No. 25 Kentucky Looks to Remain Unbeaten in SEC Play at Mississippi State
STARKVILLE, Miss – For the second time in two weeks, the No. 25 Kentucky volleyball team will take on Mississippi State, this time at the Newell-Grissom Building in Starkville, Mississippi. The contest will end UK’s three-match road swing, and is set to begin at 8:00 p.m. ET on SEC Network+ and the WatchESPN app.
After a sweep of No. 5 Florida and a 3-1 win over South Carolina, the Wildcats saw multiple players earn honors nationally and from the Southeastern Conference. Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey was named FloVolleyball National Player of the Week as well as SEC Setter of the Week. Dailey posted a combined 90 assists, including 53 in the victory over the Gamecocks. Dailey facilitated the offense while helping UK hit at a .252 attacking clip during the week, .95 points higher than its opponents.
Freshman Leah Edmond was also honored by the SEC. For the first time in her career, Edmond was named SEC Player of the Week. The Lexington, Kentucky native was also named Freshman of the Week for the third time this season. Edmond led the squad in kills during both victories, including 19, one off her career-best, in the victory over the Gators.
UK currently holds an eight-match winning streak. During that span, the Wildcats are hitting an impressive .278 clip while holding their opponents to just .104. Edmond leads the team with 104 kills over the winning streak, while junior Kaz Brown follows with 77 of her own and a team-best .376 attacking clip. On the defensive side, Kentucky is averaging 14.19 digs per set, with junior Ashley Dusek pacing the team at 4.54 digs per frame. Edmond (2.73), senior Anni Thomasson (2.08), Dailey (1.73) and sophomore McKenzie Watson (1.62) all average more than one dig per set.
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Scouting the Opponent
Mississippi State (11-7, 3-1): Mississippi State is off to its best start in school history after starting 3-1 with wins over Tennessee, Auburn and Alabama. The Bulldogs’ only loss was to Kentucky, when they lost 3-1 to the Wildcats. Evie Grace Singleton leads the Bulldogs’ offense with 3.85 kills per frame and she also contributes a team-best 0.45 service aces per set. Peyton Harris anchors the Mississippi State defense with 3.53 digs per set.
Dailey Earns Honors in Two-Straight Weeks
Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey was named SEC Setter of the Week and FloVolleyball National Player of the Week for her performance against No. 5 Florida and South Carolina. Previously, Dailey was named SEC Player of the Week. During the last two weeks, Dailey has 177 assists and is averaging 12.70 assists per frame, helping UK hit at a .252 attacking clip.
Edmond Named SEC Player of the Week
Freshman Leah Edmond was named SEC Player of the Week after leading the team in kills in wins over No. 5 Florida and South Carolina. Edmond had 19 kills, one off her career-high, in the upset victory over the Gators. The Lexington, Kentucky native was also named Freshman of the Week for the third-time this season.
Back in the Polls
For the third week this year, Kentucky finds itself in the AVCA Coaches’ poll. The Wildcats received 64 points, good enough for No. 25. UK was previously ranked No. 23 on Aug. 29 and this week marks the 92nd time head coach Craig Skinner has been ranked in the poll. The first RPI poll also came out on Oct. 3 and the Wildcats found themselves in the No. 18 spot.
After going down 21-16 in the third set to South Carolina, Kentucky fought back to win the crucial set, 32-30. UK tied the frame at 24-24 with a kill by Emily Franklin, the game went back-and-forth until the set was tied at 30-30. Kills by Anni Thomasson and Brooke Morgan, both assisted by Olivia Dailey, allowed the Wildcats to win the set. UK won the match 3-1 (25-22, 17-25, 32-30, 25-19).
Defense Stifles No. 5 Florida
Kentucky went into Gainesville and swept the No. 5 Florida Gators, 25-17, 25-18, 25-23. The defense shut down the Gators. UK had 11 team blocks, with junior Kaz Brown leading the charge with seven. Sophomore Brooke Morgan followed closely behind with six of her own.
Back-to-Back Wins in Gainesville
For the first time since the 1987 and 1989 seasons, UK has taken down Florida in back-to-back matches on its home court. Kentucky beat Florida 3-1 last season. The sweep of the Gators marked the first time Florida has been swept by UK since 1990.
Junior libero Ashley Dusek has produced double-digit dig numbers in every contest this season for the Wildcats except one. Dusek has picked up 20 or more in three separate matches (Mississippi State, Marquette and Wyoming). The East Bernard, Texas native’s season-high is 27 against Mississippi State and she averages 4.52 digs per set.
Freshman outside hitter Leah Edmond has contributed double-digit kill totals in every contest except one this season. Edmond has produced 14 double-digit performances, including every SEC match this season. The Lexington, Kentucky, native has hit 15+ four times, including 19 in the win over No. 5 Florida.