Dominating Third Set Propels Wildcats Past LSU
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Behind a dominating third set performance that was highlighted by seven blocks from sophomore Kaz Brown, the 20th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team earned a 3-1 (25-18, 22-25, 25-12, 25-12) win over visiting LSU on Sunday. Brown finished the match with a team-high 16 kills on a blistering .682 hitting clip while adding nine blocks to pave the way for the Cats.
“More than anything today, I liked the fight we showed after the break,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner. “It’s an important piece of how we play, and it needs to continue. Obviously our block was non-existent in the first two sets, but really came on strong later. I have to give a lot of credit to Kaz for making an impact with her blocking. I was also very pleased with our serve reception for the most part, I thought they did a great job of giving us a lot of options offensively.”
With the win, Kentucky improves to 16-7 overall and 9-2 in Southeastern Conference action. LSU falls to 9-13 on the year and 5-6 against league foes. UK will hit the road for two-straight beginning on Thursday when the Wildcats travel to take on Georgia. First serve is set for 7 p.m. in Athens, Ga.
Brown helped ignite the Wildcats with the big performance after the break, but it was classmate Ashley Dusek who set the tone early for the home team with 12 of her match-high 21 digs coming in the opening stanza. Freshman McKenzie Watson added to the floor defensive effort for the Wildcats with 11 scoops on the afternoon.
Senior Morgan Bergren continued her steady play by distributing the ball at another impressive rate against the Tigers. Bergren accounted for 37 assists to push her past the 3,500 plateau for her career. She is just the fifth player in program history and the 20th active player in the NCAA to achieve that feat. Additionally, Bergren becomes the first Wildcat to do so all-time in the 25-point rally scoring era. Bergren found five different Wildcats for six or more kills on the afternoon and narrowly missed on a double-double with nine digs and five blocks adding to her stat line.
Brown led the way with the 16 kills, while sophomore Darian Mack was the second UK player to reach double-figures with 12 on the afternoon. She contributed nine digs as well. Junior Anni Thomasson posted eight kills, seven digs and a match-high three aces to aid the Wildcat cause. Freshman Brooke Morgan contributed seven kills, while sophomore Emily Franklin added six hammers on the night.
LSU jumped out to an early 2-0 lead before the Wildcats scored three-straight. A kill from Morgan enabled the home team to take a four-point lead at 8-4. Mack tooled the block for her fifth kill of the frame to make the score 15-12 in favor of the Cats at the media break. The Tigers continued to claw back and eventually pulled to within one at 16-15. Franklin would lace down a kill following a UK timeout to give the Wildcats a multi-point edge once again. Brown converted on a quick-set from Bergren after an extensive rally for a three-point lead at 19-16. Kentucky would close out the set on a 6-2 run with Mack clinching the frame for the Blue and White to go ahead 1-0 in the match behind a 25-18 win. Kentucky’s floor defense was simply spectacular with Dusek registered 12 scoops in the opening frame. Thomasson picked up seven and Watson added six.
Brown opened the scoring in the second stanza with a kill. The teams would go on to swap points until the Tigers were able to shake free for a two-point lead at 7-5. Morgan knotted the score once again with a smash off of an overpass. LSU quickly responded with a two-point spurt to reclaim the lead once again. The Wildcats strung together a 4-0 run capped by a Brown kill to tie the score at 15 all. From there the teams would exchange points back-and-forth until LSU scored two straight for a 20-18 lead late in the set. It was all the more breathing room the Tigers would need as the visitors tied the match at one set apiece behind a 25-22 second set win.
Franklin’s tough serving got the home team off to a great start to begin the third set as UK jumped out to a comfortable 6-0 advantage. Brown was in on consecutive blocks to help push the lead to eight at 9-1. Watson made a spectacular save to prolong a rally that Brown finished with a kill as the Wildcats continued to roll to a 16-1 advantage. Fittingly, it was a kill from Brown that lifted UK to a 25-12 third set win to go ahead 2-1 in the match. The sophomore registered seven blocks in the stanza and also added four kills to aid the Wildcat cause.
The teams opened the fourth frame with an extended rally that was capped by a kill from Brown. The sophomore then teamed with Bergren for a block to go ahead 2-0. LSU would not go away, however, and eventually clawed back to tie the score at eight apiece. Brown took advantage of an overpass for an 11-9 lead for the Blue and White. An ace from Watson increased UK’s edge to 15-10 midway through the frame. A 5-0 run highlighted by an ace from Thomasson gave the Wildcats a 20-12 advantage. From there, Kentucky would enjoy another 5-0 spurt to close out the match with a 25-12 victory for the 3-1 win.
By the Numbers
3,500 – Senior Morgan Bergren had 37 assists on the night to join the 3,500-assist club. She is just the fifth player in program history to achieve the feat, along with Leigh Marcum (2002-05), Jane Belanger (1990-93), Laura Linder (1987-90) and Sarah Rumley (2006-09).
16 – Kentucky owned a 16-point lead at one point in the third set, the largest of the match for either team.
12 – Digs by Ashley Dusek in the opening set. She finished the match with 21.
7 – Blocks by Kaz Brown in the third set. The sophomore ended the match with nine.
Premier Sports Management announced its 10 finalists for the annual Senior CLASS Award on Friday, Oct. 30, with standout setter Morgan Bergren being one of the remaining candidates for the honor. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner, and fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website through Dec. 7. Fans can vote once a day until the Dec. 7 cut off.
Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 11-12. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Omaha, Neb., from the Lexington Region. This marks the third time in five seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.