The University of Kentucky volleyball team ran into a buzzsaw at the University of Washington on Saturday night.
The Huskies, ranked No. 7 in the most recent coaches’ poll, ended UK’s season in straight sets in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in front of 2,572 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena in Seattle.
Washington (28-4) won its ninth match in a row, 25-21, 25-11, 25-20, to advance to the Sweet 16 for the fifth year in a row, where it will meet Pacific-12 Conference rival Arizona.
“Credit Washington for the way they played tonight,” Kentucky Coach Craig Skinner said. “I thought they played error-free and didn’t make a whole lot of mistakes and we needed to create our own opportunities to score points. They won the serving battle tonight and created a lot of opportunities to score points.”
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The 24th-ranked Wildcats end the season with a 23-8 record, and finished second in the Southeastern Conference at 15-3. For the ninth time in 10 seasons, UK reached the 20-win mark.
“It was a tough match, especially for our seniors that put so much into this program,” Skinner said.
Kentucky was paced on offense by Leah Edmond, a freshman from Paul Laurence Dunbar High School who registered 11 kills. Junior Kaz Brown followed with 10 kills.
Brown was good at the net as well, where she recorded one block solo and three block assists to lead the way. Edmond recorded two blocks, while junior Brooke Morgan and sophomore Olivia Dailey had one block.
SEC Libero of the Year Ashley Dusek led Kentucky with 12 digs.
Saturday’s first set was the most competitive. Washington scored the first two points and jumped to a 6-3 lead but things swung back and forth from there. Kentucky closed the gap to 23-21 before the Huskies closed out the set with two winners.
In the second set, Washington broke open a 6-3 game with a 6-0 run. That 12-3 advantage expanded to 21-5 and ultimately to a 25-10 set win.
The Huskies scored the first four points of the final set
UW started the final set on a 4-0 run and boosted its lead to 11-4. Kentucky tightened things to 17-14 but could never get closer.
“Kentucky is an outstanding young team, a team that’s going to be returning a lot of great players, and competing at the top of the SEC for a long time,” Washington Coach Keegan Cook said. “I thought we played well in all phases of the game, which you don’t always get every night. So we had some great results mostly because of how on top of their assignments (our players) were.”
The current run of five trips to the Sweet 16 or better is a new program best for Washington. The Huskies reached the Sweet 16 in 2012, the Final Four in 2013, the Sweet 16 in 2014, and the Elite Eight last year. Cook was an assistant coach for the 2013-14 years, and now head coach for the past two. He and the Huskies are excited for another chance to “make memories.”