Volleyball Caps 4-0 Homestand with Sweep of Mizzou
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -- A balanced offensive attack and a strong finish to each set led the 17th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team to a 3-0 (25-21, 25-23, 25-22) win over Missouri Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum.
Four players recorded at least seven kills as the Wildcats (22-4, 11-2 Southeastern Conference) won their fourth consecutive match. Missouri (15-13, 6-7 SEC) had 35 unforced errors, including 14 in the final set.
"I was really proud of our effort and toughness at the end of all three sets," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "Missouri brought an offensive juggernaut at us today and I think only gave us 21 points with serving errors and hitting errors. So that means you have to earn a lot of them and I felt like we did a good job of that."
Kentucky travels to Ole Miss on Friday at 8 p.m. ET before returning home for a top-20 battle and "Pack the House" match with No. 7 Florida Sunday at Noon ET. Florida owns a perfect 13-0 record in SEC play and is 19-3 overall. The match has been designated a "Wildcat Whiteout" vs. the Gators, and the first 200 fans will receive a free rally towel. Additionally, groups of 10 or more can get tickets for $2.
The Wildcats held the Tigers to .275 hitting, including a .139 hitting percentage in the final set. UK had 42 kills on .307 hitting while out-blocking MU 7-3.
Senior Lauren O'Conner led the Kentucky offensive charge with 12 kills on .333 hitting. O'Conner has recorded double-digit kills in five consecutive matches, all team-high totals. O'Conner added a service ace, three blocks and three digs.
Junior Sara Schwarzwalder, sophomore Anni Thomasson and freshman Kaz Brown all added seven kills, with Schwarzwalder hitting .500 in the match. Juniors Morgan Bergren and Shelby Workman each added four kills while Bergren also dished out 30 assists.
"We need to be balanced," Skinner said of UK's offensive production. "I don't think it's good for a team to be reliant on one or two players as you go into the season and postseason. Being balanced and getting people involved offensively is going to be critical. It's nice to see Morgan find the right people today."
Senior Jackie Napper had 12 digs to go along with Bergren and Thomasson's five. Brown assisted on five of Kentucky's seven blocks and Bergren had two.
A kill from O'Conner gave the Wildcats the first point of the match, and UK extended its lead to 4-2 before the Tigers rallied back to tie the match at 4-4. Missouri took its first lead at 6-5, but an MU ball handling error tied the set at 6-6. Back-to-back kills by Workman and Schwarzwalder gave the Wildcats an 8-6 lead, and while the Tigers tied it again at 8-8, UK then scored four of the next five on three Missouri errors for a 12-9 advantage. The teams traded points until, tied at 13-13, UK scored the next three, with two Brown kills. The Tigers got to within one at 16-15, but Kentucky soon answered with a 3-0 run, with two Thomasson kills, for a 22-17 lead. While Missouri rallied off three in a row to get to within two at 23-21, an O'Conner kill and a block by O'Conner and Brown sealed a 25-21 first-set victory.
UK hit .406 in the first set with 16 kills, led by Schwarzwalder's four kills on four attempts. Brown assisted on all three of UK's blocks, while Napper had four of the Wildcats' 11 digs. The Kentucky defense held Missouri to .297 hitting, while the Tigers had one block in the opening frame.
Kentucky used a 6-2 comeback run to close the second set for a 25-23 win. The Wildcats jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first set, which they extended to 7-4 on a Bergren kill. Mizzou responded to get to within one at 10-9, before the Tigers tied the match at 11. The two teams proceeded to go back and forth until, knotted at 18-18, Missouri scored three of four to take its first lead of the set, 21-19. Kentucky answered right back though with a 4-0 run to take a 23-21 lead. The run was helped by three Tiger attack errors and capped by an ace from Thomasson, her first. MU got to within one at 23-22 and 24-23, but a kill by Brown, her fifth of the set, gave UK the 25-23 win.
Brown's five kills on .667 in the second set led the Wildcats, while Bergren had three kills and O'Conner and Workman each had two. Bergren, Napper and Thomasson all had three digs and O'Conner had one of two Wildcat blocks.
The Wildcats again used a come-from-behind rally in the middle of the third to win the set, 25-22. Kentucky trailed early in the third set, 7-4, but didn't let the deficit grow past four. UK still trailed by four at 13-9, but that's when UK began to make its comeback. A 4-0 run, with three Mizzou errors, tied the set at 13-13, and Kentucky took its first lead at 15-14 on an ace by O'Conner. The Tigers regained the advantage at 16-15, but back-to-back kills by Thomasson put the Wildcats ahead, 17-16. The two teams went back-and-forth until UK gained its first two-point lead at 22-20 on an MU attack error. Mizzou tied the set at 22-22, but UK closed the set with a kill from junior Kayla Tronick and consecutive Tiger attack errors to secure a 25-22 win.
O'Conner's five kills led the Wildcats in the final set, while Thomasson added three. Kentucky out-hit Missouri, .194-.139, while both teams had two blocks. Brown assisted on both blocks, and Napper had five of UK's 12 digs.
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