No. 23 Kentucky Falls in Tournament Opener to USC
Photos courtesy of Jacob Franklin
LOS ANGELES – Kentucky suffered its second setback of the season in what would be early Saturday morning on the east coast, falling 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-17) to Southern California at the Galen Center in its opening match of the USC Radisson Classic.
“I’m disappointed with how we performed tonight,” 12th-season head coach Craig Skinner said. “I didn’t think our warmup was great and the sense of urgency was definitely on USC’s side of the net. Give credit to them for making adjustments and getting their offense going this week to prepare for the match. Quick turnaround tonight, but we’ll find a way to get back after it again tomorrow.”
With the loss, UK falls to 2-2 on the season, while Southern California advances to 1-3. The Cats have no time to dwell on the defeat, continuing the USC Radisson Classic Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader, first facing No. 22 Creighton at 3 p.m. ET before a quick turnaround, taking on Northern Iowa at 8 p.m. ET.
The Wildcats were paced offensively by their outside hitters. Freshman Leah Edmond led the squad in kills (10) and hitting percentage of the team’s high-volume attackers (.300). Junior Darian Mack came a kill short of double-figures with nine and tacked on five digs.
Junior middle blocker Emily Franklin led the defense at the net with four rejections including a solo stuff while notching three kills. Middle blocker Kaz Brown (five kills), setter Olivia Dailey (27 assists, four digs) and opposite Brooke Morgan (three kills) each added a pair of blocks.
Junior libero Ashley Dusek had just her third game in the past two seasons with single-digit digs, leading Kentucky with nine. Sophomore McKenzie Watson and senior outside hitter Anni Thomasson each scored on aces and contributed seven and three digs, respectively.
Sophomore outside hitter Anna Nyberg contributed a pair of kills and two digs, while senior opposite Sharay Barnes made her season debut, scoring on a slide in the third set. Sophomore defensive specialist Harper Hempel appeared in two sets and was credited for an assist.
Southern Cal opened the match on a 5-0 run and never looked back. Edmond and Brown were the lone Cats to notch multiple kills in the first set, with Brown scoring both of hers in the midst of a 4-1 Kentucky run to make the score 14-8 in USC’s favor. Kentucky forced three consecutive errors from the Women of Troy, prompting a USC timeout as the team led by five, 18-13. The sides traded points but UK could not close the gap in the closest set of the three, as Southern Cal won, 25-19.
Mack led UK in the second set with a trio of kills and digs, as the sides alternated scoring in the early going to an 8-8 tie. USC then rattled off seven unanswered points in which Kentucky used both its timeouts. Kentucky scored two in a row to close the gap to five, 15-10, before USC took 10 of the final 15 points including a 5-0 spurt. UK fended off two match points, prolonging USC’s attack before dropping the set, 25-15.
Edmond exploded in the third, scoring a set-best five kills in the final frame. Once again the early going was tight, with Kentucky and Southern Cal tying at 7-7. Kentucky hung around, closing a three-point gap to one before a 4-0 run gave USC a 15-11 lead. Kentucky pulled within one once again at 16-15 before a string of Wildcat errors helped the Women of Troy take a five point lead, 20-15. USC closed out the match on a 4-0 run for the 25-17 win in the deciding set.
BY THE NUMBERS
12 – For the first time in 2016, 12 Wildcats saw action in the match.
6 – UK posted six blocks, the most in a three-set match this season.
4 – Kentucky freshman Leah Edmond has now led the Wildcats in kills in each of the season’s four matches.
3 – For just the third time in the past two seasons junior libero Ashley Dusek was limited to single-figure digs.
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