No. 25 UK Continues to Roll, Downs Tennessee 3-0
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 25th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team continued to roll with another sweep, this one at the hands of visiting Tennessee in a 25-16, 25-18, 25-16 victory. UK has now won 10-consecutive matches for the first time since an 11-match winning streak in 2014.
With the victory, Kentucky improves to 13-4 overall and 6-0 in Southeastern Conference action. Tennessee drops to 11-7 on the season and 1-4 in league play. The Wildcats return to the court with a pair of home matches next weekend. UK takes on Arkansas at 6 p.m. on Friday in Memorial Coliseum before welcoming Ole Miss on Sunday at 1:30.
"I really like our focus and it shows on game day,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “In practice we've been doing a good job of really trying to improve and work on specific things. I was a little worried today that coming out of the break after being up 2-0 that we might let down a little bit, but having the lead didn't seem to phase them. That type of competitive maturity is very important."
Kentucky simply dominated all phases of the match in the convincing victory over Tennessee on Sunday in front of 1,949 fans. UK overpowered the Lady Vols in every category including kills (45-36), hitting percentage (.333-.139), assists (42-34), aces (4-0) and blocks (12.5-1.0).
Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey was exceptional once again, distributing the ball to a number of Wildcat attackers to keep the Lady Vols’ defensive effort at bay. Seven UK players had two or more kills on the afternoon. Dailey dished out 40 assists as UK averaged 15 kills a set on a .333 average.
Junior Darian Mack was the most efficient of any Wildcat with nine kills on a career-high and match-high .571 average. It was her most productive match since posting 10 hammers on a .400 clip in a win over Lipscomb.
"Darian really changed the momentum and impacted the left side of the net with 5 blocks and 9 kills,” Skinner said. “I'm really proud of her effort today. Darian is one of the best blockers from the left side of the net that you're going to see in the country. She has great instincts and has a great knack for where the ball is going to cross the net. We obviously want to take advantage of that."
Freshman Lead Edmond topped double-figures for the 11th-consecutive match with a match-high 14 on a .407 average. Junior Emily Franklin had seven kills, while classmate Kaz Brown added six. Sophomore Brooke Morgan and senior Anni Thomasson both chipped in with a trio of kills, while senior Sharay Barnes added a pair of hammers.
Franklin led the defensive charge with six of UK’s 12.5 blocks. Mack was also sensational in this area as she turned back a career-high tying five of her own – including a pair of solo rejections. Brown added four, while Morgan chipped in with three.
Junior Ashley Dusek led the backline defense with a match-high 11 digs. Three other Wildcats contributed a high number of digs with Thomasson, Edmond and Dailey all posting six. Sophomore McKenzie Watson added three and an ace.
Thomasson, like much of the season, was UK’s stalwart from the service line with three aces on the day.
Morgan opened the scoring with a crafty kill over the block for the match’s first point. Tennessee would respond with three-straight points of its own, however. A 3-0 run by the Wildcats capped by an ace from Watson allowed UK to grab a 6-3 edge. The lead swelled to a six-point advantage at 12=3-7 following three-consecutive miscues by the Lady Vols forcing the visitors into a timeout. Out of the break, UK had Edmond, Franklin and Morgan in on a triple-block. After the Lady Vols pulled to within five, UK responded with three-consecutive points including a vicious kill from Edmond for a 21-13 edge. It was all the more breathing room the Cats would need en route to a 25-16 opening set victory. The Wildcats had 15 kills on .316 hitting, while limiting Tennessee to 12 kills on a .182 clip. Edmond led five players with multi-kills with four in the frame.
Thomasson’s ace got things started in the second stanza. From there the teams would endure a back-and-forth battle until stuff blocks from Mack and Franklin and a solo rejection from Mack lifted UK to an 8-6 lead. The lead grew to 15-11 midway through the frame after UK frustrated the Lady Vols into an attacking error. Franklin converted off a slide to make the lead 18-12 in favor of the home team. Kentucky would cruise to a 2-0 lead into the halftime stretch behind a 25-18 second-set win that was capped by a thundering kill from Brown. UK boasted 15 kills on a .387 clip. Tennessee logged 15 of its own, but on a mere .175 hitting percentage.
Franklin jumpstarted the Wildcats with a kill followed by a block with Morgan for an early 2-0 lead. Tennessee would quickly rebound with two points of its own, but it was Franklin once again who snapped the spurt with a kill behind the setter. Mack forced the Lady Vols into an early timeout after pushing UK’s lead to 9-5 following her seventh kill of the match. After allowing the Volts to get back to within three, Kentucky utilized a 4-1 burst for a 14-8 advantage. Mack teamed up with Brown for her fourth block of the set for a seven-point UK lead at 17-10. Sophomore Anna Nyberg put the finishing touches on the win for the Cats with a kill to the back row for a 25-16 final set victory.
BY THE NUMBERS
11 – Straight matches Lead Edmond has registered double-figure kills
10 – Consecutive wins for the Wildcats
4 – For the fourth time in five matches, setter Olivia Dailey posted 40 or more assists
2 – Career records junior Darian Mack broke (.571 attacking clip and five blocks)