Wildcats knock off LSU in Baton Rouge
BATON ROUGE – October 14, 2021
The No. 5 Kentucky Volleyball team got eight blocks from junior middle blocker Azhani Tealer and 16 kills from sophomore outside hitter Madi Skinner to win the first of a two-match series at LSU, 3-1 (25-20, 23-35, 25-20, 25-16) Thursday night at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.
With the win, Kentucky improves to 12-3 on the season and remains perfect in Southeastern Conference play at 6-0. LSU falls to 7-10 and is now 3-5 in the league. The final match of the series will be Friday night at 9 p.m. ET on the SEC Network with Sam Ravech and Jenny Hazelwood on the call from the PMAC.
“We had a great match at the service line tonight and I liked how we got stronger and stronger as the match went on. We were efficient in our attack and Emma Grome set some nice balls for our offense tonight.”
Skinner’s 16 kills marks the third time in the last four matches that the Katy, Texas native has gone over 15 kills in a match during SEC play. She hit over .200 on the night with 15 terminations on 38 swings with an ace and three blocks.
Tealer had another sensational night, showing her prowess as one of the best players in the SEC with 15 kills, a .550 hitting percentage, eight blocks, and two solo stuffs. The junior out of Grand Prairie, Texas now has seven matches in a row with 10-plus kills, and for the last eight matches, has hit above .300 in all of them.
Lauren Tharp had a sensational night at the service line, recording four aces in the match, tying her career high set against Auburn in the fall of 2020. The four aces tonight is a new season high for the Louisville, Kentucky senior. Tharp also tallied six digs in the match.
Bella Bell had a new career-high nine kills Thursday night. Bell hit .500 with nine kills on 14 swings and only two errors. The redshirt sophomore from Blythewood, South Carolina also got in on the action defensively with four blocks, setting a new career high in that category as well.
Kentucky took the first bit of momentum in the match to the media timeout as a 3-0 run made it 15-12 in favor of UK. Tealer had back-to-back kills on the right pin and Eleanor Beavin had four early digs to put the Wildcats ahead by three. A Madi Skinner termination from the left side ballooned the Wildcat lead to 18-13 and the five-point lead was Kentucky’s largest of the night to that point. After Emma Grome’s ace, the first of the night for UK, LSU called its first timeout trailing 21-16. Out of the timeout, LSU won the next three successive points including a net violation and service ace to close the gap to 21-19 and Kentucky would call its first timeout leading by just two points. A kill by Madi Skinner, followed by an ace from the Katy, Texas native out of the timeout made it 23-19 and Kentucky’s lead was back to four as the Tigers called their final timeout of the set. An LSU hitting error ended the set and Kentucky took the opener, 25-20.
LSU had three separate three-point leads to put Kentucky on its heels to start the second set. With UK trailing 12-9, the Wildcats chipped their way back into the set with kills from Skinner and a handful of nice sets from Grome to execute the offense. LSU took just a one-point 15-14 lead into the media timeout and UK won two points in a row to take its first lead at 16-15. After the two sides exchanged points for a few sideouts, the Tigers went on a 3-0 run capped by a service ace to lead 21-19 and Kentucky called its first timeout of the set. Back-to-back kills by senior Alli Stumler from the left side closed the gap and LSU called its first timeout with the score tied, 21-21. A net violation against Kentucky gave LSU set point at 24-23 and Kentucky called its final timeout trailing by a point. On set point, UK was blocked to give LSU the frame, 25-23.
Kentucky’s Alli Stumler was the first to reach 10 kills in the match as her 13th kill of the match gave Kentucky a 13-9 lead on Madi Skinner’s serve and a 4-0 UK run made LSU call its first timeout of the set down three points. The 4-0 run was the largest for either team in the match to that point in the match. Bella Bell and Emma Grome had one of the largest stuff blocks of the match on the right pin to give Kentucky a 19-15 lead in the set. A 3-0 LSU run put the Tigers right back in the set as UK’s match-high lead of five points was cut to just two at 21-19 and Kentucky called its first timeout to stop the bleeding. Out of the timeout, Azhani Tealer made two huge plays, one with a kill on the right pin and a stuff block with Grome on the right side in the succeeding point to close the frame with Kentucky taking it 25-20 and a two sets to one lead in the match.
After dropping the opening three points, Tealer took over the match again, with three blocks in four points as the Wildcats went on a 7-0 run and LSU had to burn an early timeout just 10 points into the set. UK’s lead ballooned to five points, matching its largest of the match at 10-5 and Kentucky was off to the races in the fourth early with a strong effort out of the gates. Bella Bell set a new career high with her eighth kill of the match to give Kentucky a 13-8 lead with a power surge out of the middle. After LSU cut the lead to 13-10, the Wildcats ran off five points in a row and at 16-10, LSU called its final timeout and UK grew the lead to 18-10 before the Tigers sided out to end the run. Kentucky finished the match with authority, closing out the fourth set with a kill from Bella Bell.