Sophomore Duo Paces Wildcats to Win over No. 19 Michigan State
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 15 University of Kentucky volleyball team put away the No. 19 Michigan State Spartans in five sets, 3-2 (29-27, 15-25, 25-22, 23-25, 15-12), on Friday evening in Memorial Coliseum in front of a rambunctious crowd of 1,936 fans.
After a four-set stalemate, the Wildcats jumped out to an early lead in the decisive set. Following an initial service error, the trio of sophomore Kaz Brown, junior Anni Thomasson and senior Morgan Bergren all registered kills to lead Kentucky to four-straight points. The Cats led by as many as five, before a resurgent Michigan State team pulled within two points at, 12-10. Brown closed out the match with a massive kill to take the final set, 15-12.
“We have a group of motivated kids,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner. “They just need direction and to know the next play to get it done. I thought we had some great leadership with Anni, Kaz and Morgan out there to stabilize us through it.”
The Wildcats’ defense shined throughout, as the team notched 13.5 blocks and 78 digs over the course of the evening. Sophomore libero Ashley Dusek made history, registering 34 digs, the most ever in a five-set match in UK history in the 25-point rally scoring era. Dusek becomes just the second Wildcat to log 30 or more digs in a match, joining former player BriAnne Sauer.
Brown posted a career night, logging 20 kills at a .441 clip for the evening, leading the way for the Wildcats. Brown also had a team-best 25.0 points on the night. Brown is the first middle blocker to log 20 or more kills in a match since Queen Nzenwa and Nicole Britenriker each turned the trick in 2007.
Other key performances for the Wildcats included double-doubles from Thomasson (14 kills, 12 digs) and sophomore Darian Mack (10 kills, 12 digs). Senior Morgan Bergren dished out 52 assists and added eight digs. Sophomore Emily Franklin logged seven kills, six digs and five total blocks. Freshman Brooke Morgan notched nine kills and added four rejections from the right side. Freshman McKenzie Watson had five digs, while classmate Olivia Dailey contributed a strong serving night.
For the Spartans, Allyssah Fitterer led the way with 17.5 points on a team-best 15 kills hitting .462. Alyssa Garvelink was the team’s leading blocker with seven blocks on the evening.
The first set was tight throughout, totaling 14 ties and four lead changes over the duration. Brown paced the Cats with six kills, leading to a 29-27 win.
Brown stepped up in the third set as well, logging five kills and four blocks in the 25-22 Kentucky advantage.
Michigan State took the second and fourth sets, 25-15 and 25-23, respectively. Dusek logged a match-high 10 digs in the fourth set.
The Wildcats will compete in two matches tomorrow, beginning with IUPUI (1-0) at 10:30 a.m. before playing Little Rock (0-1) at 7:30 p.m. Both matches are available for viewing on SEC + and WatchESPN, with Kentucky vs. IUPUI available here, and Kentucky vs. Little Rock available here.
By the Numbers
34 – Ashley Dusek posts 34 digs in her first collegiate start at the libero position. She is just the second player in program history to post 30 or more digs in a match, joining BriAnne Sauer. It’s also the most digs to the start of a career in the rally-scoring era.
20 – Kaz Brown with a career-high kill total. It’s also the most kills for a middle blocker since 2007 in UK history.
13 – UK has won 13 of its last 14 home openers, including 10 of 11 under Craig Skinner.
3 – Three freshmen made their collegiate debuts on night one – Olivia Dailey, McKenzie Watson, Brooke Morgan.
2 – Two players made their first career starts in tonight’s win – sophomore Darian Mack and Watson.
1 – First win over Michigan State when the Spartans are ranked.
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.