I guess it’s Kentucky’s style, losing the first set before trouncing the ninth-ranked Missouri Tigers in the next three. Thursday night’s matchup went the way of Wednesday’s, with the No. 3 ranked ‘Cats dropping set number one before dominating the rest of the evening.
The star of the first game, senior hitter Avery Skinner, was slow to get going and didn’t record a single kill until midway through the second set after tying her career-high with 21 the day before. Missouri took advantage of the UK star’s sluggish start and some missed passes in the back row to take the first set, 25-19. (If a sportsbook had offered it, I would’ve hammered the Kentucky money-line.)
And then the Wildcats woke up. Led by junior hitter Alli Stumler, who led the team in kills last night with 22, Kentucky raced out to a 12-4 lead in the second set and held on to beat Missouri by four, 25-21, to even things up 1-1.
The third set was never really in question as sophomore Ahzani Tealer exploded down the stretch, setting a career-high in kills through just three sets with 12, including a .450 hitting percentage (she finished with 14 and a .458%). Among your best hitters, volleyball is like baseball, where a hitting percentage of one-third or better is considered elite. Tealer was on fire Thursday night.
As they did the night before, Kentucky remained the aggressor in the fourth set, blocking or tipping seemingly every clean look from the Missouri hitters while UK setter Madison Lilley and Stumler’s two-man game shredded the Tiger defense, with Tealer, Skinner and Elise Goetzinger adding several kills of their own.
Craig Skinner’s third-ranked ‘Cats delivered on back-to-back nights, quieting the No. 9 squad in the country — also one of the biggest threats in the SEC — in convincing fashion. And they did so by committee at the front line; Impressive performance all around. The only negative to speak of is the injury to lefty freshman hitter Reagan Rutherford, who looks the part of a budding star, in the third set.
Hopefully, she’s back on the court next weekend as the Volleyball ‘Cats return to Lexington for a duo of Saturday/Sunday games against Auburn, who was picked last in the SEC by the preseason coaches poll.
Until then, enjoy these ridiculous highlights from perhaps the best sports team currently on campus:
— Kentucky Volleyball (@KentuckyVB) October 30, 2020