O'Conner's 19 Kills Lead UK to Sweep of Tennessee
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Senior Lauren O'Conner had 19 kills for the second consecutive match to lead the No. 18 Kentucky volleyball team to a 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-18) victory over Tennessee Wednesday night at Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (18-4, 9-2 Southeastern Conference) recorded their 10th sweep of the season and claimed their fifth consecutive victory over the Lady Volunteers (8-16, 1-9 SEC). UK tallied eight service aces, one shy of tying a season high.
"Obviously, Lauren O'Conner had a big night for us," Head coach Craig Skinner said. We tweaked a couple things with our defense, and I thought that worked pretty well. It wasn't always smooth, but overall our defense did a pretty good job. One of the best things we did tonight was serve. We kept Tennessee off balance offensively and it was nice to be able to get some players in there to make a difference throughout the match."
The match was the team's annual DanceBlue Match, in support of the on-campus organization DanceBlue to help raise awareness and money to benefit children with cancer who are treated at UK's Pediatric Oncology Hematology Clinic. The team wore special gold-lettered warm-up tops, which will be auctioned off on UKathletics.com, along with head coach Craig Skinner's gold tie and a gold ball.
Kentucky will enjoy a weekend off before welcoming Morehead State to Memorial Coliseum on Monday, Nov. 3 at 7 p.m. ET. It will mark the final regular season non-conference action of the year for the Wildcats.
O'Conner's 19 kills on .515 hitting led the way offensively for the Wildcats, who had 48 kills and hit .333 on the night. Freshman Kaz Brown added seven kills on .462 hitting while sophomore Anni Thomasson and junior Sara Schwarzwalder each had five.
Junior Morgan Bergren dished out 36 assists with nine digs, one shy of a second consecutive double-double outing. The setter also led UK by assisting on four of UK's seven blocks.
The defensive charge was led by senior Jackie Napper's 12 digs. Along with Bergren's nine, sophomore Kelsey Wolf had six and freshman Ashley Dusek had five. O'Conner also posted four digs and Thomasson three. Brown, Schwarzwalder and freshman Emily Franklin all accounted for two block assists.
UK opened the match with a 25-19 win in the first set. O'Conner got things off to a great start for the Wildcats with a kill for the match's first point. A 3-0 spurt by the Blue and White capped by an ace from Bergren lifted the home team to a 4-1 edge. Brown got in on a pair of blocks to push UK's lead to a 7-3 advantage. A 5-0 run by the visitors brought the Lady Vols to within one at 11-10, but O'Conner used the block to her advantage to quell the threat. The kill by O'Conner ignited a 4-0 run by the Wildcats to take a 17-12 advantage. The stretch for the Wildcats was all the breathing room they would need as an ace from freshman Darian Mack capped off the set for the final point and a 25-19 win.
UK managed 14 kills on a .179 attacking percentage, but benefited from four aces and four blocks to stymie the Lady Vols. Tennessee logged 10 kills on a .156 clip in the frame. O'Conner led the way offensive for Kentucky with seven kills, while Bergren had five digs.
Tennessee jumped out to a 2-0 advantage to begin the second stanza before a pair of kills from O'Conner guided UK to a 3-3 tie. The third kill of the set by the senior from Taylor Mill, Ky., gave UK a two-point lead at 5-3. Tennessee would claw back and tie the score at six, but Thomasson came up with a powerful slam from the back row to give the home team the lead once again. Junior Kayla Tronick provided a spark with back-to-back kills as the Wildcats took a 15-11 lead into the media timeout. The lead stretched to six at 18-12 following a Schwarzwalder kill. Brown capitalized on an overpass to lift Kentucky to a 25-17 second set win and a 2-0 lead into the locker room.
Kentucky erupted for 21 kills on a blistering .459 hitting percentage in the frame. O'Conner posted eight more hammers in the stanza with Brown going for five and Schwarzwalder four. Kentucky limited Tennessee to a .192 hitting percentage and just eight kills in the set.
The Wildcats recorded a 25-18 win in a tightly-contested third and final set. The teams exchanged points to open the frame until the Lady Vols earned a two-point edge at 8-6. Kentucky responded by going on a 4-0 run to take back the lead at 10-8. Wolf had an ace and Bergren and freshman Emily Franklin teamed up for a block. Tennessee fought back and tied the score at 12 apiece before Thomasson came up with a back row kill. O'Conner's 19th kill of the night gave UK a 15-14 lead at the media timeout. Following the break, O'Conner's serving propelled UK to a 3-0 run to extend the lead to 18-14. Following a Tennessee timeout, UK stretched its run to 6-0 pushing the lead to 21-14. Senior Alyssa Gergins' first career kill was the winning tally for the sweep at 25-18 in the third.
O'Conner and Mack each had four of UK's 13 kills in the final set as the Wildcats hit .379. Napper added four digs while Franklin and Bergren each assisted on both of Kentucky's blocks. Franklin also added two kills.
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