Middles Ignite Wildcats to 3-0 Sweep of VCU
Box Score (PDF)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - No. 16 Kentucky's middle blockers were the difference makers in a 3-0 (25-19, 25-18, 25-19) sweep of Virginia Commonwealth on Saturday morning in the Carolina Classic. Freshman Emily Franklin had career-bests in kills (9) and hitting percentage (.500), while junior Sara Schwarzwalder chipped in with six kills and a team-best three blocks in UK's fourth sweep of the season.
UK improves to 7-2 on the season, while VCU drops to 2-6 on the year. Kentucky will conclude the Carolina Classic tonight at 5 p.m. ET when the Wildcats take on Georgia Southern.
"I thought we did a nice job of adjusting to VCU's lightning-fast offense as the match went on," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "We were able to get our middle attackers involved consistently and that's a big key for us moving forward."
Sophomore Anni Thomasson was the lone Wildcat to reach double-figures with 10 kills and she added six digs in the win. Junior Shelby Workman posted seven hammers and freshman Darian Mack added five in two sets of action. Senior Lauren O'Conner had four kills to aid the Wildcat cause. Junior setter Morgan Bergren dished out 36 assists and added five kills and three blocks.
UK opened the scoring to begin the match with a kill from Schwarzwalder. The teams would exchange points before the Rams were able to shake loose for an early 6-3 lead. A 4-0 spurt by the Cats capped by an O'Conner ace reclaimed the lead for the Wildcats at 7-6. From there the teams would swap points back-and-forth until UK broke free for a 3-0 run with kills from Franklin and Workman highlighting the spurt to force VCU into a timeout with the Wildcats out in front by a 15-12 score.
Following the timeout, UK forced VCU into an errant attack give the Wildcats their largest lead of the stanza. A Schwarzwalder kill off an overpass lifted Kentucky to a 20-15 advantage. The junior from North Royalton, Ohio, capped the set with her third kill of the stanza for a 25-19 opening set win for the Blue and White.
UK erupted for 17 kills on a blistering .484 hitting percentage with six players registering multiple kills. Bergren dished out 12 assists to lead the offense. VCU managed 11 kills on .222 hitting.
After VCU scored the set's first two points, O'Conner found a spot cross court for UK's first tally of the second stanza. The lead for the Rams reached five at 6-1. A 5-0 run by the Wildcats propelled the designated home team to tie the score at 6 apiece and the Rams opted for a timeout.
Following the break, UK continued the run to take its first lead of the set at 7-6 before VCU finally ended the stretch. Kentucky scored four of the next five to open up an 11-7 lead. Kentucky ended the set on a 9-3 run for a 25-18 victory and a 2-0 lead in the match.
The Wildcats logged 17 kills on a .359 hitting percentage in the second set, while VCU charted 13 hammers on a .225 clip. Thomasson had five kills in the frame and Franklin posted four. Napper led the defensive effort with seven digs.
Mack's cross-court shot enabled the Cats to strike first in the third set. Mack's kill ignited a quick rally for the Blue and White who earned a 3-0 lead. Kentucky extended its advantage to four at 8-4. Bergren teamed up with Schwarzwalder for back-to-back blocks, and then UK's setter lofted a ball over her shoulder for the dump and a Kentucky 12-6 lead. VCU continued to fight and pulled to within two at 14-12, forcing Kentucky into a timeout to attempt to quell the threat.
Out of the break, the Rams served into the net and Mack put down her fifth kill of the set to dispel the momentum for the designated visitors. It was all the more breathing room the Cats would need en route to a 25-19 third set win to secure their fourth 3-0 victory of the year.
UK notched 13 kills on .242 hitting, while the Rams managed just nine hammers on a .057 hitting percentage in the final frame.
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