Dominating Runs in Late Sets Lead UK to 3-1 Win
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Benefited by big runs in sets three and four, the 17th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team earned a 3-1 (26-24, 24-26, 25-16, 25-13) win over visiting Georgia on Friday night in Memorial Coliseum. UK was also aided by 21 kills from Lauren O'Conner, a double-double effort from Anni Thomasson and a career-high-tying 26 digs from senior Jackie Napper in the victory.
"We challenged our team to be better defensively in sets three and four," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "Obviously our defense and blocking was a big difference in those sets. I'm just proud of the mentality we had to close out the match."
With the win, UK improves to 21-4 overall and 10-2 within league competition. Georgia drops to 11-13 overall and 3-9 against Southeastern Conference foes. Kentucky returns to action with a home contest on Sunday, Nov. 9 at Noon ET against Missouri. The match will air live on the SEC Network.
The Wildcats capitalized on an 11-2 spurt in set three and an 11-3 run in set four to pull away from the Bulldogs. O'Conner notched 21 kills - just one shy of matching a career-high - to lead the offensive effort.
"Lauren (O'Conner) is playing with a ton of confidence (right now)," Skinner said. "She knows what shot to hit at the right time and sees the block in the court really well. Before she had a cross-court shot and now she has every shot in the book."
Thomasson had her 12th double-double of the year with 16 kills and 14 digs. Napper led the defensive effort with the 26 scoops and freshman Kaz Brown logged a match-high five blocks. Junior setter Morgan Bergren dished out 47 assists and added nine digs and seven assists while leading UK to a .310 attacking percentage for the match.Freshman Emily Franklin chipped in with six kills and a block in three sets of action. Junior Shelby Workman added four kills and six digs.
The two teams opened the match with an extended rally which was eventually won by a kill from Bergren. Back-to-back kills from O'Conner prompted the home team to take a 3-0 edge. Workman notched consecutive kills giving UK a five-point lead at 8-3. The Bulldogs pushed back, but Thomasson's conversion down the line snapped the spurt and gave the home team an 11-7 advantage. Georgia pulled to within two, but O'Conner's kill into the middle of the floor gave the Wildcats a 15-12 lead at the media break.
Georgia would not go away and fought back to within one at 18-17. Out of the break, UK turned to O'Conner and posted consecutive kills to lift UK to a multiple-point advantage yet again at 20-17. The Bulldogs continued to fight and eventually took the lead at 22-21. Brown's conversion on an overpass tied the score at 23 apiece. Following a timeout, O'Conner sent a screamer over the net for an ace. Georgia fired back with a kill off the block, but Workman answered with a cross-court kill with authority. UK captured the set by a 26-24 score after Georgia committed a ball handling error.
UK charted 19 kills on a .292 hitting percentage. O'Conner led the way with eight kills in the stanza, while Thomasson and Napper both had six digs. Georgia logged 17 kills on a .356 attacking clip.
The two teams traded points to begin the second set, but Thomasson's kill to the back row lifted Kentucky to a 3-1 edge. The lead extended to 5-1 before a service error snapped the run. An ace from Napper propelled the Cats to a 13-9 lead midway through the frame forcing the Bulldogs to use their first timeout. Georgia clawed its way back and eventually tied the score at 19 all. The Bulldogs eventually took their first lead of the frame at 21-20. For the second consecutive set, O'Conner came up with a momentum-changing ace to tie the score at 22. Georgia was able to outlast the Cats and even the match at one set apiece following a 26-24 win.
The Bulldogs capitalized on six hitting errors by the Cats, while utilizing a .364 attacking clip of their own.
The teams exchanged points to open the third set. Georgia opened the first multi-point advantage at 8-6. Trailing 9-6, UK then went on a 6-1 run paced by two aces from Thomasson to take a 12-10 advantage. Kentucky pushed the lead to four at 15-11 following a kill from Thomasson. Tronick and Brown teamed up for a block to help UK open up a 17-11 lead. The Wildcats were propelled by an 11-2 run since trailing 9-6. It was all the more breathing room the Wildcats needed en route to a 25-16 win in the third frame.
Kentucky logged 14 kills on a match-high .480 attacking clip. Thomasson had five of UK's kills to lead the way, while O'Conner and Franklin chipped in with three apiece. UK was also aided by four blocks including three from Brown. Georgia was limited to 13 kills on a .156 percentage.
The fourth set began resembling both the second and third stanzas with the teams swapping points. An O'Conner kill followed by a Brown solo rejection lifted UK to a 3-1 lead. The Bulldogs eventually swung back to tie the score at three apiece. Back-to-back kills from Thomasson lifted Kentucky to its largest lead of the frame at 9-5. Franklin and Bergren teamed up for a rejection to push UK's advantage to seven at 15-8. Georgia then took a timeout trailing 17-9. O'Conner then capitalized on back-to-back overpasses to lift the Wildcats to a 20-9 advantage. That's all the more wiggle room the Wildcats would need en route to a dominating 25-13 win.
UK notched 14 kills on a .306 attacking percentage. O'Conner led the way with six kills, while Brown had a pair of blocks. Georgia posted just five kills on a negative .086 percentage.Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the Kentucky volleyball team and all 22 varsity sports. For additional info on the volleyball team like Kentucky Volleyball on Facebook or follow the team on Twitter at @KentuckyVB.