Kentucky and Western Kentucky feature two of the top volleyball programs in the entire country and they put their talent on full display Thursday night.
Over in Bowling Green at Diddle Arena, UK and WKU met up for their annual exhibition match, which they’ve done for years now. It was a tightly contested outing, even if the final score didn’t matter. In the end, Kentucky won the second and fourth sets while WKU took the first and third to split the match. According to UK Athletics, 1700 fans were in attendance.
This will be the only exhibition game for Kentucky Volleyball as the team will head to Dayton, OH, next weekend for a tournament against Texas State, Dayton, and Cincinnati that will open the regular season.
“I’m glad we had the opportunity to play this exhibition against a great team like Western Kentucky,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “There is no question both teams learned a lot and will gain from this leading into our first weekend of competition.”
Here is how each set went, with information provided by UK Athletics:
Alli Stumler led a balanced offensive attack with four kills, the most of all UK players. Sophomore Reagan Rutherford had three kills as two of four UK players with multiple kills in the set. Riah Walker led the Wildcats in the opening frame with three digs. WKU took the set, 25-18.
Kentucky played much better defense in the second set to even the match with a 25-23 frame. UK led by no more than two points the entire set, and trailed by as many as three with the entire set played within that five-point window. A huge kill from Azhani Tealer evened the set at 22-22 after WKU led by a pair and a kill from Stumler on the left gave UK set point before an attacking error gave the Wildcats the second set.
WKU won the third set in extra points, 27-25. Kentucky had a set point, the first team to get to 24 at 24-23 on a Tealer block, but WKU rallied with two straight points. Kentucky only trailed for five points the entire set, and again – the frame was played in a tight window, with neither team garnering more than a three-point lead.
The fourth set also went to extra points, as a service ace from Cam Scheitzach ended the frame. UK hit over .300 in the frame with Rutherford ending the match logging 14 kills to lead all Wildcats in the match. Rutherford was one of two UK players in double-figures with Stumler closing out the match with 13 kills.
Kentucky and Coach Skinner have admittedly lost a great deal of talent from last season’s National Championship squad, the first in program history, but the ‘Cats still return three preseason All-SEC selections and is projected to finish first in the conference. When the AVCA Preseason Coaches’ Poll rankings came out not long ago, UK was tabbed as the No. 3 team in the country.