The No. 4 Wildcats began what they hope is a trek toward a national championship with a three-set sweep of the Bucs, winning 25-19, 25-20, 25-21, in the NCAA tournament’s first round Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.
The Bucs, who won the Southern Conference tournament, finished their season at 19-12. They also played in the NCAA tournament in 2012.
The Wildcats improved to 27-3 and will take on Western Kentucky (31-3) in the second round Saturday at 7 p.m. Western Kentucky defeated Notre Dame earlier on Friday.
After dropping the first two sets, the Bucs went up 5-2 in the third set. It was 10-5 before the Wildcats went on an 8-2 run and took the lead at 13-12 on a kill by Kaz Brown.
ETSU fell behind but rallied to 20-19 on a kill from Leah Clayton. Kentucky then won three points in a row, all on kills by Avery Skinner.
The Bucs had one last gasp left in them when Braedyn Tutton made back-to-back kills, cutting the Kentucky lead to 24-21, but Skinner slammed another kill to clinch the sweep.
Clayton and Tutton led ETSU with eight kills apiece.
Skinner paced Kentucky with 14 kills, while Leah Sutton added 11. Madison Lilley, the Southeastern Conference’s freshman of the year, had 39 assists.
It was the 300th career victory for Craig Skinner, Kentucky’s winningest coach. He’s 300-112.