Billings Leads No. 15 Kentucky to Sweep at South Carolina
Oct. 13, 2013
COLUMBIA, S.C. – Behind the blistering offensive performance from senior right side hitter Whitney Billings the 15th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team claimed a 3-0 (25-13, 25-22, 25-23) win at South Carolina on Sunday afternoon. Billings ignited for 18 kills and added 10 digs for her 38th career double-double effort in the win.
“Defensively we were exceptional holding South Carolina team to a .105 hitting percentage was a great job by our defense,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “Billings stepped up offensively today and that was a big difference in the match. I thought holding a player like (Juliette) Thevenin to only nine kills was a key component to being successful today as well.”
Thevenin entered the match ranking eighth nationally in kills per set and was limited to just nine by UK’s defense who registered 11 blocks on the night.
Kentucky improves to 13-4 overall and 5-1 in Southeastern Conference action. South Carolina falls to 10-8 overall and 2-4 in league competition. Kentucky will enjoy a 10-day break from competition before returning to the court on Oct. 23 at Georgia in a nationally televised broadcast that will air on ESPNU at 6:30 p.m. ET.
Billings was the difference maker for the Cats as she tossed down her 18 hammers on a blazing .484 hitting percentage. Five other Wildcats logged five or more kills with junior Lauren O’Conner notching six. Senior Alexandra Morgan, freshman Anni Thomasson and sophomores Morgan Bergren and Sara Schwarzwalder all had five. Bergren passed out 40 assists in the three-set victory and led the offensive unit to a .287 hitting percentage.
Junior Jackie Napper had 13 digs, while Thomasson added nine. Morgan led three Wildcat defenders with five or more blocks as she notched six. Schwarzwalder and Bergren both logged five. Sophomore Shelby Workman contributed five digs in the win.
O’Conner and Billings struck for three consecutive kills to begin the opening frame for an early 3-0 lead before the Gamecocks were able to get on the board. The Wildcats were able to stretch their lead to 8-2 early in the set benefiting from consistently getting the home team out of system. A long rally from both teams resulted in a Morgan kill off the slide into the deep corner, followed by an ace from Billings stretched the early lead to 11-3 forcing the Gamecocks into a timeout.
Bergren followed with her first kill of the match before the home team was able to end the run with a kill of its own for a 12-4 UK lead. Billings struck for her fifth kill of the frame to push the score to 19-10 in favor of the Wildcats and South Carolina opted to use its final timeout. Kentucky did not let off the gas, however, as the Blue and White logged a pair of blocks to maintain the momentum and roll to a 25-13 opening set win.
Billings led the way offensively with seven kills on a .667 hitting percentage. UK as a unit struck for 15 kills on a .464 clip with Bergren dishing out 14 assists. Napper and Billings both logged a team-best five digs and O’Conner and Morgan both were in on a pair of blocks. South Carolina managed just seven kills on a .000 percentage as UK’s defense stifled the Gamecocks offense with three blocks and 15 digs.
South Carolina took a turn at opening to a multi-point edge in the second set as the home team raced out to a 2-0 lead before Schwarzwalder smoked a ball cross court to end the threat. UK pulled back to within one at 8-7 following a Bergren-Schwarzwalder block, but South Carolina responded with two-straight points of its own to reclaim a three-point edge. Morgan got a three-point swing going for UK with a solo rejection followed by a kill from the senior’s right hand. The smothering UK defense prompted a hitting error by the Gamecocks for UK’s first advantage of the set at 16-15 and a Gamecock timeout.
South Carolina did not back down, however, and reclaimed the lead at 20-19 forcing Kentucky to take a timeout. The Gamecocks were charged with an unforced error to tie the score at 20. Schwarzwalder notched a kill in transition to reclaim the lead at 21-20. Billings then followed suit with her 10th kill of the match for a 22-20 edge and the Gamecocks chose to exhaust their timeouts to attempt to quash the Wildcat run. Kentucky finished the frame with a pair of Billings kills and a Morgan-Bergren block for the 25-22 win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Kentucky charted 16 kills on a .289 hitting percentage with Billings again leading the way with five. Schwarzwalder added four. Bergren dished out 13 assists and had a trio of blocks. Thomasson paced the back line defense with six scoops. South Carolina notched 15 kills on a .205 hitting clip, but committed seven hitting errors to aid the Wildcat cause.
The Gamecocks were charged with consecutive errors to lift UK to an early 2-0 lead to begin the third set. Billings began the third set strong yet again, helping push UK’s lead to a 5-1 edge. The lead was extended to 7-2 before the Gamecocks logged three-straight points to pull to within 7-4. A 4-0 run by the home team closed the Wildcat lead to 9-7, but a big hit from Thomasson ended the run. The tandem of Bergren and Schwarzwalder hooked up again for a big block and an 11-8 UK lead. Despite the 38th double-double of Billings’ career being achieved in the third frame, the Gamecocks continued to fight back and eventually pulled to within one at 14-13 prompting a Kentucky timeout.
Out of the break, Billings responded with her 17th kill of the match, but the Gamecocks fired back with a kill of their own and a block to tie the score at 15 apiece. From there the teams would swap points, until Thomasson registered a kill through the block and then teamed up with Morgan for a block and a 22-21 lead. South Carolina opted to take its first timeout. Out of the break, UK’s defense forced the Gamecocks into a hitting error for a two-point Wildcat lead at 23-21. The Gamecocks were charged with a double-contact to give UK match point, but the home team staved off two-straight points to pull back to within 24-23. Following the timeout, the Wildcats set up Billings down the pipe and the senior delivered for a 25-23 decision and a 3-0 sweep in the match.
UK totaled 14 kills in the third set with Billings leading the charge with six in the frame. South Carolina was limited to 11 kills on a .086 hitting percentage.
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