after killing Avery and Madi Skinner’s sister duo. The set would be anything but easy. With a margin of 23-20, the Longhorns scored two more points to force Skinner to take another timeout. The Wildcats held out and Madi Skinner’s kill gave the Cats a 25:23 win in the set and put the team in the match 2-1 in blue and white.
As a team that had played in seven national titles, everyone knew Texas had no plans to fold when they were 2-1 down in the game. A 6-1 start on the set brought the Longhorns under control. Kentucky showed some light after consecutive offensive errors from Texas that gave the Wildcats a 14-13 lead.
From there the night belonged to Kentucky.
After the set was tied at 21, the Wildcats finished the game on a 4-1 run and a kill from Stumler sealed the deal. Kentucky won the set 25-22 and the match 3-1 to officially bring the title to Lexington.
“You played phenomenally tonight,” said Texas coach Jerritt Elliott. “We just couldn’t get them out of the system. We couldn’t get any points and they were just so efficient.
Kentucky finished the year 24-1.
Contact Dominique Yates. Twitter: @RealDYates. Email: [email protected]