Wildcats Fall in Top-25 Road Battle, 3-1 at Texas A&M
COLLEGE STATION, Texas - The No. 16 Kentucky volleyball team dropped a top-25 matchup on the road to No. 24 Texas A&M, 3-1 (22-25, 24-26, 25-17, 16-25), Sunday afternoon at Reed Arena.
The Wildcats fall to 18-4 and 8-2 in Southeastern Conference play, while Texas A&M extends its winning streak to three and improves to 14-6, 6-3 in SEC competition.
“I’m disappointed that we didn’t respond the way that we needed to,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “In a match on the road, against a team that was executing at a high level, we needed to make some stops defensively. Give credit to A&M for executing at the level that they were. We need to do a better job of creating breaks for ourselves and creating opportunities to score, both offensively and defensively.”
Sophomore Anni Thomasson posted her 11th double-double of the season and third in the last three matches with 12 kills and 10 digs. Senior Lauren O’Conner led UK with 19 kills on .421 hitting while senior Jackie Napper led the defensive effort with 20 digs.
Kentucky returns home to host rival Tennessee on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET. Broadcast on ESPNU, the match between the two SEC rivals is the annual DanceBlue Match. To support the on-campus organization DanceBlue, the team will raise awareness and money to benefit children with pediatric cancer who are treated at UK’s Pediatric Oncology Hematology Clinic.
Freshman Kaz Brown had eight kills and two block assists, while junior Shelby Workman recorded seven kills along with 11 digs. Junior Sara Schwarzwalder added five kills with a team-high-tying four block assists.
Junior setter Morgan Bergren dished out 42 assists and added five kills. Bergren also tied for the team lead with four blocks in addition to having 10 digs.
Also defensively, freshman Ashley Dusek had a career-high nine digs as UK posted 67 in the match. Bergren and Schwarzwalder accounted for four block assists each, helping the Wildcats to six rejections in the match.
The Wildcats jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the third set en route to a 25-17 win. Texas A&M rallied to tie the set at 5-5, and again at seven-all and 8-8, but each time Kentucky responded. Already playing at another level in the third set, UK stepped it up another notch with the set tied at eight. The Wildcats scored 13 of the next 15 points, highlighted by a 7-0 run to break it open at 21-10. Five players had kills in the stretch, including two each by Bergren, Thomasson and O’Conner, while Napper added a service ace. The two teams traded the next four points to make it 23-12, and after A&M cut UK’s lead to seven at 24-17, Workman put the set away with a kill for the 25-17 victory.
Kentucky hit .244 with 17 kills in the set and held A&M to .116 hitting with 11 kills. O’Conner posted five kills while Thomasson had four in the frame. Defensively, Workman and Napper each had six of UK’s 24 digs.
UK fell in a tightly-contested first set, 25-22. Kentucky trailed early, but fought back to tie it at 4-4 and again at 8-8 on a Brown kill. UK evened it up again at 9-9 and 10-10 on an O’Conner kill and took its first lead of the match at 12-11. The Wildcats extended their advantage to two at 14-12 on two Aggie errors. Texas A&M climbed back to tie the set at 16-16 though and regained the lead on the next point. Bergren’s first kill of the match tied the set at 17-17, but the Aggies responded with a 3-0 run. Trailing 21-18, Brown recorded a kill and Dusek a service ace to cut the deficit to one at 21-20, but UK could not get any closer.
UK opened with a 4-2 lead in the second set, with the help of three Aggie errors. Texas A&M answered with a 4-0 run to take a 6-4 lead, but Kentucky rallied with a 3-0 run of their own to regain the lead at 7-6. A&M regained the advantage at 10-8, but down 11-9, UK went on a 3-0 run. The run, led by a kill and two aces, all from Workman, gave UK a 12-11 lead. The Wildcats lost the lead but quickly took it back at 18-15 with the next four points, capped by a Brown kill on a free ball. Texas A&M climbed back to claim a 20-19 advantage, but it would not last. A Thomasson kill and a block by Bergren and Schwarzwalder put the Wildcats ahead 22-21, the first two points of a 4-0 swing. The Aggies though, scored the final five points for the 26-24 win to take a 2-0 lead in the match.
Texas A&M opened with a 6-3 lead in the fourth set, which it extended to six at 9-4. Out of a timeout, the Thomasson recorded a kill to cut the Wildcats’ deficit to five at 9-5, but UK could get no closer. UK hit .167 with 11 kills in the final frame, led by O’Conner’s five and Thomasson’s three. Thomasson added six digs, while Dusek had four. Thomasson and Brown assisted on UK’s one block in the set.
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