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Volleyball rides emotional fourth-set finish to victory over Alabama

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UK defeated Alabama in four sets on Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. (Britney McItnosh, UK Athletics) UK defeated Alabama in four sets on Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. (Britney McItnosh, UK Athletics)
Kentucky could have wilted, and it seemed for a moment the Wildcats might.

After UK charged to a 2-0 lead, Alabama responded with a 25-18 third-set victory. The Crimson Tide sustained the momentum in the fourth, grabbing a 16-14 advantage in the and appearing poised to even the match.

The Cats responded.

"I thought we went soft in set three and Alabama played well," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "To completely reverse that and play as tough as we did at the end says something about the character of this group."

UK went on a 4-0 run and took 11 of the match's final 15 points to seal the victory. During the decisive spurt, the Cats were especially exuberant after a number of highlight-reel kills and blocks. Even the normally stoic Skinner got involved with a couple emphatic fist pumps.

"Well, Alabama's a good team and they're tough and they keep coming at you," Skinner said. "They got us on our heels set three and at the beginning of set four, so we needed to dig down and produce. When you're able to do that and able to execute and get kills when you needed it, it is an emotional sport."

Alexandra Morgan had just one kill and one block during the run, but the senior's fingerprints were all over the rest of the match. She led the way with 14 kills and added six blocks, hitting .619 and committing only a single error in the process.

"I saw a little extra in her today," Skinner said. "With her aggressiveness in attacking and aggressiveness blocking, that's the Zan we need to see day in day out. But she's such a presence, such a factor over there every team has to pay attention to her. When she produces like that, it makes us all better."

Kentucky (15-5, 7-2 Southeastern Conference) will need Morgan to be at her best once again next weekend. The Cats face a tough road trip and will take on Arkansas and SEC-leading Missouri on Friday and Sunday.

"Arkansas is having a good year and Missouri's at the top of the league," Skinner said. "So going on the road in this conference is never easy and we'll need a good week of practice so we can execute down at those two places next weekend."

UK is now halfway through its conference slate and sits in third place, but the Missouri match will offer a chance to make up ground. Skinner isn't thinking that way.

"It's so early," Skinner said. "There's still nine matches left and so many things can happen. Coach speak: The most important match of the year is the next one. So that's really all we're focused on."


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