Volleyball Hosts Bluegrass Battle to Open Season

Friday, Aug. 29: Butler vs. Virginia Tech, 4 p.m. ET | No. 20 UK vs. Wichita State, 6:30 p.m.
Saturday, Aug. 30: Kentucky vs. Butler, 10 a.m. | Virginia Tech vs. Wichita State, Noon
Saturday, Aug. 30: Butler vs. Wichita State, 6 p.m. | Kentucky vs. Virginia Tech, 8 p.m.

Where: Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.
Tickets: UKathletics.com/tickets | 800-928-2287 or 859-257-1818
SEC Network +: UK vs Wichita State | UK vs. Butler | UK vs. Virginia Tech
Live Stats: UKathletics.com
Match Info: Match Notes (PDF)
Cat Scratches:
China Trip Giving UK a Head Start as Season Begins
Preseason Countdown:
What UK Volleyball Means to Me
Additional Info:
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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The No. 19 University of Kentucky volleyball team opens the 2014 campaign - its 38th season as a varsity sport at UK - with the four-team Bluegrass Battle Aug. 29-30 in Memorial Coliseum.

The Wildcats, Wichita State, Butler and Virginia Tech, and the four teams will play a total of six matches in the span of 30 hours. Each team will play each other once in the round-robin tournament.

All three of UK’s matches, Friday vs. Wichita State at 6:30 p.m. and Saturday vs. Butler at 10 a.m. and vs. Virginia Tech at 8 p.m. will air on the SEC Network +, available to SEC Network subscribers on SECNetwork.com and Watch ESPN. Additionally, live stats for all six matches can be found on UKathletics.com.

Kentucky’s match vs. Butler on Aug. 30 at 10 a.m., along with the Virginia Tech vs. Wichita State matchup at noon will feature free admission. Tickets to matches Friday and Saturday evening are available at the UK Athletics Ticket Office at the Joe Craft Center.

- UK has won 11 of its last 12 home openers and eight of nine under head coach Craig Skinner
- In its home-opening weekend in 2013, UK went a perfect 3-0, with wins over VCU, Liberty and ETSU, and 5-1 in its opening homestand
-Since Skinner arrived in 2005, the Wildcats have gone 31-4 in their opening homestands

Memorial Coliseum has been the home of the Wildcats for all 38 volleyball seasons, and the historic venue has provided the Wildcats with a home court advantage unlike any other.

Last year, Kentucky was 14-4 at home. The record includes a 7-2 mark in SEC contests, a 3-2 upset win over then-No. 4 and undefeated Minnesota and a five-set win over in-state rival Louisville.

Overall: 378-148 (38th season) .718
Skinner Era: 116-27 (10th year) .816

Click image for UK's Bluegrass Battle Match Notes (PDF)

RECORD WATCHING (Entering 2014)
- Head Coach Craig Skinner, with 202 career victories, is eight shy of becoming UK’s all-time winningest coach
- Senior Jackie Napper has 979 career digs, 21 shy of 1,000 for her career
- Senior Lauren O’Conner, who leads all current SEC players with 825 kills, is 175 shy of becoming the 15th Wildcat to notch 1,000 career kills
- Junior Morgan Bergren is third all-time in the rally scoring era in UK history with 1,363 career assists

- 2013 Record: 28-7 (15-3, 1st in Missouri Valley)
- Head Coach: Chris Lamb

Series History vs. WSU: UK leads, 1-0
- Last Meeting: UK won 3-0, 9/7/02, Ames, Iowa
- Neutral Site: UK leads, 2-0

- 2013 Record: 24-8, (11-5, 4th in Big East)
- Head Coach: Sharon Clark

Series History vs. Butler: UK leads, 4-1
- Last Meeting: UK won 3-1, 10/18/01, Lexington
- In Lexington: UK leads, 3-1
- Neutral Site: UK leads, 1-0

- 2013 Record: 22-12, (10-10, 9th in ACC)
- Head Coach: Chris Riley (9th season)

Series History vs. VTU: UK leads, 4-0
- Last Meeting: UK won 3-0, 9/3/11, Lexington
- In Lexington: UK leads, 1-0
- In Blacksburg: UK leads, 1-0
- Neutral Site: UK leads, 2-0
- Under Skinner (Since 2005): UK leads, 1-0

Tenth-year head coach Craig Skinner enters the 2014 season just eight wins shy of becoming Kentucky’s all-time winningest coach. With 202 victories, he is second on the program’s all-time wins list, seven behind Kathy DeBoer, who tallied 209 in nine seasons from 1984-92.

- Skinner won his 200th career match in a 3-0 win at Ole Miss on Nov. 17, 2013
- Skinner’s 200th career win was also UK’s 20th of the 2013 campaign, which marked the third consecutive 20-win season and sixth in the past seven years
- Kentucky has totaled 17 or more victories in all nine seasons of Skinner’s tenure, setting a program record for consecutive 17-win seasons, previously set from 1977-84 and again from 1987-93

When: Sept. 5-6, 2014
Where: Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.
Teams: #19 Kentucky, #5 Southern California, #23 Creighton, Northern Iowa
Live Video: SEC Network +, SECNetwork.com
Live Stats: UKathletics.com

Sept. 5: UK vs. Northern Iowa, 11 a.m.
Northern Iowa vs. Creighton, 5 p.m.
UK vs. USC, 7 p.m.
Sept. 6: Creighton vs. USC, 11 a.m.
Northern Iowa vs. USC, 5:30 p.m.
UK vs. Creighton, 7:30 p.m.

