No. 16 Kentucky Sweeps Creighton
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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The No. 16 Kentucky volleyball team capped its season-opening homestand with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-22, 25-21) win over Creighton in the final match of the Commonwealth Classic Saturday night in Memorial Coliseum.
Sophomore Anni Thomasson notched her fourth double-double of the season as the Wildcats (5-1) tallied their third sweep of the year to cap a three-match weekend. Junior Shelby Workman, who led the team in kills all three matches, and senior libero Jackie Napper were named to the All-Tournament Team. Kentucky placed second at the Commonwealth Classic with wins over Creighton and Northern Iowa and a loss to the event's champion, sixth-ranked USC.
"We were better tonight," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "We got 12 kills out of the middle and that was something we wanted to establish. Kaz Brown did a nice job of being available even though we didn't set her sometimes. That creates one-on-ones with the outsides. Anni Thomasson with no hitting errors, 11 kills, and hitting .333, that's partly due to the work of the middles."
The Wildcats return to action on Tuesday as the Blue and White travels east on I-64 to take on instate rival Louisville at the Yum! Center at 7 p.m. ET. UK will remain on the road next weekend as well, traveling to North Carolina for a three-match round-robin tournament featuring the 20th-ranked Tar Heels, VCU and Georgia Southern.
"That's always a tough matchup no matter what the year is," Skinner said of the UK-U of L rivalry. "I'm sure it will be a battle and our players won't need any extra motivation to play that one. Hopefully we can get down there, play well and come back with a victory like soccer did last night."
In Saturday's win, Thomasson had 11 kills on .333 hitting with 12 digs, while Workman led UK's offensive attack for the fourth-consecutive match with 12 kills to go along with five digs and two blocks. Defensively, junior Sara Schwarzwalder had a team-high six blocks along with eight kills, and Napper had 16 digs and one service ace.
"Shelby is such a versatile attacker," Skinner added. "We can set her front row, back row, in front of the setter, behind the setter. It creates a lot of matchup problems at the whip of an arm. She's scored a lot of points for us at the end of sets. We're going to be asking a lot of that from her and others. I'm proud of the way she competed all weekend."
Junior setter Morgan Bergren dished out 37 assists along with four blocks, four digs and a service ace. Senior Lauren O'Conner added five kills, three in the third set, two digs and a block assist to go along with a service ace. Freshman Kaz Brown had four kills and two blocks while sophomore Kelsey Wolf added eight digs.
As a team, the Wildcats hit .220 with 42 kills, but nine blocks and 49 digs held the Creighton offense to .165 hitting, also with 42 kills. UK also notched four service aces.
A Thomasson kill gave UK a 1-0 lead in the opening set, which it extended to 7-2 to force Creighton to call its first timeout. Out of the break, the Bluejays scored seven of the next nine points to tie the match at nine apiece, which led to a timeout for the Wildcats. O'Conner notched a kill out of the timeout to put the Wildcats ahead before CU tallied its first lead of the match at 11-10. The two teams proceeded to trade points, and the lead, until UK scored five of six to grab an 18-15 advantage. A vicious kill from Brown at the net extended the lead to four at 22-18 before Thomasson's fifth kill of the frame sealed a 25-21 win.
The Wildcats hit .214 with 14 kills compared to Creighton's .293 and 15 kills, but two service aces, from Bergren and O'Conner, helped UK gain the advantage in the first set. Thomasson's five kills on .455 hitting led the way, while Brown and Workman added three kills, Brown on .500 hitting. Schwarzwalder assisted on both Kentucky blocks and added two kills.
It was a back-and-forth battle early after Kentucky jumped out to an 2-0 lead in the second frame. Creighton took the lead and extended it to three at 8-5, but UK rallied back to tie the match at 13-all. The Wildcats only let the Bluejays lead by more than three once, at 19-15. That's when UK fought back once again, with a kill from freshman Darian Mack putting the home team within one at 20-19. A kill from Schwarzwalder tied the set at 21-21 and a Creighton attack error gave the Wildcats their first lead since the set's second point. A Bergren block set up set point, and Schwarzwalder sealed the 25-22 win with a point-blank kill at the net.
Kentucky was led by Workman's seven kills, while Schwarzwalder added four and Thomasson three to go along with three digs. Bergren had two blocks and 16 assists. UK notched 17 kills on .295 hitting, while Creighton was limited to .216 hitting with 15 kills.
Creighton scored the first point of the third set, but Kentucky quickly rallied back to score the next two before taking a 6-3 lead. UK extended its lead to 8-4, but the Bluejays didn't let the Wildcats get away easily. With a 12-10 lead, Kentucky scored five consecutive points for a 17-10 lead, its largest of the set. The run was fueled by a pair of block assists from Thomasson and Schwarzwalder and a Napper service ace. Creighton answered with a rally of its own to get to within one at 20-19, but two O'Conner kills and a block from O'Conner and Brown extended Kentucky's lead to 23-19. Three points later, O'Conner tallied the winning kill to seal a 25-21 win and claim the match for Kentucky.
In the final frame, Thomasson and O'Conner each had three kills, with O'Conner hitting a perfect 1.000. Napper had five digs while Wolf and Thomasson added four. Schwarzwalder assisted on four of Kentucky's five blocks in the set and added two kills. Bergren had 10 assists with one kill. UK hit .135, but the defense had five blocks and held the Creighton offense to .000 hitting with just 12 kills.
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