No. 13 Kentucky Blocks Auburn for 3-0 Sweep
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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Led by a record-setting block total, the Kentucky volleyball team extended its winning streak to 10 matches with a 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-17) sweep of Auburn on Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (16-2, 6-0 Southeastern Conference) notched 13 blocks in the win and 26 block assists, tied for the most in a three-set match in UK history in the 25-point rally scoring era. Junior Sara Schwarzwalder assisted in turning away a career-high 11 Tiger attacks, the most in program history in the 25-point rally scoring era.
In front of 1,980 for UK's annual Pink Match, Kentucky's defense limited Auburn (9-10, 1-5 SEC) to just 0.12 hitting with 27 kills, both season-lows for a UK opponent.
"First of all, I'm just excited about what a great crowd we had here on a Sunday at noon supporting the Pink Match," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "I'm happy that we were able to play really well defensively and really change up what Auburn wanted to do with their attack, so I think that was the biggest thing today. We bent a little bit but didn't break, and that's a sign of a good team."
With the victory, UK's third consecutive sweep over a conference opponent, the Wildcats stretch their winning streak to 10 matches. It marks the second-longest winning streak of Skinner's 10-year tenure in Lexington, two shy of a 12-game run in 2008.
"Our defense is getting better," Skinner said of UK's play during the winning streak. "That is something that we have been working hard on and that allowed us to not have to put so much pressure on our offense to get kills and I think we can get more consistent and bring both to each match."
Kentucky improves to 34-10 all-time vs. Auburn and 14-3 under Skinner. The Wildcats have won seven in a row over the Tigers and 14 of the last 15.
The defensive effort, which included holding Auburn to -.033 and -.031 hitting in the first and third sets, respectively, began at the net with Schwarzwalder's 11 blocks. Junior Morgan Bergren and senior Lauren O'Conner each added five block assists, while sophomore Anni Thomasson and freshman Kaz Brown each assisted on two rejections.
Offensively, Bergren, with 33 assists, directed UK to a .229 hitting percentage, led by Workman's 11 kills and Schwarzwalder's nine. O'Conner posted seven of UK's 39 kills and Brown four.
Kentucky returns to action Friday night at Georgia before returning home Sunday to host LSU at 1:30 p.m. ET.
The Wildcats jumped out to an early 5-2 lead in the first set, helped by three Auburn attack errors, but the Tigers rallied back to take a 7-6 lead. A kill by Brown tied the match at seven before back-to-back O'Conner service aces gave UK a two-point lead. The Tigers scored the next point, but that's when Kentucky scored five of the next six, with two Workman kills, to take a 14-9 lead. Auburn got to within three at 15-12, but again the Wildcats responded with another run, scoring six of eight to extend their lead to 21-14 and forcing Auburn to call its final timeout. Kentucky tallied the next two points out of the timeout and, three points later, a Schwarzwalder hammer sealed a 25-15 opening-set win.
UK hit .188 with 11 kills in the set, but the Wildcat defense held the Tigers to -.033 hitting and just seven kills. Kentucky out-blocked Auburn 6-2, led by Schwarzwalder's five. Schwarzwalder and Workman each led UK with three kills, while Bergren and Brown added two. Five Wildcats assisted on at least one block and Thomasson led Kentucky with four digs. O'Conner added three service aces.
Kentucky stormed out to a 5-0 lead in the second set, with two Schwarzwalder kills and three Auburn attack errors. Out of AU's timeout, the Tigers fought back to get to within two at 10-8 but could not get any closer. Back-to-back kills by Workman pushed the UK lead to four, which it extended to six at 17-11 with Thomasson's first kill of the match. Auburn then scored four of the next five to get to within three at 18-15, but UK again pushed away and scored three in a row. Kentucky closed the set with four of the last six points, capped by an O'Conner and Schwarzwalder block to secure the 25-19 win.
Workman's five kills on .571 hitting led the Wildcats in the second set, who hit .290 as a team with 16 kills. O'Conner and Schwarzwalder each added three kills and two block assists. UK held Auburn to 10 kills on .136 hitting, while Workman logged two digs to aid the defensive effort.
Auburn jumped out to an early 3-0 lead in the third set, but UK quickly answered back with five of the next six points to take a 5-4 lead. Aided by two Tiger attack errors, the run included kills from three different UK players. The set proceeded to turn into a back-and-forth battle with five ties until Kentucky scored five in a row to go ahead 16-11. The Tigers climbed back to get to within three at 19-16, but the Wildcats closed the match on a 6-1 run for the 25-17 win.
Schwarzwalder added to her blocking total with assists on all four of UK's blocks in the final frame, while Bergren added two. Napper had two of UK's 10 digs to aid the defensive effort as UK held Auburn to -.031 hitting. The Wildcats had 12 kills on .212 hitting, led by O'Conner, Schwarzwalder and Workman, each with three kills apiece.
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