At 19th in the preseason top-25, UK is ranked in the AVCA Preseason Coaches’ Poll for a program-record third consecutive year. It is the fifth time in six years Kentucky has earned a place in the preseason poll, all under head coach Craig Skinner. Before 2009, Kentucky’s first preseason ranking under Skinner, UK had been ranked in the preseason just three times dating back to 1982.

- Skinner’s Wildcats have been ranked in the preseason, weekly or final poll 61 times by the AVCA
- In 2013, Kentucky debuted at No. 17 and was ranked in the top 25 every week for the seventh time in program history.
- UK will face five teams ranked in the preseason poll: No. 5 Southern California, No. 10 Florida, No. 15 Missouri, No. 20 North Carolina and No. 23 Creighton. UK will face USC, UF, Mizzou and CU all at home in Memorial Coliseum.

Among teams ranked in the AVCA top 25, UK faces the second-toughest strength of schedule, based on the 2013 winning percentage of teams’ non-conference opponents. Kentucky’s non-conference foes went 324-104 in 2013, and seven made the NCAA Tournament, headlined by USC’s trip to the Regional Finals.

At the beginning of the summer, the Kentucky volleyball team and staff went on a two-week trip to China , where they combined competition, education and culture into a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Wildcats visited five cities, played seven matches against some of the elite Chinese professional teams and went on an educational journey along the way. The team visited historical sites and landmarks and took a class that began a week before they left and continued in China.

For the student-athletes, the trip was not only an opportunity to bond with their teammates and get better on the court in preparation for the 2014 season, it was a chance to experience an entirely different culture and lifestyle and get out of their comfort zones.

The Wildcats are led by a pair of seniors, Lauren O’Conner and Jackie Napper. Both Kentucky natives, the duo has combined to play in 195 matches in three years at UK.

- O’Conner, from Taylor Mill, is a three-time All-SEC Academic Team honoree and was named to the All-SEC Freshman Team in 2011. The outside hitter played in 30 matches last season and amassed 220 kills, the fourth-highest total on the team. O’Conner enters 2014 with 825 kills, 175 shy of becoming the 15th Wildcat of the 1,000 career kill club.
- A Louisville native, Napper started at libero in all 31 matches in 2013 and earned All-SEC Academic team honors while leading the team with 443 digs. A member of the USA Collegiate National Team that competed this summer in Minneapolis, Napper needs 21 digs to reach 1,000 in her career.

Junior Morgan Bergren was named to the Preseason All-SEC team, as voted upon by the league’s head coaches. Bergren started all 31 matches for the Wildcats in 2013 and ranked fourth in the SEC with 1,215 assists. She was second on the team with 24 service aces to go along with 192 digs, 130 kills and 77 blocks. This summer, she traveled to Beijing, China, to compete with USA Volleyball on the U.S. Collegiate National Team.

UK was also voted to finish second in the SEC Preseason Coaches’ Poll.

Anni Thomasson had a freshman campaign for the ages in 2013. The first-year star from Newark, Ohio was second on the team with 242 kills, a 2.24 kills/set rate and 286 points and third with 19 service aces and 251 digs. On Nov. 10, she made her presence known nationally, with a record-breaking outing against LSU.

Thomasson tallied 30 kills and 22 digs to become what is believed to be the first freshman in program history and just the second in UK history to notch 30 or more kills and 20 or more digs in a single match.

She is the first SEC player to turn the 30-20 trick since Alabama’s Kayla Fitterer in 2010. The last UK player to record 30 kills in a match was Sarah Spinner’s 36 in 2004.

UK is one of just 13 teams in the country to appear in each of the last nine NCAA Tournaments. UK joins the following schools in achieving that feat: California, Colorado State, Florida, Hawaii, Louisville, Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State, Southern California, Stanford, Texas and Washington.

In 2013, UK totaled 286.5 blocks for a 2.58 blocks per set rate, while it held opponents to 230.5 blocks and 2.08 per set. The Wildcats led the SEC with an average of 2.88 blocks per set in conference action.

UK out-blocked its opponent 17 times, with wins in 16 contests and 11 victories in SEC play. Kentucky was 6-8 in matches where they notched equal or fewer blocks then their opponent.

Nineteen blocks at Mississippi State was the most since UK recorded 20.5 in 2011 and the most in a three-set match in the 25-point, rally scoring era in Wildcat history.

The Wildcats earned 15 3-0 victories a season ago. The 15 sweeps were fueled by a seven-match winning streak, where UK posted five 3-0 wins. The streak included a run in which Kentucky recorded victories in 19 of 20 sets. After claiming the fifth frame in their upset win over No. 4 Minnesota, only Alabama was able to win a set against the Wildcats.

In UK’s 11 matches that went longer than three frames, Kentucky played four four-set contests and seven matches that went the distance.