No. 13 UK Hosts Alabama, No. 21 Texas A&M on Alumni Weekend

Oct. 2, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. - On the heels of a 2-0 start to Southeastern Conference play on the road, the Kentucky volleyball team returns home to host Alabama and No. 21 Texas A&M on Alumni Weekend in Memorial Coliseum. The Wildcats and Crimson Tide face off Oct. 3 at 7 p.m. ET, while UK hosts the Aggies on Oct. 5 at 6 p.m. on the SEC Network.

#13 UK vs. ALABAMA, #21 TEXAS A&M MATCH CENTER
Friday, Oct. 3 - 7 p.m. ET: vs. Alabama
Sunday, Oct. 5 - 6 p.m. ET: vs. Texas A&M
Where: Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.
Tickets: UKathletics.com/tickets
Match Info: Match Notes (PDF)

COVERAGE
TV: SEC Network (vs. Texas A&M)
SEC Network +: Alabama | Texas A&M
Radio:
Fox Sports 1580 AM
Live Stats: Alabama | Texas A&M
Text Updates: Subscribe

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Sunday's match will air on the SEC Network, with Paul Sunderland and Nell Fortner on the call. Both matches can be seen on the SEC Network +, available to SEC Network subscribers on SECNetwork.com and Watch ESPN. Dave Baker and former UK coach and current AVCA President Kathy DeBoer will have the call Friday night. Additionally, Dick Gabriel and Mandy Robbe will have a radio broadcast on 1580 AM in Lexington, and live stats will be available on UKathletics.com.

Alumni Weekend will serve as the backdrop as UK opens SEC action at home. As part of the weekend's events, the former Wildcats that return to Lexington will be honored between the second and third sets of Friday's match vs. Alabama.

On a six-match winning streak, the Wildcats are coming off back-to-back 3-1 road wins to open SEC competition, at South Carolina and LSU. UK was led by senior Lauren O'Conner, who posted 39 kills and committed just nine errors. The Taylor Mill, Ky., native averaged 4.88 kills per set and a squad-best 5.19 points per frame and is just 18 kills shy of becoming the 15th member of the 1,000-kill club in school history.

WILDCATS IN THE POLLS
Kentucky is ranked 13th in the latest AVCA Coaches' Poll, its highest ranking since 2011, when the Wildcats were also No. 13. UK has risen one spot in each of the past three polls after it entered the season at No. 19. The Wildcats have been ranked in each of the last 23 polls, tied for the third-longest streak in school history and the second-longest in head coach Craig Skinner's 10 years at the helm. From 2008-2010, UK was ranked for a program-record 31 consecutive weeks. The current streak goes back to the final poll of the 2012 season, including every week in 2013, the sixth time in team history the Wildcats have been ranked in every poll in a season.

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

SCOUTING ALABAMA
Alabama, receiving votes in the latest AVCA Coaches' Poll, is 14-2 on the season and a perfect 2-0 in SEC play. The Crimson Tide opened league action with a 3-1 win at Georgia before a 3-1 home victory over LSU on Sept. 28. Bama has won nine consecutive matches after it opened the year on a 5-0 run. Alabama's two losses, splitting its two winning streaks, both came on Sept. 6, vs. LIU and at Virginia.

The Crimson Tide are led by Krystal Rivers, the reigning two-time SEC Player of the Week, who has 263 kills on .313 hitting. She is second in the SEC with 4.38 kills per set rate and 60 service aces. Setter Sierra Wilson has dished out 685 assists to lead the league, while Kryssi Daniels' 142 digs and Brittany Thomas' 141 lead the defensive effort. Rivers and Bruna Evangelista lead the squad with 44 blocks apiece.

UA is coached by Ed Allen, in his fourth season at the helm. With a 67-46 record, he led the Crimson Tide to a 24-10 record in 2013 and their first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007. Alabama's 24 wins a season ago were its most since 1995.

SERIES HISTORY VS. THE CRIMSON TIDE
Kentucky leads the all-time series vs. Alabama, 26-14 after two 3-1 wins in 2013. UK, who has won two in a row in the series and nine of the last 11, owns a 13-4 edge in Lexington. The Wildcats are also 12-8 all-time in Tuscaloosa, while the Crimson Tide are 2-1 in neutral site contests. Under 10th-year head coach Craig Skinner, Kentucky is 11-5 vs. Alabama.

On Sept. 29, 2013, UK dropped the opening set on the road at Alabama but rallied for a 3-1 (15-25, 25-19, 25-19, 25-23) victory led by Whitney Billings' match-high 14 kills on .448 hitting along with a team-high six blocks and eight digs. Lauren O'Conner added 11 kills on .310 hitting and six block assists. Setter Morgan Bergren chipped in with eight kills, 36 assists and six digs.

On Oct. 27 last season, Kentucky used a comeback victory in the fourth set, capped by two of UK's season-high 15 blocks to notch a 3-1 (25-17, 25-23, 18-25, 25-20) victory over Alabama. Three players registered six or more block assists in the win including eight from Billings and Sara Schwarzwalder, and Alexandra Morgan totaled six. The Wildcats were down 16-15 in the fourth set before coming back to score the next three points and four of the final five to seal the win.

