History repeated itself in the NCAA women’s volleyball championships for the BYU Cougars on Friday.
The Cougars had a 5-1 lead in the fifth set against No. 4 seeded Kentucky, but the SEC champion Wildcats scored 14 of the next 18 points in the race to 15 and took a 3-2 win at Memorial Coliseum in the regional semifinals.
The scores were 20-25, 25-17, 22-25, 25-18 and 15-9.
“I am very proud of the match our team played,” BYU coach Heather Olmstead said. “All year we’ve challenged them to work hard to see how good we could be, and we saw that we are a really good team. Congratulations to Kentucky on a great match.”
BYU led No. 4 seed Texas 5-0 and 10-5 in the fifth set and had a match point in Austin, Texas, before losing in the regional semifinals last year.
The Cougars cruised to a win in the first set and led 2-1 after coming from behind to take the third set 25-22, but Kentucky began to show its dominance at the net in the fourth set to force the tiebreaker.
Sophomore Leah Edmond led UK with 21 kills, and freshman Avery Skinner added 20.
Kentucky, which has won 10 straight matches, snapped BYU’s nine-match winning streak. The Cougars, who were making their sixth straight Sweet 16 appearance, finished their season at 30-3.
BYU’s 25-17 loss in the second set marked its first loss in a set since Nov. 4 against Saint Mary’s.
Roni Jones-Perry led BYU with 24 kills and eight digs, and Lacy Haddock added a season-high 12 kills. Lyndie Haddock led the team with a season-high 52 assists and added 10 digs.
Kentucky (29-3) moves on to its third Elite Eight in program history but first since 1987.
Jones-Perry, a junior from West Jordan, had a pair of kills early in the fifth set to push the Cougars out to 5-1 and 6-3 leads. But the Wildcats went on a 5-0 run, fueled by Skinner and Edmonds and a tip-over by Emily Franklin, to seize the momentum and the lead. They cruised from there to the win.
The Cougars will lose just three seniors — Cosy Burnett, Alohi Robins-Hardy and Maddie Graham — off one of their best teams in school history. They went to the NCAA championship match in 2014 but have lost in the regional semifinals each of the last three years. Nebraska bounced them from the 2015 tournament, also at a regional semifinal in Lexington.