Volleyball Falls in Top-15 Battle to No. 7 Florida
LEXINGTON, Ky. - In a battle between the top two teams in the Southeastern Conference, the No. 15 Kentucky volleyball team lost to No. 7 Florida, 3-1 (19-25, 25-14, 25-21, 25-16) Sunday in front of a season-high 2,743 fans in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (23-5, 12-3 SEC) responded to a loss in the first set with a 25-14 victory in the second set. The Gators (21-3, 15-0 SEC) were held to their fewest points in a set this season. UF answered with a narrow win in the third set before pulling away in the final frame to extend its winning streak to 16 consecutive matches, while UK's winning streak ended at five.
"Give Florida credit for getting more consistent as the match went on," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "We played at a very high level for a good portion of the match but didn't sustain it at the end, and that's something we have to improve on as we go down the stretch. We have to get back in the gym and improve and make adjustments and get ready to go to Mississippi State this weekend."
Kentucky travels to Mississippi State on Nov. 23 and Auburn on Nov. 26. The Wildcats return home for the regular season finale, a Senior Night contest vs. Arkansas, on Nov. 29 at 7 p.m. ET.
Competing against its second top-seven opponent of the season, UK hit .240 with 50 kills, while the defense had six blocks and 37 digs. UF recorded a .286 hitting percentage with 54 kills along with totaling 44 digs and 10 blocks as a team.
Two Wildcats reached double-digit kills, led by junior Shelby Workman's 12 on .391 hitting. Sophomore Anni Thomasson added 11 kills and one block, while both Thomasson and Workman logged five digs. Senior Lauren O'Conner added eight kills.
The UK offense was directed by junior Setter Morgan Bergren, who dished out 38 assists in addition to recording five kills on .714 hitting with six digs and two block assists.
Freshman Kaz Brown's four block assists and senior Jackie Napper's eight digs led the defensive effort. Freshman Ashley Dusek had six digs. Brown, along with junior Kayla Tronick, also tallied four kills and Tronick assisted on three of Kentucky's blocks.
The Wildcats used a big 9-0 run to win the second set, 25-14. The set began with five ties and another back-and-forth battle, but that quickly changed with a 9-0 Kentucky run. The run began with back-to-back kills by Thomasson, who totaled three in the scoring streak. Florida recovered to trade points with UK, but could not get any closer. The Wildcats scored two in row twice, with a Thomasson kill and a UF attack error to go ahead 19-10, and again on two Florida errors to go ahead 21-11, but neither team could score more than two consecutive. After a Gator service error, a kill by O'Conner sealed the 25-14 win.
Thomasson's five kills on .714 hitting led UK to 14 kills with a .591 hitting percentage. The Wildcats had three blocks, with a pair of block assists each from Brown and Tronick. Napper and Dusek both had three digs and Bergren dished out 12 assists.
After falling behind 2-0, the Wildcats rallied to take a 5-4 lead in the match's first set. Florida regained the lead at 7-6, but a UF attack error tied the set before a Thomasson kill gave UK the lead again. The Gators scored the next three to take a 10-8 lead, but back-to-back kills by O'Conner and Workman tied the set again at 11-11. Florida answered with 11 of the next 14 points to take a 22-14 lead, but Kentucky responded with a 5-1 run of their own to cut the deficit to 23-19. Out of a UF timeout, the Gators tallied the next two points for the first-set win.
Florida used a 7-3 run in the middle of the third set to earn a 25-21 win. UK jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the frame on a Bergren kill. Kentucky held its lead until Florida gained a 7-6 advantage before the Gators extended their lead to two at 10-8 and four at 14-10. A kill by Tronick got UK within three at 15-12, and while the Wildcats could not get closer, they did not let Florida increase its lead past five. Trailing 23-17, two Gator attack errors and a Thomasson kill cut the deficit to three at 23-20, but Kentucky could not close the gap any further.
Florida closed the match with a 25-16 win in the fourth set. The Gators opened with an early 4-1 lead, which they extended to a 11-5 advantage. Back-to-back UF errors got UK to within four at 11-7, and a kill by Dusek and two from Workman helped keep it a four-point match. Workman's second kill made it 15-11, but the Gators answered with a 5-1 run to earn their biggest lead of the set at 20-12. Trailing 23-13, UK scored three of four, with a pair of kills by junior Sara Schwarzwalder and one from Workman before Florida secured the final point for a 25-16 win. Workman finished with five kills in the set on .444 hitting to lead the Wildcats.
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.