Kentucky wins first volleyball national title in 4 sets over Texas

Published 6:38 am Sunday, April 25, 2021

Kentucky’s Alli Stumler bumped into coach Craig Skinner at the team hotel a few hours before the NCAA volleyball championship match and had a question for him.

“You ready to win a natty?” she said she asked him.

Of course, Skinner was. So was Stumler. The All-American had a season-high 26 kills, the biggest coming on the final point of the match, as Kentucky won its first national championship in women’s volleyball with a four-set victory over Texas on Saturday night.

“The moment we woke up, we knew we were going to win this thing,” Stumler said. “The moment we stepped off the plane in Omaha, we said we were going to win this thing. There was never a doubt there was any team better than us.”

The Wildcats had the nation’s most efficient offense this season and, with the exception of a few hiccups early in the first set and the start of the fourth, they were in top form with Stumler and sisters Madi and Avery Skinner leading the way.

After Texas forced a second match point, Stumler hammered a kill the Longhorns had no chance of handling, that ended a 20-25, 25-18, 25-23, 25-22 victory.

The Wildcats (24-1) converged on the court and went to their knees in celebration. After exchanging hugs, several players made snow angels in the confetti that had dropped from the ceiling.

“I knew we were going to be good. Did I know we were going to be this good? I thought we had a chance,” Craig Skinner said. “We’re good on offense, we’re good on defense. The skill this team has is super underrated. I don’t know what our weaknesses are. It’s hard to spout that before today. If someone wants to tell me a weakness, I’d love to hear it.”

Kentucky setter Madison Lilley, the national player of the year, was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player after finishing with 53 set assists against the Longhorns.