No. 24 Wildcats Open SEC Play with Road Test at South Carolina

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 24th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats open their Southeastern Conference slate on Friday evening with a trip to Columbia, S.C. to face the Gamecocks at 7 p.m. in the Carolina Volleyball Center. The match between UK and South Carolina is set for broadcast nationally on the SEC Network, with the match also viewable online on WatchESPN.

UK enters conference play on a three match winning streak, first sweeping Northern Illinois before earning 3-1 wins on the road at Xavier and at home against rival Louisville. 

The Wildcats have been red hot as of late, playing outstanding defense and limiting opponents to just .188 hitting in the past three matches. The sophomore duo of Kaz Brown and Ashley Dusek have paced the defense as of late, with Brown being named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week for Sept. 21, while Dusek’s 4.91 digs per set lead the conference.

#24 Kentucky at South Carolina
Fri., Sept. 25 - 7 p.m.
Carolina Volleyball Center
Columbia, S.C.
Game Notes: UK Get Acrobat Reader | SC Get Acrobat Reader
Coverage

TV: SEC Network
Radio: UKAthletics.com
Live Video via Watch ESPN
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South Carolina enters the weekend winning three of its past four matches after dropping a 3-1 decision to Coastal Carolina on Tuesday. Dessaa Legros leads the way for the Gamecocks, averaging 3.79 kills per set while digging 1.62 balls per set. Sarah Blomgren adds 2.83 kills each set, while Darian Dozier has a team-high 36 blocks.

For all of your need-to-know information for UK’s SEC opener, read below:


Last Time Out: Xavier and Louisville

The 24th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats enter SEC play following a pair of 3-1 wins to cap the non-conference slate. UK first took the win over Xavier (22-25, 25-17, 25-17, 25-20) on Friday evening before taking down rival Louisville (25-27, 25-18, 25-20, 25-23) on Sunday afternoon. 

Brown paced the Cats on a weekend where she registered 23 kills and 21 blocks over the two matches. Classmate Darian Mack led the team in kills with 29, while Sharay Barnes and Anni Thomasson each had 13-kill matches. Senior setter Morgan Bergren also played well, contributing 81 assists and 11 blocks over the weekend while adding 16 digs and 10 kills.

Brown Named SEC Co-Defensive Player of the Week

Brown was named SEC co-defensive player of the week on Sept. 21. In a breakout season, Brown continued to impress over the week, where she averaged 2.88 kills per set on a .283 hitting clip and had a staggering 2.62 blocks per set. The sophomore had two phenomenal outings, first posting 13 kills and tying her then-career best eight blocks at Xavier before an unbelievable defensive outing against Louisville in which she had 10 kills and 13 blocks. Brown leads the team in total points (168.5), blocks (62) and hitting percentage (.344) this season while placing second on the team in kills (133) and kills per set (3.02).

In the Louisville match, Brown became the first UK middle to record a double-double in a match since Queen Nzenwa in 2007 with the 10-kill, 13-block performance. Her 13 rejections also marked a new UK record for blocks in the 25-point rally scoring era and a new career high, while her 11 block assists against the Cards set a new Kentucky best for individual block assists in a four-set match during the rally-scoring era.

Following the stellar week of play, Brown finds herself among the national leaders in blocks per game. The Waterloo, Iowa, native is averaging 1.41 blocks per set, ranking No. 18 in the nation. Brown also ranks in the top 20 in total blocks, coming in at No. 19 with 62 during the 2015 campaign. Both Brown’s blocks and blocks per set rank second in the SEC, both behind Flordia’s Rhamat Alhassan (2.24 B/S, 81 Total).

Thomasson Shines in Return against Louisville

Junior Anni Thomasson returned to full action for the first time since Sept. 1 against the Louisville Cardinals and looked to be back in form. The junior outside had her 19th career double-double, registering 13 kills and 13 digs in the match. With the double-double, Thomasson moves into sole possession of fourth on the career double-doubles list for the 25-point rally scoring era, needing just three more to tie for third with Christine Hartmann (2009-12). 

Thomasson Positioned to Reach Top Five

Thomasson is on the verge of breaking the top five in career digs during the 25-point rally scoring era as a junior. The outside hitter has logged 633 so far, just one shy of Christine Hartmann’s 634. The record during the rally scoring era is 1,924 by Stephanie Klefot.

Dusek’s Digs Lead Conference

Dusek leads the SEC with a staggering 4.91 digs per set -  0.25 digs ahead of LSU’s Haley Smith. Dusek’s 4.91 digs per set also ranks No. 44 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.

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