No. 21 Kentucky Cruises in Third to Down Vols in Weekend Finale
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Following a controlling third set, the 21st-ranked Kentucky Wildcats volleyball team earned its second sweep of the weekend, 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-13), over the Tennessee Volunteers in Thompson-Boling Arena.
The Blue and White put together another solid performance on both ends of the ball. After taking the first two sets by a combined eight points, the Wildcats broke out in the third with a 12-point win in which the team hit .298 while holding Tennessee to a .071 clip while recording five blocks in the frame. UK closed out the third on a 16-2 run.
“I thought that Anni [Thomasson], Emily [Franklin] and Morgan [Bergren] were all rocks for us this afternoon,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner. “It wasn’t particularly smooth in the first couple of sets, but our block really got involved in the third set and Kaz [Brown] scored a lot of points to give us the separation we needed. Like we always say, it’s always good to get wins on the road.”
The victory makes it a three-match winning streak for the Wildcats, moving to 18-7 on the season and 11-2 in Southeastern conference action. Tennessee moves to 20-9 and 6-8 in the league. Kentucky will enjoy a six-day break before facing Missouri in the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, Nov. 15 at 1:30 p.m.
Six players registered kills in the match, with Brown and Thomasson both scoring in double figures. Brown led the team with 12 while adding six blocks in the outing. Thomasson had 11 kills, six digs and an astounding five aces in three sets. Freshman Brooke Morgan had nine kills while adding two blocks and three digs. Franklin had six kills on a match-high .857 hitting and added four blocks and an ace. Classmate Darian Mack had five kills, six digs and a block in the outing.
Bergren had a match-high 40 assists while adding five blocks and two kills. Sophomore Ashley Dusek led the team with 15 digs and also provided three assists. Freshmen McKenzie Watson and Olivia Dailey both contributed on the back line, digging six and three balls, respectively.
There was little to split the two sides in the early going of the first, as both sides traded points to a 4-4 tie. The Wildcats put together a 4-0 run on a block and kills from Morgan and Thomasson, prompting the Volunteers to call for time. A block from Franklin and Morgan followed by a kill from Thomasson made Kentucky the first to 10 points at 10-6. An ace from Thomasson made it 13-7 before Tennessee made a 3-0 run, with Kentucky looking to end it with a timeout. Brown hammered down a kill before Franklin and Bergren teamed up for a giant rejection. Morgan registered her third kill for a 17-11 lead, forcing Tennessee’s final timeout. The Volunteers refused to back down, pulling within four at 19-15. Mack was clutch towards the end of the set, accounting for the final three points of the frame, blocking a ball with Franklin and scoring on two kills to clinch the first, 25-20.
The Wildcats came out firing in the second, taking five of the first six points. The Vols responded with four-straight to tie the match at 5-5. The sides continued to trade blows, each looking for control while tying on eight occasions in the first half of the set. A kill from Franklin gave UK the one-point advantage at 15-14 headed into the media timeout. The Volunteers took two points out of the break before Franklin hammered one down and the Vols erred to tie the set at 16-16. The Wildcats created separation on a 3-0 run capped by a no-look dump from Bergren to take a 21-18 lead and prompt a Volunteers timeout. Tennessee responded, taking back-to-back points as Kentucky called timeout with a 21-20 lead. The match was tied at 21-21 before a net violation on the host and Mack’s fifth kill of the match made it 23-21. Tennessee took its final timeout, but a kill from Brown and a UT violation sealed the second at 25-22.
The sides battled back in forth in the third, with both sides unable to control the lead to 9-9. Kentucky then sprung to action, opening up a monstrous 9-2 run including five Wildcat blocks. Tennessee called for time trailing 18-12, managing to score once more before a kill from Thomasson and an attacking error for the Vols made the score 20-13 in Kentucky’s favor. The Vols used their final timeout, but the break wouldn’t help as the Wildcats took the final five points, with Brown scoring the last three kills for a dominant, 25-13 win.
By the Numbers
.857 – Sophomore Emily Franklin hit a match-high .857 on Sunday
.144 – The Wildcats held Tennessee to .144 hitting, including .071 in the final set
40 – Senior Morgan Bergren had 40 assists on Kentucky’s 45 team kills
15 – Sophomore Ashley Dusek recorded a match-high 15 digs
10 – Kentucky recorded 10 blocks in the three-set match.
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.