No. 19 Kentucky to Battle No. 25 Texas A&M for SEC Top Spot

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 19 Kentucky Wildcats are slated for a crucial top-25 matchup on Wednesday night, where the team will play No. 25 Texas A&M in Reed Arena at 10 p.m.

The Wildcats have gone 3-3 in top-25 matches this season, looking to make a winning record in marquee matches Wednesday. UK notched a 3-2 win over No. 19 Michigan State, a 3-1 victory over No. 5 Florida and a 3-0 sweep against No. 22 Arkansas this season. 

Kentucky’s mid-week match will be the final regular season match of the year to air on the SEC Network. Maria Taylor and Tiffany Greene will provide play-by-play and color analysis for the television broadcast. Additionally, fans can tune in for radio coverage on with Mandy Robbe on the call. 

#19 Kentucky at #25 Texas A&M
Wed., Nov. 18 - 10 p.m.
Reed Arena
College Station, Texas
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader 

TV: SEC Network
Talent: Maria Taylor and Tiffany Greene
Live Video via Watch ESPN
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Live Updates @KentuckyVB on Twitter

Last time out, despite impressive individual performances, the 18th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team lost in a heartbreaking five-set defeat (25-27, 25-19, 23-25, 25-19, 16-14) to Missouri in a match that featured two of the Southeastern Conference’s top three teams in the lead standings. Senior Morgan Bergren and junior Anni Thomasson both notched double-double efforts and sophomores Kaz Brown and Ashley Dusek continued to be forces for the Wildcats in the loss.

Bergren dished out 43 assists and added 14 digs in the loss. Thomasson posted a match-high 16 kills and added 13 digs. She had a team-high four kills and five digs in the fifth frame. Dusek logged a match-high 26 digs, while Brown notched 12 kills on a .364 hitting clip and five rejections.

Texas A&M extended its season-high win streak to 10 matches with the win at Mississippi State on Sunday. A&M middle blocker Jazzmin Babers continues to lead the SEC in hitting percentage in conference matches only with a .452 hitting efficiency, and middle blocker Shelby Sullivan is third, hitting .423 in SEC play. Setter Stephanie Aiple, is third in the league with 11.53 assists per set and directs an A&M offense that leads the SEC in assists (13.54) and kills (14.50) per set and is second with a .287 hitting percentage in conference matches only.

For more on Wednesday night’s match, read here: 

Bergren Named CoSIDA Academic All-District

The College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District volleyball teams for the 2015 season were released on Thursday, Nov. 5, with senior setter Morgan Bergren being named one of 48 selections. Bergren is one of six selections from CoSIDA’s second district, joining the Naval Academy’s Rachel Fortner, Louisville’s Katie George, American’s Sarah Katz, Robert Morris’ April Krivoniak and Penn State’s Haleigh Washington. First-team Academic All-District honorees advance to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Team ballot, where first-, second- and third- team All-America honorees will be announced on Dec. 10.

Skinner Earns 11th Straight 17+ Win Season

With the win over Georgia on Nov. 5, head coach Craig Skinner achieved his 11th straight 17+ win season. The win made Skinner just the 14th active head coach to do so. Skinner joins elite company that has a proven track record of success in Jerritt Elliott (Texas), Mary Wise (Florida), Russ Rose (Penn State), John Cook (Nebraska), John Dunning (Stanford), Kelly Sheffield (Wisconsin), Chris Lamb (Wichita State), Barry Goldberg (American), Tom Hilbert (Colorado State), Dave Shoji (Hawaii), Carin Aubrey (Valparaiso), Brian Gimmillaro (Long Beach State) and Mike Jordan (New Mexico State). 

Cats Lead SEC Play in Blocks Per Set

Defense at the net has played a large role in UK’s success in conference play, as the Kentucky Wildcats rank first in blocks per set in SEC play. The team averages 2.93 blocks per frame in conference play, with sophomores Kaz Brown and Emily Franklin ranking among the top 11 blockers in league play. Brown leads SEC play with 1.75 blocks per set, while Franklin places 11th in the conference, with 1.02 blocks per set. 

Brown in National Top 10

Sophomore Kaz Brown is having a dominant season, finding herself in the top 10 nationally in both total blocks and blocks per set. Brown ranks fourth in blocks per set (1.59) and seventh in total blocks (151). Her total blocks lead the SEC, while she ranks second in blocks per set in the SEC. 

Dusek’s Digs, Brown’s Blocks Lead Conference

Sophomore libero Ashley Dusek now leads the Southeastern Conference in digs per set, both in all matches (5.01 digs/set) and conference-only statistics (5.10 digs/set). Dusek’s 476 total digs are a team best, with the East Bernard, Texas, native logging 260 in SEC action. Dusek’s 5.01 digs per set is also good for No. 32 in the nation.  Sophomore middle Kaz Brown leads the SEC in total blocks (89) and blocks per set (1.75) in league play.

Still Streaking

Following the Nov. 15 weekend, the Kentucky Wildcats are ranked yet again in the Nov. 16 AVCA poll, coming in at 19. With the ranking, UK extends its ranking streak to 45 consecutive weeks, dating back to Aug. 18, 2012. The 45-week streak is the longest ranked streak under head coach Craig Skinner and the longest in program history.

Defense Wins Championships

The Wildcats are living up to the old adage “defense wins championships.” The Wildcats have held every in-conference opponent except Georgia below its average hitting percentage this season. Over the season, UK has only allowed four opponents (Little Rock, Southern California, Wichita State and Georgia) to hit better than their average. 

Brown on Track for Record Season

With Kentucky looking towards the final stretch of the season, sophomore Kaz Brown has the ability to make the 2015 season one of the greatest individual blocking performances in Kentucky history. Brown averages 1.59 blocks per set, and with a minimum of 12 sets left to play, she is on track to end the season with 153 block assists, which would rank as the second most single-season block assists for UK all-time. Brown currently holds the single-season record for total blocks during the 25-point rally scoring era with 151 so far. 

Single Season Block Assists Leaders

1.   Queen Nzenwa - 174 (2007)
2.   Queen Nzenwa - 137 (2006)
3.   Kaz Brown - 134 (2015)

Dusek in Arms Reach of Record Season

Much like her classmate Kaz Brown, sophomore Ashley Dusek is also on track for one of the best single-season digging performances in UK history. The sophomore is averaging 5.00 digs per set, and with a minimum of 12 sets remaining is on pace to finish the season with at least 536 digs, which would rank fifth all-time. 

Single Season Digs Leaders

1.    Stephanie Klefot - 608 (2011)
9.    BriAnne Sauer- 497 (2008)
10. Stephanie Klefot - 481 (2012)
Ashley Dusek  - 476 (2015)

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.

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