Wildcats to play in first national championship on Saturday night
OMAHA, Neb. – April 22, 2021
The No. 2 Kentucky Volleyball team defeated the No. 6 Washington Huskies 3-1 (25-18, 23-25, 25-23, 25-17) on Thursday night to claim its spot in the 2020 NCAA Volleyball National Championship match for the first time in program history.
UK won sets one, three and four to take the match at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska on Thursday behind four players who were in double-figure kills, 63 assists from AVCA National Player of the Year, Madison Lilley, and 17 digs from senior libero, Gabby Curry.
Kentucky will play the winner of the (4) Texas/(1) Wisconsin match Saturday night in the national championship at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Paul Sunderland, Salima Rockwell and Holly Rowe will have the call.
Avery Skinner led all players in the match with 19 kills in the match on 46 swings, as she hit .286 against the PAC-12 champion Huskies. Madi Skinner, Azhani Tealer and Alli Stumler all had 13 kills for the Wildcats with Tealer only needing 26 swings to get her 19 kills as she led the match with a .385 hitting percentage.
Madison Lilley had another sensational match, recording 63 assists, one kill and a block assist. Lilley also had 14 digs in the match to complete her second double-double of the tournament.
Senior Gabby Curry led all Wildcats with 17 digs in the match as she helped hold Washington to a .206 hitting percentage for the match, and just .172 in the final set as Kentucky ran away with the semifinal match 25-17 in the fourth.
After the teams traded points in the opening stanza of the set, Kentucky got the first sizeable lead, as the Wildcats got the pins going with back-to-back kills by Stumler and A. Skinner to take a three-point lead. That pushed Washington into its first timeout after the 4-0 run that gave the Wildcats the 9-6 lead. What was a five-point lead at 13-8 was trimmed to one at 13-12 after the Huskies ran off four in a row and Kentucky called its first timeout of the match. Back-to-back kills by the Skinner sisters, one from each side, stretched the UK lead to 17-13, and the Huskies called their second timeout of the set. Kentucky ran away with the first set, holding UW to just .056 hitting in the opener as UK took a 1-0 lead in the match thanks to a M. Skinner kill, 25-18.
Alli Stumler made the biggest impact on the start of the second set as she put away a pair of balls in the early going from the left side to give Kentucky a 9-5 lead to push the Huskies into an early timeout in the frame down four. UW won eight of the next 11 points in the set and took its first lead of the match on a receiving error by UK, and trailing 13-12, Kentucky called its first timeout of the set. Kentucky’s pins then caught fire midway through the set as Stumler rattled the floor with her sixth kill and A. Skinner had an incredible pancake dig to keep a massive point alive and Washington took its second timeout down 18-15. Kentucky’s lead was 21-17 before the Huskies won four of the next five points, including a challenge to make it 22-21 and a hitting error tied the set up as Kentucky called its final timeout. Washington ended up winning three of the final four points and took the set, 25-23 to even the match at 1-1.
Washington continued its strong serving in the third set and took a commanding 12-7 lead thanks to a successful challenge, as UK called a timeout to talk things over. After getting as close as 16-12, Washington pulled out to a 19-14 lead and the Wildcats called their second timeout to try and narrow the gap in the third set. Kentucky would close the gap even more in the middle stanza of the set to make it a one-point lead at 22-21 and UW could call its final timeout of the set, and out of challenges, as well. A thunderous Azhani Tealer kill set up a 24-23 lead and UK closed the set with a 25-23 win thanks to a 9-1 run to close out the set. The Wildcats trailed 22-16 and rallied to win, its largest comeback win of the season to win any set.
A trio of kills from A. Skinner and a service run by Lauren Tharp created a 13-9 lead in the third set after UK trailed by as many as three early on and Washington expended its first timeout of the set down by a quartet. A Tealer kill from the right side out of system on an extended rally put the caps on a 4-0 UK run and down seven points, UW elected to call its final timeout of the set at 17-10 with UK in front. Kentucky got a kill from Tealer, her 13th of the match, to set up eight match points at 24-16 and Kentucky won the match on a kill from the left side by Avery Skinner, 25-17.