Kentucky Exits NCAA Tournament in Upset Against American

COLUMBUS, Ohio – In its 11th-consecutive postseason appearance, the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats exited the NCAA, falling 3-0 (26-24, 25-17, 25-21) to American University in St. John Arena on Friday evening during the first round of play. American advances to the second round, where they face the winner of Ohio State and Robert Morris.

“American was very good tonight,” 11th-season head coach Craig Skinner said. “We have to give them a lot of credit for serving as well as they did and putting a lot of pressure on us with their offense. Their setter is as good as anyone in the country and did a good job isolating their attackers and getting them in position to score. Hats off to them.”

“It’s tough to end the season. This program continues to owe a lot of our success to the seniors for the energy and commitment they’ve put into it. Our people returning need to commit to making it to the next level.”

The Wildcats close out the season with a 21-10 record, while finishing third in the Southeastern conference at 14-4. For the eighth time in nine seasons, Kentucky has reached the 20-win mark. 

Kentucky’s left sides led the attack, with junior Anni Thomasson and sophomore Darian Mack both recording double-figure kills. Thomasson paced the squad with 12, adding seven digs and a block, while Mack had 11 in addition to three digs and a block. 

 SEC all-freshman selection Brooke Morgan was next, recording eight kills in the match. 

A trio of Wildcats in senior setter Morgan Bergren and sophomore middles Kaz Brown and Emily Franklin each had two blocks. Bergren tacked on a team-best 34 assists, five kills, five digs and an ace. Brown added six kills, an assist and a dig. Franklin rounded out the group with four kills and an assist. Senior Sara Schwarzwalder added a kill in the third.

SEC Libero of the Year Ashley Dusek commanded the defense with a team-best 13 digs to go with four assists and two service aces. Freshmen Olivia Dailey and McKenzie Watson had 10 and six digs, respectively. 

Set 1

American scored the initial point, before Brown had a pair of kills and added a block with Bergren to take a 4-1 lead. American made a 3-0 run before a block from Mack and Franklin made it 6-4 in the Wildcats’ favor. A kill from Franklin knotted the match at 7-7 and a cross-body kill from Morgan made gave Kentucky a 9-8 lead. Dailey forced an error from American to give UK a two-point lead before American responded with a point of their own. Bergren scored on a dump and Thomasson notched a kill on a back row attack to make it 13-10, forcing American’s first timeout. Thomasson and Mack made consecutive kills for 16-12, before three in a row from American led to UK’s first timeout at 16-15. American scored two more before another clutch kill from Franklin stalled the run and tied the match at 17-17. American jumped to a 20-22 lead, when a block from Bergren pulled it within one. A kill from American on the following play made it 21-23, forcing Kentucky to use its second timeout. Mack powered through a kill and an American error tied the match at 23-23. American tacked on another before a soft touch from Mack tied it at 24-24. American closed out the match with two straight, taking the first, 24-26.

Set 2

American opened the second set on a 5-1 spurt, with Bergren claiming the lone Kentucky point, before the Wildcats used their first timeout. Kentucky regained the serve on an American two-touch, making it 2-6. A block from Bergren and Franklin made it 3-8, before a kill from Franklin two plays later set the score at 4-9. At 5-11 with Franklin back to serve, UK strung together a 3-0 run, capped by a tip from Morgan when American called for a timeout. An ace from Bergren followed by a kill from Morgan pulled UK within two at 14-16, before two from American led to a Kentucky timeout at 14-18. Kills from Morgan broke up American’s runs, but the Eagles closed out the second on a 7-3 spurt for a 25-17 win. 

Set 3

American took the first two points before a kill from Brown an ace from Dusek made it two-all. A kill from Mack and an ace from Franklin gave UK a 4-3 advantage before American took two in a row. Thomasson notched her ninth and tenth kills to knot things up at 6-6. American took the next four points, prompting Kentucky’s first timeout at 6-10. Mack and Thomasson notched kills out of the break making it 8-10. American scored once before Brown slammed down her fourth kill for 9-11. Kills from Mack and Bergren and an ace from Dusek tied the match at 12-12. American made a 6-2 run before a pair of kills from Morgan and a block by Brown and Thomasson pulled it within two at 17-19. American called for time. Both sides swapped point-for-point until American grew the lead to 20-23 when Kentucky called its final timeout. Mack notched a kill, but an ace from American completed the match, 25-21.

By the Numbers

3,814 – With 34 assists tonight, Morgan Bergren ends her career as the all-time leader in assists during the 25-point rally scoring era and fourth in Kentucky’s all time leaders with 3,814 total assists.
21 – Kentucky finishes the season with 21 wins. It marks the eighth time in nine seasons that Kentucky has earned 20 or more wins. 
12 – Darian Mack led UK’s attack with 12 kills. 
11 – Kentucky has now made the post season for the 11th-consecutive season.
2– SEC Libero of the Year Ashley Dusek concludes the season with only two matches with less than double-figure digs.

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