Kentucky Defense Too Much for No. 5 Florida in 3-0 Sweep
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Since Craig Skinner’s arrival in 2005, the Kentucky volleyball team has continually captured “firsts” for the program. Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2016 will now serve as another date to remember. The Kentucky Wildcats traveled to Florida and downed the fifth-ranked Gators (25-17, 25-18, 25-23) in dominating fashion for the first sweep over Florida for UK since 1990.
Combined with Kentucky’s 3-1 win in Gainesville, Florida a season ago, Kentucky has knocked off Florida in back-to-back trips for the first time since the 1987 and 1989 seasons. It’s the second time under Skinner that UK has won in consecutive meetings. Kentucky won in 2008 at home before taking a road contest in 2009. Furthermore, it’s also the second-straight year the Cats knocked off the Gators as a top-five ranked team.
“Our players were focused and determined to follow the game plan,” Skinner said. “Offensively, we were very good on the left and as the match went on we got a lot of production out of the middle as well. We had a very balanced night.”
Balance offensively and another tremendous defensive effort propelled the Cats to the win. Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey directed UK’s offense to the tune of 49 kills on .290 hitting. Kentucky’s most explosive set came in the second frame as Kentucky posted 20 kills on a .471 clip. Dailey dished out 37 assists and added seven digs and a pair of blocks.
“Olivia did a great job of getting people involved at the right time and I’m really pleased by the concentration and determination by our kids to win in a really tough environment on the road,” Skinner said. “We’ve really bought in to our defensive philosophy. (Assistant coaches) Lindsey (Walton-Grey) and Anders (Nelson) did a great job with our serving and defensive plans and our team continues to execute.”
Kentucky’s defense swallowed up the Gators to the tune of an average of 10 kills per set and a mere .128 attacking clip. Kentucky had 11 team blocks – seven of which came from junior Kaz Brown. Junior libero Ashley Dusek picked up a match-high 11 digs to lead UK who accumulated 41 for the night.
Offensively, freshman Leah Edmond accounted for a match-high 19 kills – just one shy of her career best. Brown and junior Darian Mack each posted nine, while Emily Franklin contributed seven. Sophomore Brooke Morgan added five kills and added six blocks.
Sophomore McKenzie Watson contributed six digs, while senior Anni Thomasson added four digs in the winning cause.
The Wildcats improve to 10-4 on the season and 3-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Florida falls to 12-2 on the year and 2-1 in league competition. Kentucky will remain on the road with a matchup at South Carolina on Sunday. The Cats and Gamecocks will meet at 1 p.m. ET with the match available on the WatchESPN app.
Kentucky opened the scoring on a crafty kill from Edmond. She had three kills in UK’s first four points as the Wildcats jumped out to an early 4-1 lead. Kentucky’s front-line frustrated the Gators in the early going and the home team managed just two kills over the first 10 points scored. A run by Florida allowed the home team to come to within two at 12-10, but a service error and an Edmond conversion on a free ball enabled UK to recapture a four-point edge at 14-10. It was all the more breathing room the Cats would need en route to a dominating 25-17 set win. The Wildcats logged 12 kills on .114 hitting, but it was their defense that forced the Gators into a .100 hitting clip and a mere eight kills. UK registered five blocks, four from Morgan, and 16 digs.
Edmond's seventh kill of the night opens the second set in the same manner the match began. After UK gained a 2-0 lead, the Gators would tie things quickly at four apiece. Florida earned its first multi-point advantage of the match at 8-6. Despite an impressive rally from both sides, Florida earned a 13-9 advantage and the Cats opted for a timeout. Three-straight kills from Edmond enabled the Cats to pull to within one at 13-12 forcing Florida into a timeout. Back-to-back blocks allowed the visitors to keep the rally going and take a 14-13 edge. Franklin came up with consecutive kills to stretch UK’s lead to 19-15. The Wildcats were powered by a 14-2 run midway through the stanza and they ran with it to a 25-18 win. Florida was again frustrated offensively by the Cats’ defensive effort as UF managed just 11 kills. Kentucky posted 20 on a blazing .471 attacking clip.
For the first time in the match, the Gators won the opening point, benefiting from a UK service error. A kill from Edmond and a block allowed the Cats to tie things at two, before Florida logged consecutive points to recapture the two-point edge. Florida maintained its edge for much of the set, but a 5-1 spurt allowed UK to tie things at 14 all. Following the media timeout, Florida once again took a two-point advantage. A block from Morgan-Franklin and a kill from Franklin allowed UK to tie the score at 16 apiece and then Florida was charged with an illegal attack and the Cats grabbed a lead for the first time in the set. Kentucky forced Florida into a timeout after Morgan laced one to the middle, followed by a miscue by the Gators enabled UK to earn a 19-17 edge. Edmond came out of the break swinging and posted consecutive kills for a 21-17, Kentucky lead. A couple of miscues allowed the Gators to once again get within two at 21-19. Morgan tooled the block following a UK timeout for a 22-19 edge. A challenge overturn allowed Florida to get within one at 22-21, but Brown converted off the slide. UK’s junior middle blocker then posted the match’s final point with a kill for the 25-23 win. The Wildcats notched 17 kills on .289 hitting, while once again pestering the Gators defensively. Florida logged just 11 kills for a match-low .083 hitting clip.
BY THE NUMBERS
19 – Number of kills from Lead Edmond, just one shy of matching a career high.
10 – UK yielded an average of just 10 kills a set and limited the Gators to just a mere .128 attacking clip. It’s the seventh-straight opponent to be held under .162 for a match.
7 – It’s UK’s seventh-consecutive victory.
7 – Number of blocks for junior Kaz Brown. Kentucky had 11 as a team.
1 – The first time UK has beaten Florida in back-to-back matches in Gainesville since the 1987 and 1989 seasons.