Wildcats Roll to 3-0 in SEC with Sweep of Ole Miss

Oct. 4, 2013

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LEXINGTON, Ky. – The University of Kentucky volleyball team cruised to a 3-0 sweep (25-13, 25-16, 25-8) of Ole Miss to secure its best start to Southeastern Conference play since 2009 in front of a raucous, season-best crowd at Memorial Coliseum Friday night.

The Wildcats (11-3, 3-0 SEC) dominated the front line to secure a 7-2 advantage in blocks over the Rebels (10-6, 0-3) before 2,400 fans. UK was just as good on the offensive side of things, with a 41-24 kills advantage and a hitting percentage of .439 that was over .350 above Mississippi’s .078.

“Pretty much everything,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said about what he liked from his team’s offensive attack. “Whitney (Billings) behind (the setter) was working, the middles were getting involved and I wish we could get Zan (Morgan) more kills. She’s such a valuable side attacker. But our defense was good again, holding an SEC team under .100 is pretty good.”

As for the crowd, the electric atmosphere gave the Wildcats an added boost from the start. The fans which made up the season high crowd had plenty to cheer for, even though the noise level was high before the first ball was even served.

“Right at the beginning, the Blue and White cheer going across the gym, if that doesn’t get you pumped to play, I don’t know what does,” Skinner said. “I have to give a lot of credit to our fans for showing up in big numbers tonight and making it one heck of a Division-I environment.”

The fans witnessed senior Whitney Billings notch a match-high 12 kills for a career best .600 hitting clip. Junior Lauren O’Conner added 10 kills for a .429 hitting percentage, also a career high. Junior Jackie Napper’s 18 digs led the match, while sophomore Morgan Bergren dished out 30 assists. Freshman Anni Thomasson contributed 10 digs and eight kills. Bergren and Napper each had two of UK’s seven service aces.

The Wildcats earned a 25-13 win in the first set, thanks to a blistering .484 hitting clip. Five kills came off the arm of Billings, while O’Conner contributed four. UK had a 3-0 advantage in blocks, with two from Morgan. The frame started with a 2-0 Kentucky lead, and after it was tied at three, the Wildcats started to pull away with a 5-0 run. Ole Miss scored three of the next four, but UK answered with five straight again to make it a 14-6 game. The two continued to trade points until, at 18-12, Kentucky scored seven of the last eight points to secure the victory and a 1-0 lead.

Kentucky used a 7-0 run to cap the second frame for a 25-16 win. UK found itself down 1-0 to start the stanza, but it quickly fought back to take a 7-4 lead. Ole Miss rallied to tie the set at seven, but Kentucky answered with a 7-1 run to take a 14-8 lead. The Rebels got within three points three times, and within two at 18-16, but that was the last tally they would score before the Wildcats tallied the final seven points. Billings had five kills and hit .714 for the second straight frame, while Napper had five digs to put her into double digits in the scoop column.

The third set saw UK turn it up an extra notch and win 25-8. The Wildcats hit .481, with a 14-5 advantage in kills. Kentucky opened with a 5-0 lead, which it extended to 7-1 and 9-2. In the stanza, UK did not allow Ole Miss to record more than one consecutive point, and the Wildcats’ lowest point streak was two in a row. Junior Alyssa Gergins and redshirt freshman Kelsey Wolf made their Wildcat debuts in the third. Wolf knotted her first dig, while Gergins posted her first assist with the Blue and White.

Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Seattle, Wash., from the Lexington Region. This marks the second time in three seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.

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.