SCOUTING TEXAS A&M
No. 21 Texas A&M is coming off a 3-0 sweep against Auburn in its first conference match of the season. The Aggies, who play at Tennessee Friday, bring a 9-3 record into the weekend, including a pair of wins over top 25-opponents, Southern California and San Diego. A&M dropped two matches to Florida State, but have since bounced back to win its last two matches.

The Aggies are led by Shelby Sullivan's 144 kills and .386 hitting, to go along with 51 blocks and 32 digs on the year. Stephanie Aiple's 399 assists and Victoria Arena's 181 digs are also tops on the team. Angela Lowak owns a team-best nine service aces, along with 84 digs and 103 kills. Emily Hardesty and Jazzmin Babers lead the defensive march for the Aggies with 119 digs and 53 blocks, respectively.

Texas A&M is coached by Laurie Corbelli, in her 21st year in College Station. Corbelli holds a record of 443-212 with the Aggies and an all-time record of 543-318 in her 28-year coaching career.

SERIES HISTORY VS. THE AGGIES
Kentucky owns a 6-5 edge in the all-time series vs. Texas A&M, with victories in the last six matches. Since A&M joined the SEC in 2012, the Wildcats notched 3-2 and 3-0 wins in 2012 before a 3-0 win at home last season. The two teams met seven times from 1982-1988 but didn't play again until an NCAA Tournament matchup in 2011, a 3-0 UK win. Kentucky is 3-0 all-time vs. Texas A&M at home and 4-0 under head coach Craig Skinner.

Last season at home vs. the Aggies in their only meeting, the Wildcats used a balanced effort in a 3-0 (26-24, 25-23, 26-24) sweep on Nov. 22. UK pushed past the visitors in each of the first and third sets, while three players registered double-figure kills and four more tallied double-figure digs. UK had 62 digs, a new program record in a three-set match in the 25-point rally scoring era. Whitney Billings led UK with 15 kills along with 10 digs. Alexandra Morgan added 10 kills on .529 hitting with a team-best eight blocks.

UP NEXT: AT TENNESSEE, VS. AUBURN
Kentucky makes the short trip south for a rivalry matchup with Tennessee on Oct. 10 at 7 p.m. ET. The Wildcats return home two days later to host Auburn on Oct. 12 at Noon on the SEC Network.

LAST TIME OUT: UK OPENS SEC PLAY WITH 3-1 WINS AT LSU, SOUTH CAROLINA
Ignited by a scrappy defensive effort and 17 kills from senior Lauren O'Conner, Kentucky earned a 3-1 (25-22, 23-25, 25-20, 25-17) win at LSU to open SEC action on Sept. 24. UK notched 12 blocks, while five Wildcats had at least eight digs, led by Jackie Napper's 16. At the net, Anni Thomasson, Sara Schwarzwalder and Emily Franklin led UK with four blocks apiece.

Four days later, UK followed that with a 3-1 win at South Carolina on Sunday. O'Conner blitzed the Gamecocks for a career-high 22 kills on a career-best .594 hitting percentage with at least 30 attempts in the match. For the week, O'Conner posted 39 kills and committed just nine errors. She averaged 4.88 kills per set and a squad-best 5.19 points per frame.

GETTING OFFENSIVE
The UK offense has posted a 14.12 kills per set rate, the best in the SEC and a .257 hitting percentage, fifth in the league. Individually, three Wildcats rank in the top 12 in the SEC in kills per set, the most of any school. UK is one of two schools with two players in the top 10 and the only team with three in the top 20.

The offensive production is led by junior Shelby Workman's 169 kills for a 3.25 kills per set rate, the ninth-best in the SEC. Senior Lauren O'Conner is 11th with 3.14 kills per set and 160 kills, while sophomore Anni Thomasson is 12th with a 3.08 kills per set rate and 160 kills.

The offensive charge has been directed by junior Morgan Bergren, who is fourth in the SEC with 10.98 assists per set and has dished out 571 assists in 2014. In total, UK's 12.94 assists per set rate as a team is the best in the conference.

RECORD WATCHING
- Head Coach Craig Skinner became UK's all-time winningest coach with his 210th victory Sept. 13 vs. Georgia Southern.
- Senior Jackie Napper has 1,232 career digs, third in the UK record books in the rally scoring era and fifth in the all-time top 10, 10 digs away from moving up in both lists.
- Senior Lauren O'Conner, who leads all current SEC players with 982 kills, is 18 shy of becoming the 15th Wildcat to notch 1,000 career kills and is fourth in program history in the rally scoring era. O'Conner is also second in attack attempts with 2,746 and fourth with 1,180.5 points.
- Junior Morgan Bergren is third all-time in the rally scoring era and 10th in UK history with 1,934 career assists. Napper is sixth in the rally scoring era with 212 career assists. In the single season record books, Bergren's 571 assists in 2014 is seventh in the modern era.
- O'Conner is fourth in the rally scoring era with 38 solo blocks, eighth with 211 total blocks and eighth with 173 block assists, while junior Sara Schwarzwalder is sixth in the rally scoring era with 224 total blocks and sixth with 210 block assists.
- Schwarzwalder is fifth in the rally scoring era with a .286 attacking percentage.
- O'Conner is third in the rally scoring era with 74 aces.
- Napper is fourth in sets played with 412 and O'Conner fifth with 396 in the rally scoring era.