No. 13 Kentucky Sweeps Past North Carolina in Opener

Aug. 24, 2012

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - For the seventh time in eight seasons and in front of a boisterous crowd of 1,621 fans the No. 13 Kentucky volleyball team began the season with a win earning a 3-0 sweep of North Carolina (25-23, 25-22, 25-14) on Friday evening. It marked the first sweep in a season opener since the 2007 squad captured the same result against Wright State.

"Very happy with that win, obviously with the first match of the season you don't know what to expect," Kentucky coach Craig Skinnersaid. "Our concentration at the end of game's one and two I think were the difference in that match and us being able to perform when the match is close is a good sign early."

Kentucky improves to 1-0 on the season and North Carolina, a team receiving votes in the coaches' poll, drops to 0-1 in the early going. UK will face Lipscomb at 11 a.m. ET on Saturday morning in the second session of the Kentucky Classic before drawing Long Beach State at approximately 8 p.m. tomorrow evening. Long Beach State captured a 3-0 win over the Lady Bisons in the first match of the Classic earlier tonight.

"Great crowd, great energy and very knowledgeable and that is a sign of our program continuing to get better," Skinner said. "You see a lot of people you have never seen before in the stands, it's a huge advantage for us and I hope they come back tomorrow."

Sophomore Lauren O'Conner led a balanced offensive attack that combined for 45 kills on .262 hitting as senior setter Christine Hartmann dished out 37 assists. O'Conner paced all attackers with 12 kills as five players for the Wildcats notched five or more kills on the night. Senior Ashley Frazier narrowly missed on a double-digit effort with nine kills followed by eight from the hand of junior middle blocker Alexandra Morgan which matched a career high. Junior Whitney Billings posted seven followed by five from freshman Sara Schwarzwalder.

Morgan led the defensive charge with a team-leading six blocks to accompany a .467 hitting clip. O'Conner set a new personal standard with five blocks on the evening, while Hartmann contributed four.

Senior libero Stephanie Klefot guided the back row effort with a match-high 13 digs. Billings pitched in with eight, and sophomore Jackie Napper added six. Freshman Shelby Workmanwas impressive in her first collegiate match with five digs while adding a kill from the back row.

The opening two sets were close as the Tar Heels gave the 13th-ranked Wildcats everything they had.

O'Conner got the Wildcats off to a great start with six kills on a blistering .545 hitting clip in the opening stanza. The teams exchanged points until the Wildcats broke free for a three-point rally to make the score 15-13 highlighted by back-to-back blocks from O'Conner. UNC clawed back and tied the score again at 21 before the Wildcats finished the set on a 4-2 run and claimed a 25-23 opening frame win. Kentucky's defense forced the Tar Heels into a set-clinching attacking error.

The second set featured a similar back-and-forth battle with the teams swapping points all the way until the score reached 19-19. Kentucky notched four straight points with Billings igniting for a pair of kills and Klefot contributing an ace to make the score 23-19. North Carolina struck back for thee of the next four points before a block from Morgan and O'Conner capped the set in favor of the home squad for a 25-22 second set win and a 2-0 lead into the break.

Morgan led the way in the second stanza with five kills on a .625 hitting clip without committing an error. She also turned back two attacks in the frame. UK struck for 19 kills on .324 hitting to break free from Carolina.

Following the break Kentucky dominated the final frame with a 25-14 match-clinching set. O'Conner led the offensive effort with four kills on .500 hitting while the defense combined for 4.5 blocks to force the Tar Heels into a -.067 hitting percentage and a mere eight kills in the set.

UK opened to a 6-1 advantage and never looked back. The Wildcats stretched their lead to a match-high 11 points at 20-9 following consecutive miscues from the visitors. Hartmann torched the defense with an ace and the Wildcat defense flustered Carolina into two attack errors over the final four points for the win.

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