Kentucky Outlasts Alabama, 3-1
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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Led by a balanced team effort with three players notching double-figure kills and the middle blockers contributing on all nine blocks in the match, the 13th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team outlasted visiting Alabama, 3-1 (25-20, 25-15, 23-25, 25-22) in its home Southeastern Conference opener on Friday in front of 1,663 fans in Memorial Coliseum.
Junior Shelby Workman logged 19 kills on a career-high .459 attacking percentage to lead the offensive effort, while middle blockers Sara Schwarzwalder and Kaz Brown combined to contribute on all nine of Kentucky's blocks in the victory.
"Very happy (with the win)," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "I expected a match comparable to sets three and four the whole night. We ran away with it in set two but I didn't think that was normal in a situation like that. Just physically we earned our points. Alabama didn't give them to us and that's probably the most pleasing thing so far tonight."
With the win, Kentucky improves its season-long winning streak to seven matches and now owns a 13-2 overall record and a 3-0 mark in league play. The win snapped an eight-match winning streak for Alabama as the Tide falls to 14-3 on the year and 2-1 in SEC action.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. ET. UK takes on No. 21 Texas A&M in a top-25 showdown that is set to air live on the SEC Network featuring Paul Sunderland and Nell Fortner on the call.
Workman notched her second career double-double with the 19-kill, 10-dig effort. She also contributed a pair of blocks. Senior Lauren O'Conner posted 15 kills and now sits just three shy of becoming the 15th player in school history to amass 1,000 career kills.
Sophomore Anni Thomasson also posted a double-double effort with 10 kills and 14 digs. Junior setter Morgan Bergen dished out 48 assists and added six kills, five digs and three blocks in an all-around performance.
Schwarzwalder, who posted all five blocks in the final fourth frame, led UK in the blocking category. She also contributed seven kills. Brown had four rejections and totaled a career-best six kills.Senior Jackie Napper led the defensive effort from the back row with 15 digs. She has now posted 15 or more digs in 12 matches this season.
Alabama scored the match's first two points, but it was a Workman kill that tied the score at three apiece. After Alabama took a 5-3 edge, Brown teamed up with Thomasson for a block to knot the score once again at five apiece. From there the teams would trade points until the Tide once again took a two-point lead at 10-8. Consecutive kills from O'Conner and Thomasson tied the score at 10. A Brown kill lifted the Wildcats to their first lead at 12-11. A Workman-Brown rejection gave the home team a 15-13 lead into the media timeout.
UK was able to maintain a minimum a two-point lead and stretched it to three at 21-18 following a Thomasson kill from the back row forcing the Tide into a timeout. UK scored four of the final six points capped by a kill from Workman for a 25-20 opening set victory.
Kentucky posted 15 kills on a .294 hitting percentage with Workman leading the charge with five hammers in the stanza. Napper had six digs, while Thomasson contributed five in the frame. Brown was the force at the net with a pair of blocks. Alabama managed 13 kills on .229 hitting and committed four service errors.
The second set began with an exchange of points. A Workman kill, followed by an Alabama miscue and an O'Conner-Brown block, gave UK an 8-4 lead, the largest of the set by any team. A Dusek ace and another Workman kill stretched Kentucky's lead to six at 13-6 forcing the Tide to use its final timeout. Kentucky earned a lead as large as 10 at 20-10 benefiting from an Alabama hitting error en route to a 25-15 second set win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Kentucky charted 15 kills on a blistering .481 hitting percentage with Thomasson and O'Conner both logging four kills apiece. Alabama was limited to 12 kills on .207 hitting.
Alabama earned a 2-0 lead to start the third frame. A Schwarzwalder kill off the block gave the Blue and White its first tally of the set. Kentucky took its first lead of the stanza on a Bergren ace at 4-3. The Tide recaptured the lead and stretched it to a two-point edge at 7-5. A Schwarzwalder kill tied the score once again, this time at eight. The teams would swap points from there until, Alabama earned a 17-14 edge. A 4-0 UK swing, however, gave the home team the lead at 18-17. Alabama took the lead back late at 22-21, and UK opted for a timeout. Following the timeout, Alabama earned the next two points and eventually earned the set by a 25-23 margin despite UK making things interesting with a late two-point rally.
UK posted 17 kills on a .273 hitting percentage with Workman responsible for six. UK could not keep the Bama attack at bay, however, as the Tide accounted for 19 kills on a .410 hitting clip.
A pair of Kentucky miscues opened the scoring in the fourth frame, as the Tide earned an early 2-0 lead before Thomasson came up with a kill. Alabama would maintain the lead until five-straight kills from the Wildcats gave the home team an 8-6 lead. The lead was stretched to three following a Bergren-Schwarzwalder block.
Alabama didn't go away, however, as the Tide charged back to tie the score at 11. Kentucky, behind the tandem of Schwarzwalder and Bergren teamed up for a block, to lead 15-14 at the media timeout. From there the Tide would score the next three and earn a 17-15 advantage.
Kentucky came back with a vengeance and was led by Schwarzwalder who teamed up with O'Conner and then with Bergren for back-to-back blocks to tie the score at 19. Consecutive kills from Brown and Workman lifted UK to a 24-21 lead as the momentum swung clearly in the Wildcats' favor. Alabama took its final timeout, and Workman finished off the match with UK's final kill for the 25-22 win.
UK scored 16 points off kills with Workman logging six and O'Conner charting five. Schwarzwalder had five blocks in the final frame and helped limit Alabama to just 11 kills on a .125 attacking percentage.Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the Kentucky volleyball team and all 22 varsity sports. For additional info on the volleyball team like Kentucky Volleyball on Facebook or follow the team on Twitter at @KentuckyVB.