One of them had to make it to their respective program’s first NCAA national semifinals.
It was Kentucky in a 25-23, 25-20, 25-16 sweep over No. 7 Purdue as the second-ranked Wildcats got stronger as the match went on.
“They were more than we could handle tonight,” Purdue coach Dave Shondell admitted. “It’s just that simple. They were outstanding.”
Kentucky, the SEC champion, improved to 22-1 and plays sixth-seeded Washington in the first match Thursday. Top-seeded Wisconsin plays No. 4 Texas in the nightcap.
“This is an amazing accomplishment for our program,” UK coach Craig Skinner said.
The Wildcats were led by Alli Stumler, who had 16 kills and hit .300 to go with an assist, 10 digs, and a block. Avery Skinner had 12 kills, hit .370, and had an assist, an ace, six digs, and two blocks. Her sister, Madi Skinner, had nine kills, a dig, and three blocks. Azhani Tealer had six kills, a dig, and two blocks, and Elise Goetzinger had four kills, an assist, and four blocks.
Madison Lilley had three kills with an error in six attempts, 38 assists, two aces, and 10 digs. Her team hit .256. Gabby Curry had 16 digs, seven assists, and two aces.
Tired? Evidently not, because Kentucky, which beat UNLV in its first match, advanced Sunday night with a sweep of Western Kentucky that started — started — at 11:45 p.m. Eastern and then kept on going Monday.
“I am not a late-night person,” Stumler said, adding that she usually goes to bed at 9:30. Perhaps, but in the two matches, against WKU and Purdue, she had 30 kills with only nine errors in 69 swings.
“Our team was unrelenting. We got down in a hole in the first and I don’t think you could tell what the score was on their face. They just continued to battle,” Skinner said. “The serving we put on tonight was really good to keep them off balance. And then our defense. Our defense continues to get better.”
Purdue, which got to the regional final with wins over UCF and 10th-seeded Oregon, saw its season end 16-7. The Boilermakers hit .130. Caitlyn Newton led with 10 kills, but hit .091, and had an ace and nine digs. Grace Cleveland had six kills, a dig, and two blocks.
Hayley Bush had two kills, 23 assists, and five digs. Jena Otec had nine kills, an assist, and two aces, and Marissa Hornung had 11 digs.