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Quick turnaround just what Cats needed after loss at Georgia

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For the only time this season, the Kentucky volleyball team faced a two-day turnaround following a midweek match in Southeastern Conference play on Friday.

UK played a 6 p.m. ET match at Georgia on Wednesday, traveled home late that night and practiced the next day ahead of two more matches on Friday and Sunday.

The schedule, without question, was demanding. But given the circumstances, it was exactly what the Wildcats wanted.

The Cats lost that match against Georgia in heartbreaking fashion, dropping the final two sets in a five-match defeat. That meant they wanted no part of a long break before their next chance to take the floor.

"One of the best things that could have happened for us after not performing the way we wanted to on Wednesday is get back on the court quickly on Friday," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "I'm glad we were able to get back in the win column."

No. 15 UK (14-5, 6-2 SEC) bounced back with a 3-0 sweep of Mississippi State (11-10, 2-5 SEC), helping to erase the sting of the Georgia loss. Senior All-American Whitney Billings led the way once again, posting 15 kills to lead a UK attack that hit .367.

The difference between Wednesday and Friday was the Cats' mentality.

"I think our energy was a lot better," said freshman Anni Thomasson, who had 12 kills of her own. "We just had fun out there and we were making errors, but they were aggressive. At Georgia, they weren't so aggressive."

That aggressiveness was on display from the first serve, as UK rolled to a 25-13 win in the opening set. Mississippi State, however, would battle in the second set and even earn two set-point opportunities. UK was unfazed, as the Cats took the final four points and the set.

"The thing that we're continuing to learn is that every team in this league is capable of winning," Skinner said. "Mississippi State struggled last year but they have a much-improved team this year, swept last week (against South Carolina and Tennessee). And I thought we relaxed a little bit after we got the win in the first set and Mississippi State's an athletic team."

In the third set, UK grabbed a lead and wouldn't let go to clinch the sweep.

After the match, the Cats participated in a ceremony that put the victory in perspective. Friday was DanceBlue Night at Memorial Coliseum, as UK joined the fight against pediatric cancer. The Cats wore gold warm-ups and Skinner a gold tie that will be auctioned off on beginning on Monday, with all proceeds going to DanceBlue, which raises money for the Golden Matrix Fund of UK's Pediatric Oncology Unit.

"We're community strong, so it's really important to us to give back to the community," Thomasson said. "We are fortunate enough to get the opportunity to play at Kentucky, so it means a lot to give back to the Lexington community."

The women's soccer team held its Kick Cancer Match earlier this fall and Skinner has a friendly wager going with fellow head coach Jon Lipsitz. If volleyball raises more money, Lipsitz has to shave his head. If women's soccer wins, Skinner will wear a wig for UK's first match next season.

"That'll be one heck of a bet," Skinner said. "I hope it's a tie."

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