Purdue (16-7) got off to as good of a start as they could have hoped for but that positive momentum didn’t last long as Kentucky got into their rhythm. The Wildcats got the sweep 25-23, 25-20, 25-16. Boilers had leads late in sets one and two but couldn’t hold on to them.
Purdue was ready to go off the first serve while Kentucky was still waking up, six Wildcat errors helped propel the Boilers to a 10-6 lead in the opening set. Purdue stayed in front til Wildcat libero Gabby Curry went to the service line. Curry ran off six points on her serve as she targeted her counterpart Jena Otec. Otec couldn’t make clean passes which put Purdue out of system even sending over free balls which Kentucky made them pay for.
Now down, Purdue made one last push, a 4-0 run taking advantage of two more Kentucky errors put Purdue in front 22-21. Kentucky eliminated the errors closing the set on a 4-1 run with three kills and a block as Purdue could not terminate points.
Purdue trailed for the first half of set two and briefly led after a 4-1 spurt put them in front 14-13. Kentucky took the lead back with back-to-back kills from Alli Stumler who was nearly unstoppable for the Wildcats.
Down 18-16, Purdue made one last run at the lead starting with a big out of system kill from Caitlyn Newton. A Wildcat hitting error helped the cause then Otec served up an ace to give Purdue the lead. It was short-lived however as Kentucky won seven of the final eight points to close the set out. Over the final run, Kentucky got two aces, three kills, and a block.
Set three went south in a hurry. Avery Skinner struck with three quick kills then setter Madison Lilley bookended a Purdue hitting error with a pair of aces which forced a Purdue timeout. Lilley picked up a kill making it 7-0 before Grace Cleveland got Purdue on the board with a kill.
Kentucky grew their lead to as many as 11 before Purdue was able to string more than two points together. Down 18-9, Purdue got back-to-back kills and a block. The run ended after a successful challenge by Kentucky on a tight pass that nearly crossed the plane. Originally Kentucky was called for the error, illegal back row block on the setter. Caitlyn Newton made a swipe at it and came down on the net, giving the point to Kentucky after the review. Purdue made another 3-0 run later but it was too little too late.
Purdue was playing on the defensive all night long. Subpar ball control forced the Boilers to hit out of system which Kentucky just gobbled up then converted in transition. When Purdue had opportunities in system they couldn’t capitalize. Hats off to Kentucky making everything difficult for the Boilers.
Newton nearly had a double-double finishing with 10 kills and nine digs. Hayley Bush put up 23 assists. Taylor Trammell posted four blocks. Moe Hornung led the defense with 11 digs. Otec led with two aces.
Kentucky hit over 100 points below their average but well above Purdue .256-.130 as they overpowered the Boilers. Purdue had the blocking edge by one, 7-6.
Alli Stumler led UK with 16 kills, .300 hitting, and 10 digs. Elise Goetzinger was the leading Wildcat blocker with four. Setter, Madison Lilley also posted a double-double with 38 assists and 10 digs. Gabby Curry finished with 16 digs.
Kentucky will face 6-seed Washington in the Final Four. 1-seed Wisconsin will take on 4-seed Texas.