No. 19 UK Uses Strong Defensive Attack to Down Arkansas, 3-1

Nov. 1, 2013

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – On the strengths of 15 blocks for the second consecutive match, and a balanced offensive attack, the No. 19 University of Kentucky volleyball team posted a 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-16, 25-18)win at Arkansas.

After a pair of close, back-and-forth sets to begin the match, the Wildcats (16-5, 8-2 Southeastern Conference) closed out the contest over the Razorbacks (13-10, 6-6 SEC) with two strong frames for a 3-1 win.

“I thought our defense was exceptional, against a lot of very good arms,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “Morgan Bergren set one of her best matches of the year, she had really good distribution and credit for our high hitting percentage goes to our setter.  Jackie Napper also had one of her best matches of the year and anchored our defensive effort.”

After it posted 15 blocks in a win Sunday over Alabama, UK tied its season high with another 15 in Fayetteville. The third set featured six blocks from the Wildcats, while the Blue and White had five in the second. Kentucky held Arkansas to five blocks.

Offensively, Kentucky posted 59 kills, tied for the third-highest total this season and the most in a four-set contest. The Wildcats hit .388 and held the Razorbacks to 52 kills and a .197 hitting clip. UK servers notched four service aces, including one that was the winner in the first set. Kentucky had a 52-45 edge in digs and limited UA to two aces.

The Wildcats were led by senior Whitney Billings’ 16 kills on a .407 hitting clip with nine digs and five blocks. She was followed closely behind by fellow senior Alexandra Morgan, who notched 14 kills with six blocks and two digs. Freshman Anni Thomasson contribute12 kills and seven digs.

Sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder led the Wildcats with a career-high nine blocks and added three kills, while Bergren dished out 48 assists in addition to four kills and five digs. Junior Lauren O’Conner had four block assists in addition to nine kills and two digs for UK.

Junior libero Jackie Napper had 20 digs with three assists in a strong defensive effort to lead Kentucky, and freshman Kelsey Wolf posted five scoops and one assists.

Kentucky faces its next road test at No. 7 Missouri Sunday at 2:30 p.m. ET. UK is 3-0 all-time against the Tigers, with a 3-0 win last season in Columbia, Mo. to mark the first meeting between the two teams as SEC foes.

The Wildcats edged out a tight, 25-21 win in the first set. UK’s four-point win was the largest lead of the set for either team, after the frame began with seven ties and two lead changes. Both teams traded the first 10 points, and when Arkansas scored three straight to take a 7-5 lead, it marked the first time either team notched more than one consecutive tally. Kentucky clawed back to tie it at nine and took an 11-9 lead, an advantage it would not give up. The Wildcats’ 18-15 edge was the first time either squad held an advantage of over two points, a mark that was extended with UK’s 20-18 lead. The Razorbacks got within two at 23-21, but a UA attack error and a service ace from Napper secured the win.

In the opening frame, UK was led by Thomasson’s five kills, while Billings contributed four. Kentucky had 18 kills and hit .405 in the set, compared to Arkansas’ 15 kills and .306 hitting clip. The Wildcats had two blocks, while the Razorbacks had one. Napper’s service ace was the lone ace in the set.

The second set was another tight affair, and UK held the lead early before Arkansas scored four straight to take get a 12-10 advantage. Out of a 14-14 tie, the Razorbacks scored five straight to extend their lead to 19-14. The Wildcats clawed back to get it within one at 22-21 and again at 23-22, but Arkansas scored the final two points to win the set, 25-22. The Wildcats outhit the Razorbacks .235 to .205, but had 11 kills to UA’s 14. UK posted a 5-1 edge in blocks. In the frame, Billings had a set-high six kills, while Morgan posted three kills with four block assists.

The third set was a tight affair to begin, but, with a 10-8 lead, the Wildcats scored 15 of the final 23 points to cement a 25-16 win and a 2-1 lead in the match. UK’s win was fueled by six blocks and a .550 hitting clip. Kentucky had 13 kills in the frame, and benefited from Arkansas’ eight attack errors. The Razorbacks had 10 kills and one block in the set and hit were held to just 0.71 hitting. Morgan led the way for the Blue and White with a set-high five kills on five attempts. Thomasson added four kills and two blocks, while Schwarzwalder logged five blocks in the set. O’Conner also posted two blocks and two kills.

Kentucky found itself trailing the fourth set early at 2-1, but the Wildcats quickly responded with the next four points to take a 5-2 lead. After Arkansas tied it at five, UK went on to score seven of the next eight. The 12-6 lead was enough for the Wildcats to secure a 25-18 victory and the match. The Razorbacks got close at 21-17, but after a timeout, the Wildcats scored three straight to stretch the lead to six. After one UA point, UK closed it out, 25-18.

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.

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