The crowd set the tone even before the first serve.
With hundreds of fans making the short walk from their tents at Big Blue Madness campout outside, Memorial Coliseum was rocking. A "Blue-White" cheer pinged across the floor as Craig Skinner gathered his team for some final words before Kentucky's Southeastern Conference home opener against Ole Miss on Friday.
"If that doesn't get you pumped to play, I don't know what does," Skinner said.
The Wildcats took it from there.
No. 19 UK (11-3, 3-0 SEC) swept past the visiting Rebels in dominant fashion, leading for every point of a 25-13, 25-16, 25-8 victory, save for three ties early in the first and second sets. The Cats turned in one of their best offensive performances of the season, hitting .439 as a team and committing a season-low-tying five errors.
"Pretty much everything (was working)," Skinner said.
This season, Skinner has installed an offense that calls for more back-row attacks. In doing so, the Cats have a fourth potential attacker on any given play. The offense hasn't always run smoothly a month-plus into the season, but the Cats - winners of 16 of their last 17 sets - are clearly finding a rhythm.
"We've implemented a couple different plays and (setter) Morgan's (Bergren) doing a better job getting her feet to the ball, so we utilized some of the back row tonight which wasn't always effective but it makes the other team think about it," Skinner said. "It's continuing to get better and I want to make sure we continue to have that as an option so we have at least four attackers on every rotation."
Even though Bergren has plenty of options, she still looks frequently to Whitney Billings. The senior seems intent on defending her SEC Player of the Week after tallying a match-high 12 kills while hitting a scorching .600 on Friday.
"The thing I'm most pleased about with Whitney is her concentration and effort in practice," Skinner said. "Every day she brings it and is ready to go, very focused on what we're trying to accomplish and that is translating into matches. She had another great match tonight."
Billings - a two-time all-conference selection - has been through the rigors of SEC play before. As UK wrapped up nonconference play, she knew the Cats would be in for a different kind of test in facing familiar SEC foes every Friday and Sunday. Three matches and three wins in, Skinner likes the way his team is responding.
"Different in each match," Skinner said, "but the mental concentration and toughness on the road at Auburn and Alabama and then for us to be able to get up 2-0 and the way we were playing for us to stay mentally aggressive and in tune with what was going on in the third set was a great job by our team."
Now UK will look to keep the momentum going against rival Tennessee on Sunday.