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Offensive powerhouse UK pushes to first Final Four

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Kentucky Athletics

Photo: Kentucky Athletics

OMAHA, Neb. – The Kentucky Volleyball team punched its ticket to the first NCAA Volleyball Final Four in program history late Monday night, sweeping seventh-seeded Purdue 3-0 (25-23, 25-20, 25-16) at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

Alli Stumler had a match-high 16 kills, along with 10 clutch digs, as she tallied another double-double to her name on the season. Stumler hit .300 for the match, killing 16 of her 40 swings while also logging a block and an assist in the match.

Also in double-figures scoring was senior Avery Skinner, who registered 12 kills on 27 swings and hit .370 for the night. She had six digs and two block assists as Kentucky held Purdue to just .130 hitting on the night.

A big part of Kentucky’s defensive effort was libero Gabby Curry, who was responsible for 16 digs, one of three players to record 10+ digs Monday night. The senior also had seven assists on the night, a new season high and two aces.

Southeastern Conference Player of the Year Madison Lilley collected 38 assists on 50 Kentucky terminations, as she joined Stumler in the double-double stable as the Overland Park, Kansas native tallied 10 digs on the night.

Kentucky’s final four opponent will be the sixth-seeded Washington Huskies out of the Pacific-12 Conference. The national semifinal match will air live Thursday at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN with Paul Sunderland, Samila Rockwell and Holly Rowe on the call from Omaha.

Set One

Purdue grasped an early grip on the match in the first set, racing out to an 11-6 lead and forcing Kentucky into its first timeout of the tournament. UK was uncharacteristically hitting -.150 in the match to that point through 17 points with only three kills and six errors. After stretching its lead to as much as 17-12, Kentucky reeled off three in a row capped off by a Gabby Curry ace, and Purdue expended its first timeout of the set. Kentucky would then win the next three points, with a thunderous kill from Azhani Tealer giving UK its first lead since 18-17 and Purdue called its final timeout. After UK stretched its lead to three at 21-18 following a 7-0 run, Purdue responded by winning three in a row to tie the set at 21 all and Kentucky called its final timeout. UK won three of the next four points to pick up two set points and Avery Skinner tooled the block on the left side to capture the opening set for Kentucky and take a 1-0 lead in the match.

Set Two

The beginning of the second set was as tight as the first set, with the entire first 29 points played within a three-point window. After UK extended its lead to a then-set-high two points at 12-10, Purdue closed the gap to 14-14 and Alli Stumler sent Kentucky into the media timeout up 15-14 on her 10th kill of the match, which led all scorers at that point. Madi Skinner’s seventh kill of the match from the right side pushed Kentucky’s lead to 18-16, and Purdue called its first timeout of the set trailing by a pair. Purdue took its first lead of the set after an ace to make it 19-18 Boilermakers and Avery Skinner sided out with a thunderous swing from the right side to square the frame back up. Purdue used its final timeout to stop the bleeding as Stumler killed her 11th ball of the night and Kentucky went back in front, 21-19. Kentucky went on a 4-0 run to close the set, and a Gabby Curry ace sealed the deal as she put Kentucky up 2-0 in the match thanks to a 25-20 second-set win.

Set Three

Kentucky won the first six points of the third set, before Purdue called its first timeout early, trailing by half a dozen. An extended rally on the seventh point ended with a kill from Madison Lilley and the Wildcats led by an early touchdown and extra point in the third frame. Kentucky would not let Purdue get any closer than seven in the closing stretch as UK won the set, 25-16.

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