No. 19 Cats Roll to 3-0 Win Over Wichita St.
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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Sophomore Anni Thomasson turned in her fourth career double-double effort in helping lead the 19th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team to a season-opening 3-0 sweep of Wichita State on Friday evening in front of 1,581 fans in Memorial Coliseum. Thomasson had team-highs in both kills (13) and digs (12) to lead the effort for the home team.
"I'm very happy with the way we played in our first match," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "Who knows what to expect. You know how you've been playing against your own team. Wichita State, even though they're a young team, they're always well coached and always very athletic. I thought we did a really nice job of keeping our errors to a minimum and scoring when we had our chances."
Kentucky opens the season 1-0 for the 12th time in the last 13 home openers including nine of 10 under the direction of Skinner. Wichita State falls to 0-1 to open the season. Butler defeated Virginia Tech 3-1 in the Bluegrass Battle's opening match. UK will take on both the Hokies and Bulldogs in matches on Saturday to complete the seasoning-opening tournament.
"Anni's just a great volleyball player," Skinner said on Thomasson. "She figures out ways to score. When she can't pound it straight down, she's going to find a seam or a hole in the defense. And she's always good defensively. We have a lot of really good defensive players and even though she's a front-row attacker, she does a great job and takes as much pride in her defense."
Junior Shelby Workman had eight kills, seven digs and a squad-high four blocks. Senior Lauren O'Conner contributed seven kills, while junior Sara Schwarzwalder had six kills and four blocks. The middle blocker did not commit a single error in 12 attempts.
Junior setter Morgan Bergren dished out 31 assists and added four kills while picking up five digs. She led the offensive attack to a sizzling .372 hitting clip in the opening match. Eight different players had a kill in tonight's match.
"I thought Morgan did a really nice job of finding the right people at the right time," Skinner said. "Everybody got involved in the offense. Wichita State had a hard time knowing who she was going to set, so that was good. I'm actually surprised we hit for that number the way we serve-received because our serve-receive was not near the level that we're capable of."
Thomasson was joined in double-figures in the digs column by senior libero Jackie Napper who posted 11 scoops. Workman and sophomore Kelsey Wolf both added seven.
Freshmen Kaz Brown, Ashley Dusek and Darian Mack all saw their first career action. Brown had three kills, four digs and a pair of blocks. Mack posted a kill on one attempt in the third set, while Dusek notched a pair of aces in the second stanza.
The match began with the teams trading points with O'Conner notching the season's first kill for the Blue and White. The Shockers held the early lead, but a cross-court kill from Workman tied things up at four apiece. Another cross-court shot from the left hand of Workman gave the home team its first lead of the match at 7-6.
Ignited by a smashing kill from Brown the Wildcats went on a 4-0 run to take an 11-7 edge. The Shockers responded by scoring the stanza's next two points, however a shifty kill from Thomasson quelled the run. The Wildcats owned a 15-9 lead at the first media timeout of the break following the third kill from O'Conner in the early going.
Out of the break, the Shockers scored the first three points to pull to within three at 15-12. Consecutive aces from Workman lifted the Wildcats to a 20-15 advantage, its largest of the set. The home team stretched that lead to seven following kills from Thomasson and Bergren and an O'Conner kill to the back corner lifted UK to a 25-18 opening set win.
The Wildcats utilized a .333 attacking clip with six different players registering at least one hammer. Thomasson led the way with five. Defensively, Wichita State was limited to a mere .128 attacking percentage and Thomasson had six digs. Workman, Napper and Wolf all had three apiece.
The second set opened in a similar fashion to the match's first frame with the team's swapping points. Workman's fourth kill of the match knotted things up at four. An ace from O'Conner gave UK its first lead of the set at 5-4. Schwarzwalder followed suit with a kill from the middle on a dazzling rally by both teams. Kentucky used a 6-1 run that included a pair of kills from Thomasson and a double-team block from Brown and Workman to grab a 10-5 lead forcing the Shockers into a timeout.
The lead stretched to seven at 13-6 following an extensive rally that featured marvelous digs from the home team's side which culminated in a tricky Thomasson kill to the right side of the floor. Wichita State clawed back and got to within three at 14-11. An O'Conner kill slicing a ball down the line using the outstretched Shockers' block gave UK a 16-12 advantage. It was all the more breathing room the Wildcats would need en route to a 25-14 second set victory.
UK hit .394 in the set with Thomasson leading the charge with five kills in the frame, while Schwarzwalder and Workman both chipped in with three. As a unit, Kentucky posted 14 kills with just one error. Napper led the defensive effort with five scoops in the stanza, and as a team the Blue and White notched 19 in the set. Dusek had a pair of aces to aid the Wildcat cause.
Kentucky opened the third set with a kill from Workman to take an early 1-0 lead. The Shockers would score the next two points before O'Conner answered with a kill. Thomasson notched her fourth career double-double with an early kill and dig, followed by a block from Workman and Schwarzwalder for a 5-3 lead. Workman then teamed up with Brown for another Big Blue Block for a 10-6 lead midway through the set. The Cats extended its advantage to 15-7 into the media timeout. UK breezed to a 25-16 third and final set win for its first victory of the 2014 season.
UK boasted a .393 hitting percentage in the final set with Bergren dishing out 10 assists to eight different players. Wichita State was limited to a .000 hitting clip, as UK had a match-high three blocks in the set. Schwarzwalder and Workman both had a pair of rejections.
Kentucky returns to action for two matches on Saturday to close out the Bluegrass Battle. UK will take on Butler at 10 a.m. ET and Virginia Tech at 8 p.m.
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