OMAHA, Neb. – Kentucky clinched its spot in the 2020-21 NCAA Volleyball Elite Eight with a dominating 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-10) sweep of Western Kentucky on Sunday night at the CHI Health Convention Center in Omaha, Nebraska.
In a battle of the top two offensive teams in the nation, 2-seed Kentucky hit an impressive .450 as a team in the match, and over .550 in the second and third sets to sweep the Hilltoppers.
Junior outside hitter Alli Stumler had a match-high 17 kills on the night with 11 kills from freshman Madi Skinner. Madison Lilley had 38 assists and Lilley also led the Wildcats with nine digs, just one away from a double-double.
Kentucky advances to play 7-seed Purdue on Monday night inside the CHI Health Arena in Omaha.
This is the second NCAA Regional Final appearance for Kentucky, who also advanced to this round during the 2017 season. UK will be looking for the program’s first-ever Final Four appearance Monday night against the Boilermakers.
It was tight and back-and-forth in the early parts of the set as the media timeout came on a 3-0 UK run and the Wildcats took a two-point lead at 15-13. Up to that point, the entire match had been played within a three-point window and neither team had more than a two-point lead.
Kentucky gained the first bit of separation in the set deep on a pair of Avery Skinner kills to take a 21-17 lead and Western Kentucky called its first timeout. Kentucky pulled away late, winning the last four points of the set to take the opener, 25-20.
Elise Goetzinger’s block sealed it as UK held the Hilltoppers to a .231 hitting percentage in the opening frame.
Kentucky took an early lead in the second set, securing a 12-6 lead to double up the Hilltoppers to force WKU into calling an early timeout to play. After back-to-back kills by Stumler to bring her up to six in the match from the left side, Kentucky stretched its lead to 16-8 and had a .467 hitting percentage in the set to that point.
Stumler’s eighth kill of the match made it an 18-10 lead and WKU called a timeout, its final of the frame. Western Kentucky closed the gap to as few as six in the late stages of the frame, but a timely out-of-system swing from Stumler and a swing on the left side by Skinner kept the Toppers at arms length and UK ran away with the set.
A block by Lilley and Azhani Tealer ended the frame on the right side, and UK took the second set, 25-16. UK hit .556 in the second set alone, while holding WKU to .093.
Stumler’s 12th kill of the match was quite incredible, as she dug an insane ball and sent it into the WKU backcourt for the termination, and as a result, WKU found itself trailing 9-4 and needed an early timeout as Kentucky was off to the races in the third set.
Kentucky couldn’t miss in the third set, hitting .571 as a team and siding out at an unreal 100 percent en route to a 25-10 win to clinch the match.
Kentucky advances to play (7) Purdue on Monday night inside the CHI Health Arena in Omaha. The match will start 45 minutes following the 6:30 p.m. ET match. It will be televised by ESPNU with Paul Sunderland, Salima Rockwell and Holly Rowe on the call.