No. 23 Wildcats Bounce Back, Sweep No. 22 Creighton
Photos courtesy of Jacob Franklin
LOS ANGELES – After a disappointing outing the night before, the No. 23 Kentucky volleyball team made an incredible turnaround Saturday afternoon, dominating No. 22 Creighton in a 3-0 (25-20, 25-22, 25-13) sweep at the Galen Center.
It seemed the Wildcats could do no wrong in their first match Saturday, handling the Bluejays of Creighton from start to finish. The team played by far its cleanest volleyball of the young 2016 season, committing only five errors the entire match, including a flawless third set. Kentucky hit at a blistering .415 clip for the match.
“I thought our preparation today was much better and made the difference,” 12th-season head coach Craig Skinner remarked. “Today we had a great mentality which was much improved from last night, and it allowed us to sweep a top 25 team. It’s always our expectation to compete hard each match, and we did that today. We’ll look to keep it going against Northern Iowa later this afternoon.”
Kentucky now sits at 3-2 on the season while Creighton moves to 2-2. Kentucky rounds out the USC Radisson Classic at 8 p.m. ET, taking on Northern Iowa in its final match of the tournament.
Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey masterfully guided the offense with six Wildcats contributing in the kill column. Dailey averaged 12 assists a set in the match, adding four digs, a block and two kills of her own.
For the fifth straight match, freshman Leah Edmond led UK in kills, finding double figures with 11 and tacking on an ace, an assist and a block. Sophomore opposite Brooke Morgan was on fire during the match, scoring a season-best nine kills on 14 attempts with no errors, good for a team-best .643 clip. She added a rare assist and two blocks of her own. Junior outside hitter Darian Mack also had an explosive performance, posting nine kills and six digs while notching a pair of blocks and aces.
Junior middle blocker Kaz Brown had her best performance of the 2016 season, scoring on seven kills and adding four rejections at the net. Classmate Emily Franklin added six kills on .429 hitting and two blocks.
Junior libero Ashley Dusek shined again, notching 18 digs in the three setter. Sophomore defensive specialist McKenzie Watson played a critical role with a trio of aces and eight digs. Senior Anni Thomsasson contributed on the back row with four digs, while junior defensive specialist Harper Hempel added a pair of digs.
Kentucky came into the match with a chip on its shoulder. Over the first 15 points Kentucky took a 10-5 lead hitting at a .455 clip in the early going before Creighton called for a timeout. The Bluejays cut the deficit to one three times, the final one coming at 18-17. From there Franklin and Morgan each posted a pair of kills to power UK to a 25-20 victory.
Difficult serving and production on the pins guided Kentucky to its 25-22 second set victory. Mack and Edmond contributed nine of Kentucky’s 15 kills in the frame, while Watson and Mack gave UK a combined three points on service aces. A 3-1 run capped with a kill by Edmond gave Kentucky a 23-20 edge, prompting a Creighton timeout. The Cats then gave up two points and called for a break. A pair of kills from Morgan and Mack closed out the second.
In Kentucky’s most dominant set of the match the Wildcats hit .480 while forcing the Bluejays into a negative percentage. The Cats were perfect regarding offensive execution, never committing an error in the set’s 38 points between the two sides. Brown had a breakout set, going five-of-six hitting and adding three of her match-best four blocks. After a 4-4 tie, UK opened a 6-1 run and never looked back. Creighton took its second timeout at 14-7, when the Wildcats claimed 11 of the final 19 points, with four of Brown’s five kills coming in the second half of the frame for a firm 25-13 victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
.415 – Kentucky hit at a whopping .415 clip, the best offensive production for the club since Nov. 3, 2014 when UK hit .449 against Morehead State.
6 – Libero Ashley Dusek averaged six assists a set with 18 total, including eight in the first set.
5 – Kentucky committed only five hitting errors, its best performance since Oct. 4, 2013 against Ole Miss.
4 – Four players set season bests in the match – Kaz Brown (blocks: 4), Brooke Morgan (kills: 9, hitting percentage: .643), McKenzie Watson (aces, 3) and Darian Mack (aces, 2).
Single-match and season tickets for the 2015 campaign are on sale now. Season tickets begin at $35, and single-match ticket information can be found here. More information on how to buy tickets can be found here or by calling the UK Ticket Office at 800-928-CATS.