SEATTLE, Wash. – The No. 24 Kentucky volleyball team begins the postseason in Seattle on Friday, as UK is slated to take on Colorado State on Friday at 8 p.m. ET in the Alaska Airlines Arena on the campus of the University of Washington. The winner of Friday’s match will advance to the second round, where the victor will face either the host Washington Huskies or Texas A&M Corpus-Christi on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET
The NCAA appearance is the 12th straight for the Wildcats and 18th overall. Head coach Craig Skinner has made the NCAA Tournament every year he has been the head coach at Kentucky.
Kentucky and Colorado State have only played once before, in which the Rams took down UK in five sets in 1987. CSU has qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the 22nd straight season with an at-large bid from the Mountain West Conference. The Rams dropped just three matches in league play. CSU is led by Sanja Cizmic at 3.07 kills per set and is closely followed by Jasmine Hanna at 2.96 terminations per frame. On defense, digs are split between the setter Katie Oleksask at 2.04 digs per set and Olivia Nicholson at 1.93 scoops per frame.
Washington earned the automatic bid from the PAC-12 after winning the regular-season championship. UK has an all-time record against the Huskies of 1-1, with the last meeting, a 3-1 win, coming in 1988. The Huskies earned the No. 8 seed in the tournament, and are ranked No. 7 in the AVCA Coaches Poll. UW is led by Courtney Schwan on offense, who averages 3.76 kills per set. Two other players – Tia Scambray and Crissy Jones – average above three terminations per frame.
Kentucky has never faced Texas A&M Corpus-Christi. The Islanders are 24-7 overall and a perfect 16-0 in league play, and qualified with the automatic bid from the Southland Conference after winning the Southland Conference Tournament with a 3-1 win over Sam Houston State. Brittany Gilpin paces the squad with 3.54 kills per set. On defense, Kate Klepetka is 18th in the nation in digs per set at 5.18.
Kentucky reached the NCAA Tournament for the 18th time in program history. UK has advanced to the field of 64 in all 12 seasons with Craig Skinner as head coach. UK joins Colorado State, Florida, Hawai’i, Nebraska, Penn State, Southern California, Stanford, Texas and Washington as the only other programs to advance to the tournament in each of the past 12 seasons.
Four Kentucky volleyball players earned All-Southeastern Conference honors when the awards were given out by the league.
Junior Ashley Dusek won SEC Libero of the Year for the second straight season and was also a member of the All-SEC squad. While teams have game-planned around Dusek, she still averages 4.80 digs per set, good for second in the league. Her numbers are even higher during league play with 5.02 scoops per frame.
Freshman Leah Edmond was named SEC Freshman of the Year, All-SEC and to the All-Freshman Team. Edmond won SEC Freshman of the Week honors an incredible eight times over the course of the season, as well as SEC Player of the Week, twice. The freshman has recorded eight double-doubles so far this season, and sits in second in the league in kills per set at 4.23, just trailing the SEC Player of the Year, Krystal Rivers.
Junior Kaz Brown added her second All-SEC honor, and also marks the third straight year she has picked up an end of season award. Brown is the team leader in blocks per set at 1.43, putting her at third in the SEC.
Sophomore Olivia Dailey is a catalyst for a team that leads the SEC and is ninth in the nation in kills per set at 14.47. The Trussville, Alabama, native is third in the country in assists per frame at 11.82, just trailing Allie Monserez of Florida.
Dailey Third in Country in Assists
Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey sits at No. 3 in the nation in assists per set. She averages 11.82 helpers per frame and is second in the SEC. Dailey put up 60 assists in the 3-1 win Texas A&M. She joined an elite club as one of four setters in UK’s 25-point rally era scoring history to total 60 assists in a single match.
Edmond Second in SEC in Kills Per Set
Edmond is the best freshman in the league when it comes to kills per set at 4.32, and trails just Krystal Rivers of Alabama. Edmond is 32nd in the country in kills per set and is the third-highest newcomer in the nation.
Four-Set Kill Record
The Wildcats set a program-record 69 kills in the win over Texas A&M. It’s the most in a four-set match in the 25-point rally scoring era. UK previously also broke the three-set total in a win over Ole Miss earlier this season.
Special Season for Edmond
Freshman Leah Edmond is enjoying a special freshman campaign. She already has the second-most kills in a single season with 419. She has also scored 455 points, the fourth-highest in a single season this year.
Senior Anni Thomasson set the 25-point rally scoring era service ace record of 99 when she recorded a service ace against Arkansas. Thomasson overtook three-time AVCA All-American Whitney Billings. Thomasson hit the 100 milestone against LSU when she recorded three-straight aces to start the match.
Head coach Craig Skinner has tallied 20 or more wins in nine of his last 10 seasons. Skinner has reached the NCAA Tournament in each of the last 11 seasons, a feat only 10 other schools in the nation has achieved. Skinner is 272-108 in his Kentucky career, and 165-62 in league play.
Season Best in Blocks
UK tied a season best in team blocks with 18.0 in the 3-1 win over Ole Miss. Junior Emily Franklin tied her career high with 10 blocks. Sophomore Olivia Dailey also tied her career best with six blocks, including one solo block. Junior Kaz Brown added six blocks with two block solos during the four-set win. Three other Wildcats – freshman Leah Edmond, sophomore Brooke Morgan and junior Darian Mack – all recorded three or more blocks.
Two Wildcats have joined the 1,000-dig club this season. Junior libero Ashley Dusek joined during the five-set thriller against Auburn. Dusek racked up 27 digs, tying her season best during the win, and sits at fourth in the 25-point rally era school history with 1,140 digs. Senior Anni Thomassson joined Dusek in the match against Missouri. Thomasson picked up 11 digs, vaulting her over the mark. The Newark, Ohio native sits at 1,044 career digs, just behind Dusek for sixth in the school 25-point rally era.
Kentucky is nationally ranked for the eighth-straight week. The Wildcats picked up 121 points and are ranked No. 24. This week marks the 100th week head coach Craig Skinner has led the Wildcats to a national ranking.
Brown Rewriting the Record Books
Junior Kaz Brown sits in the top 10 of the 25-point rally era career record book in seven different categories. On defense, Brown is second in block assists (376), fifth in block solos (13) and second in total blocks (419). On offense, Brown currently sits in eighth in total kills (710), 10th in attack attempts (1473), fourth in attack percentage (.339), and eighth in points (941.0).