Strong Finishes Fuels Volleyball to 3-1 Win at Ole Miss
Box Score (PDF)
Oxford, Miss. - Fueled by dominate runs to close the second and third sets and a season-high-tying 18 kills by sophomore Anni Thomasson, the No. 15 Kentucky volleyball team defeated Ole Miss 3-1 (20-25, 25-18, 25-15, 25-23) Friday in Oxford, Miss.
The Wildcats (23-4, 12-2 Southeastern Conference) recovered from a loss in the first set with a balanced offensive attack and strong net presence to put away the Rebels (20-7, 6-7 SEC) that out-hit UK .241 to .071 in the first set. Kentucky recorded a .520 hitting percentage with at least 15 kills in the second and third set before hitting .353 with 16 kills in the final frame.
"I'm proud of the way we responded, UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "Ole Miss came out with fire and really had a great game plan in the first set. I thought we did a nice job adjusting and finding ways to score in the middle and on the outside as the match developed. Kaz Brown and Emily Franklin really had a big presence in the middle today and Anni really had a great response after the first set and helped carry us to the win."
The Wildcats return home Sunday for a "Pack the House," top-15 showdown vs. No. 7 Florida at Noon ET in Memorial Coliseum. The first 1,000 fans in attendance will receive a free rally towel. Fans that follow the Wildcats on social media - @KentuckyVB on Twitter, Kentucky Volleyball on Facebook and @KentuckyVolleyball on Instagram - can get a coupon for free admission to the match. Additionally, groups of 10 or more can get tickets for $2.
After one kill on -.600 hitting in the first set, Thomasson recovered in a big way to record a season-high-tying 18 kills on .406 hitting. The sophomore added five digs and two block assists.
Senior Lauren O'Conner added 13 kills on .440 hitting, while redshirt freshman Emily Franklin logged a career-high-tying nine kills on a career-best .571 hitting with five block assists. Freshman Kaz Brown notched a career-high-tying eight kills along with five blocks.
Junior setter Morgan Bergren directed the offense to .383 hitting with 58 kills. Bergren recorded 47 assists along with four kills, five block assists and four digs.
The 12 blocks by the Wildcats are tied for the most in a four-set match and the third-highest total by Kentucky this season.
It was a tightly-contest second set, with nine ties and four lead changes before UK scored 14 of the final 20 points to pull away late for a 25-18 victory. The Wildcats jumped out to a 4-1 lead, with kills by O'Conner and Thomasson and two Ole Miss attack errors. The Rebels responded to tie the set at 4-4 before the two teams entered a back-and-forth battle. Neither team could gain a lead of more than one point until Kentucky scored four in a row to lead 15-12. The run was led by a Napper service ace, her first of the match. The Wildcats extended their lead to four at 18-14 on a block by Franklin and Thomasson. UK's lead became five at 21-16 thanks to a tip by Thomasson that the UM defense could not handle. A block by Franklin and Tronick put UK ahead 24-18 before Franklin sealed the second-set victory with a kill.
The Wildcats hit .520 and had five blocks in the second set, three by Franklin and two each from Brown and Thomasson. Napper and Thomasson each had three digs, while Franklin and Thomasson each accounted for four of Kentucky's 15 kills in the frame. Brown and O'Conner both added three kills and Napper had the Wildcats' lone service ace.
The third set began much like the second did, but once again, the Wildcats finished with a bang, scoring 14 of the final 17 points to win 25-15. Kentucky fell behind 4-2 in the third set, but responded to tie it at four. Ole Miss regained its two-point lead at 7-5 but again the Wildcats answered to tie the set at seven. A Thomasson kill, her sixth of the set gave UK its first lead of the set at 10-9. After an 11-11 tie, Kentucky went on a 3-0 run, capped by Thomasson's 10th kill of the match and sixth of the set to give the Wildcats a 14-11 lead, the largest by either team in the set. UK's run continued, which was extended to four on a Bergren kill, six on a Thomasson kill and seven on a solo block by Bergren. After Ole Miss scored one to make it 19-13, UK continued its run with a pair of O'Conner kills and one from Brown.
Thomasson led the way for the Wildcats in the third set in a big way with seven kills and no errors. Brown and O'Conner each added three as UK hit .607 with 17 kills in the frame. Bergren had a solo block and assisted on Kentucky's additional two blocks in the fame, while Franklin had two put-backs.
Kentucky fell behind 6-2 in the fourth set, a deficit which was extended to five at 9-4. A Franklin kill and an Ole Miss attack error put UK within three at 9-6. UK got to within two at 10-8 thanks to an O'Conner attack that rolled on the net and dropped in front of the Ole Miss defense. A Rebel attack error brought UK within one at 12-11, but Ole Miss answered to push its lead to three at 16-13. The Wildcats stormed right back though to tie it at 16-16 thanks to a kill by O'Conner. An attack error by Ole Miss gave Kentucky its first lead of the set to cap a 5-1 run. The run continued on a Franklin service ace for a 19-17 lead. A Thomasson kill maintained UK's two-point lead at 22-20, but UM answered with two consecutive points to tie the set at 22-22. UK tallied three of the last four points, with two Thomasson kills to seal a 25-23 win.
Thomasson's six kills led UK in the final set, while Franklin added three and Tronick two. Thomasson and Franklin also logged a service ace, while Bergren and Brown teamed up for the Wildcats' lone block. Kentucky out-hit Ole Miss, .353 to .206.
UK got out to a slow start in the first set and trailed 5-1, but scored five of the next six to tie the set at 6-6. Ole Miss scored the next three, but the Wildcats answered to stay within two at 12-10. The Rebels extended their lead to as many as six at 19-12. Kentucky answered right back with a 5-1 run to get to within three at 20-17, thanks to three Ole Miss attack errors and two O'Conner kills. After a Mississippi timeout, the Rebels rallied off five of the next eight points to win, 25-20.
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