No. 24 Cats Top No. 20 Purdue in Marathon Thriller


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – In what can only be described as a marathon outing, the No. 24 Kentucky volleyball team notched its first ranked win of the season, downing No. 20 Purdue, 3-2 (25-20, 25-18, 24-26, 21-25, 20-18), in front of a raucous crowd in Holloway Gymnasium on Saturday evening.

Fans got more volleyball than they paid for, with the fifth set going deep into extra play. Sophomore opposite Brooke Morgan had a pair of critical kills to give the Cats two chances to close the match out at both 16-15 and 17-16. Three plays later, junior outside hitter Darian Mack charted one of her career-best 20 kills to even the match at 18-all. Junior defensive specialist Harper Hempel was called upon to serve, delivering two consecutive balls that proved too tough for the Boilermakers to handle, leading to back-to-back attacking errors to close the fifth, 20-18.

“I’m really proud of our team’s toughness throughout the match,” 12th-season head coach Craig Skinner remarked. “It easily could have gone either way and our team showed a tremendous amount of guts in the fifth. We had our ups and downs against a very good team. I’m really proud of how our outsides performed – they scored a bunch of points and allowed us to win that match.

“Holloway Gymnasium is one of the toughest venues in the country,” Skinner said. “I think tonight helped us prepare for more tough road trips down the road this season.”
                            
With the end result, both the Wildcats and Boilermakers move to 2-1 on the young 2016 season. Kentucky will continue the non-conference portion of its schedule Sept. 2 at the USC Radisson Classic, where the Wildcats are set for another top-25 bout, this time against No. 7 Southern California at 11 p.m. ET.

As Skinner mentioned, the outsides were impressive throughout. Mack and freshman Leah Edmond both put up 20 kills apiece, hitting .267 and .271 respectively. With both players racking up 20 kills, the duo became the first to accomplish the feat since Nov. 7, 2008, when Sarah Mendoza (24) and Lauren Rapp (23) did so against Ole Miss. Mack also recorded her first double-double of the season after charting 10 digs along with an ace and two blocks

Junior middle blocker Emily Franklin also added an impressive stat line, coming one kill short of matching her career best with 12. The Mesa, Arizona, product was extremely efficient, hitting .457 while tacking on a team-high five blocks.

Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey was named to the All-Tournament team following a 59-assist performance while adding nine digs, a block, a kill and a pair of aces in the five-set thriller. The Trussville, Alabama, native averaged 10.91 assists per set while scoring seven times on kills and acing the opponent on five occasions.

Morgan and junior middle Kaz Brown each contributed on the offensive end as well. Morgan posted a season-best eight kills and added four rejections at the net. Brown posted seven kills and three stuffs during the five sets.

Junior libero Ashley Dusek led Kentucky in digs with 15 while adding a pair of aces. Senior Anni Thomasson charted five digs on the back row and a match-best three aces, while sophomore defensive specialist McKenzie Watson made an additional five digs. 


SET RECAPS


Set 1
Kentucky entered the first set with confidence and led wire-to-wire after opening the match with a 4-1 spurt powered by kills from Edmond and Morgan. Both sides traded blows to a 7-6 score in Kentucky’s favor before aces from Dusek and Dailey fueled a Kentucky 5-1 run forcing Purdue to take a timeout. The break didn’t interrupt the Wildcats rhythm, as Dailey struck back out of the break with another ace, one of the team’s five in the opening frame.  The ace sparked a 5-3 run before three straight points from Purdue led to a Kentucky timeout with a 17-13, Wildcats edge. A kill and a block from Brown powered another 4-1 Kentucky run. Purdue tried to retaliate, but a swift kill down the middle from Franklin closed out the set, 25-20.

Set 2
There was little to separate the Wildcats and Boilermakers in the early going, as the two sides tied seven times, the final stalemate coming at 12-12 before Kentucky gained traction. Kills from Mack, Brown and Morgan led Kentucky to take seven of the next eight points for an 18-13 lead. Purdue burned both timeouts during the span, with the second allowing for a shift in momentum. Purdue gained ground, winning four of the next six points. Kentucky called a timeout before rattling off four of the last five points, with an ace from Dusek giving UK the set, 25-18. 
 
Set 3
The third set went back-and-forth throughout with 15 ties and seven lead changes. Kentucky gained a 21-19 lead before Purdue strung together three points to take the lead. The Wildcats scored three of the next four points, with a kill from Mack setting up set point. A resilient Purdue squad responded, scoring three in a row to close out the third, 26-24.

Set 4
Both sides battled back and forth to a 10-10 score before Purdue took the lead that eventually held. Kentucky came within one point of the Boilermakers three times before a 5-0 Purdue run separated the two sides. At 22-17, Kentucky made a late 5-1 run, with Edmond and Franklin contributing a combined three kills, but a block from the Boilermakers forced the decisive fifth after a 25-21 fourth.

Set 5
See paragraph two.
 

BY THE NUMBERS

2008 – Junior Darian Mack and freshman Leah Edmond each posted 20 kills – the first Wildcat duo to post 20 or more kills in a single match since 2008.
.478 – Junior middle blocker Emily Franklin led Kentucky’s hitting efforts, going 12-for-21 with two errors for a .478 clip on the night. Her 12 kills were one shy of a career high. 
6 – With 20 kills and 10 digs, Mack registered her sixth career double-double. 
3 – Kentucky had three players with multiple aces: Anni Thomasson (three), Olivia Dailey (two) and Ashely Dusek (two). UK had eight aces during the match, including five in the first set.


Single-match and season tickets for the 2015 campaign are on sale now. Season tickets begin at $35, and single-match ticket information can be found here. More information on how to buy tickets can be found here or by calling the UK Ticket Office at 800-928-CATS.
 
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