No. 24 Kentucky Set for Regional Matchup with Xavier

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 24th-ranked University of Kentucky Wildcat volleyball team makes its final preparations today before heading to Xavier University tomorrow for a regional showdown at 6 p.m. before hosting rival Louisville on Sunday afternoon.

UK (5-5) enters Friday facing a 4-5 Xavier team who ranks in the top 110 teams in the RichKern.com Pablo rankings. Xavier has faced tough opponents, with a key, 3-1 win in the opening weekend of action against Eastern Michigan. The team also extended play to four sets against the No. 20 Michigan Wolverines at the Bobcat Invitational this year. Abbey Bessler is the Musketeer to watch, leading Xavier with 3.09 kills per set.

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Last Time Out: Shocker Volleyball Classic

Kentucky enters the weekend after compiling a 1-2 record in the Shocker Volleyball Classic. On Friday, UK found itself on the wrong side of both matches in the doubleheader, first being swept by No. 7 Illinois (24-26, 19-25, 18-25) before dropping a five-set heartbreaker to host Wichita State (14-25, 26-24, 25-15, 23-25, 12-15). The Cats rallied in the final match, blanking Northern Illinois (25-19, 25-20, 25-19).
Sophomore tandem Darian Mack and Kaz Brown earned All-Tournament team honors, with both having stellar performances. Mack contributed a team-high 39 kills over the weekend while hitting at a .221 clip - the best she has registered over a tournament this season. Brown had 28 kills along with a team-best 18 blocks, with eight of them coming in the three-set match with Illinois. With 18 blocks, Brown registered more blocks than any one teammate or opponent during the tournament.  

Breakout Weekend for Barnes

Sophomore Sharay Barnes had a breakout performance during the Shocker Volleyball Classic, making starts against both Wichita State and Northern Illinois. In nine sets played, the outside hitter/middle blocker tallied 28 kills, while setting single match highs in kills, with 16 against Wichita State, and hitting percentage, going .600 against Northern Illinois.

Front Line Defense Shines vs. No. 7 Illinois 

Despite dropping the match in three sets, the Kentucky front line came to play against No. 7 Illinois, tying the record for block assists in a three set match during the 25-point rally scoring era with 26. Sophomore Kaz Brown led the team with a career-high-tying eight block assists, while freshman Brooke Morgan followed with a career-high six. Sophomore Emily Franklin tied her season best, registering five in the effort. Senior setter Morgan Bergren (3), sophomore Darian Mack (2) and freshman Anna Nyberg (2) all made multiple blocks as well.

Still Streaking

Following the Sept. 11 weekend, the Kentucky Wildcats found themselves still ranked in the Sept. 14 AVCA poll, coming in tied at 24th. With the ranking, UK extends its ranking streak to 36 consecutive weeks, dating back to Aug. 18, 2012. The 36-week streak is the longest ranked streak under head coach Craig Skinner.

Bergren Named Candidate for Senior CLASS Award

Premier Sports Management, Inc., announced the candidates for the 2015 Senior Class Award on Wed., Sept. 9, with Kentucky senior setter Morgan Bergren being tabbed as one of the 30 candidates for the annual honor. Bergren is one of six players on the list to have garnered All-America honors by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) in 2014 and is one of 25 candidates to hold a 3.0 GPA or higher. A national media committee narrows this field to 10 finalists per sport approximately eight weeks before the NCCA championship. Public fan voting on the Senior CLASS Award website takes place each year during the month leading up to the NCAA Championship.

Dusek’s Digs Lead Conference

Sophomore libero Ashley Dusek leads the Southeastern Conference with a staggering 4.92 digs per set -  0.30 digs ahead of Bridgette Villano of Tennessee. Dusek’s 4.92 digs per set also ranks No. 47 in the nation.

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. Parking is limited and fans are encouraged to arrive early.

For the latest on the Kentucky volleyball team, follow them on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, and on the web at UKathletics.com