Wildcats win 3-2 thriller over Gators, coming from 2-1 down to win
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – With its back to the walls, the No. 17 Kentucky Volleyball team just continued to fight, and the Wildcats emerged victorious knocking off No. 11 Florida in five sets (25-21, 15-25, 23-25, 26-24, 15-12) coming from two sets to one down to grab a share of the Southeastern Conference lead with three matches to play.
Sophomore outside hitter Alli Stumler had a career-high 27 kills in the match, but she was unbelievably not even the leading kill-getter on her own side of the net as senior Leah Edmond eclipsed her career high with 30 kills. The 30 kills by Edmond is the most in a single match since 2004.
“Just really proud of the heart and guts of this team to fight back under pressure,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We’ve gone through a lot this week, and as a staff we are really proud of our team for showing so much resilience. The team performance was great, but the point production from Alli Stumler and Leah Edmond is something that Kentucky may not have ever seen before.”
With the win, Kentucky improves to 20-6 overall on the season and is now 13-2 in the Southeastern Conference. The 13-2 record is equal to the Gators’ 13-2 mark in SEC play as the Wildcats and UF are tied atop the SEC with three matches to go. The loss on Sunday was Florida’s fourth of the season and second to UK as the Gators fall to 20-4 overall.
Madison Lilley was nothing short of sensational all night long, registering 63 assists, just two off of her career high set in 2017 vs. Marquette. Additionally, Gabby Curry had 25 digs in the match, leading all players in the digs category by eight, as her 25 digs mark her 23rd match this season with double-digit digs.
Kentucky ends its four-match road stretch 4-0 and will now return home to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum for a huge showdown with No. 24 Missouri at 7 p.m. ET. The match will be shown live on the SEC Network, ESPN3 and the ESPN app.
After surviving an early flurry of points, Kentucky rallied to take an 8-4 deficit into an 11-11 lead before UK took its first lead at 13-12. UK won the two points leading into the media timeout to make it 15-13 at the stoppage. The Wildcats held the lead for the middle part of the set before back-to-back kills by the Gators put UF back on top at 18-17. Kentucky reeled off three points in a row on an Alli Stumler termination, Azhani Tealer touch shot and a blocking error to make it 20-18 UK and push the Gators into a timeout. Lauren Tharp went on a set-high 5-0 serving run and Kentucky was able to pick up four set points at 24-20 following an Alli Stumler roll shot and Florida called its final timeout. Kendyl Paris’ third kill of the set ended the opening frame in UK’s favor, 25-21. Kentucky hit .552 in the first set and Stumler led the way with seven kills.
Florida again jumped out of the gates with authority winning the first two points of the set and forced UK into its first timeout with UF leading 10-6. Kentucky tied the set at 14-14 on a roll shot at the net cross-court from Edmond. UF then responded with three points in a row thanks to an unsuccessful challenge by UK and two Gator kills to make things 17-14 in their favor. After back-to-back kills from the right side, UF took a 19-15 lead and Kentucky burned its final timeout of the set. Florida won the last eight points in a row to take the second set, 25-15.
UF won the first three points of the third set to make it 11 points in a row that the Gators won before an Edmond kill and a service ace by Gabby Curry stopped the bleeding and cut the UF lead to 3-2. After UK tied the set at 10-10, the Gators ran off three points in a row to take a 13-10 lead and Kentucky took its first timeout. Stumler’s 12th kill of the match cut the Gator lead to 16-15 and UF used a timeout, its first of the third set after UK was back in it. UK grabbed its first lead of the frame on the next two successive points as Caitlyn Cooper slammed an over pass to the ground and Edmond served her second ace of the match to the floor. UK took a 20-18 lead but the Gators won two in a row to tie things up at 20-20. Florida won three of the last four point to take a two sets to one lead in the match.
The fourth started off well for the Wildcats as UK won five of the first six points to take a 5-1 lead to begin the frame. Florida then took off and grabbed the lead at 8-7 by winning six of nine points. Leah Meyer hammered home her fourth kill of the match to the floor to put the Wildcats back in the driver’s seat at 12-9 and Florida called its first timeout of the set. UK stretched its lead to 17-12 on Edmond’s 21st kill of the match and took a five-point lead. The Wildcats then saw half of the lead evaporate on a pair of attack errors and used their first timeout at 18-15. Florida won five of the next six points to tie things up at 20-20, the set’s first tie since it was 8-8. Florida took its first lead of the set on an ace at 21-20 and had a match point at 24-23. Kentucky then got kills from Alli Stumler on two of the next three points to take an unreal set, 26-24 in extra points.
Kentucky won the first five points of the fifth to jump out to an early 5-0. That lead was slowly cut into by the Gators in the later parts of the set, closing to 9-7. However, Edmond and Stumler took over in the later parts of the sets with huge kills at 12-9 to push UF into a timeout and then Edmond’s 30th kill into the back-right corner ended the match.