No. 15 UK Travels to No. 2 Florida, South Carolina

Oct. 10, 2013

UK at No. 2 Florida: Friday, Oct. 11, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. ET
UK at South Carolina: Sunday, Oct. 13, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. ET Radio: at Florida | at South Carolina
TV: at Florida – Fox Sports South
Live Video: at Florida | at South Carolina
Live Stats: at Florida | at South Carolina
Match Info: Match Notes
Additional Info: Twitter | Instagram | Facebook | 2013 Fact Book

The No. 15 University of Kentucky volleyball team will have its toughest test of the season when it takes its seven-match winning streak on the road to No. 2 Florida on Friday at 6:30 p.m. ET and South Carolina on Sunday at 1:30 p.m.

UK, 12-3 on the year, is coming off home sweeps of Ole Miss and Tennessee to extend its perfect start in Southeastern Conference play to 4-0. The league mark is the best for UK since opening to a 9-0 mark in 2009.

Florida boasts a 15-1 record, with a 4-0 SEC mark. Last weekend, UF swept Texas A&M and Alabama to extend its winning streak to 10 matches, a string that includes nine 3-0 sweeps. South Carolina sits at 10-6 and is 2-2 in the SEC. At home last weekend, USC lost a 3-2 decision to Arkansas before garnering a 3-1 win over Texas A&M.

Friday’s contest in Gainesville, Fla., will air live on Fox Sports South, while Sunday’s match in Columbia, S.C., will feature a live video stream on A live audio broadcast and live stats for both of UK’s matches this weekend can be found on

Second-ranked Florida is 15-1 on the season with a perfect 4-0 Southeastern Conference record. On a 10-match winning streak, the Gators have won all but three of their contests by 3-0 scores. UF’s league mark includes wins over Mississippi State, Ole Miss, Texas A&M and Alabama. Florida State is a common opponent between the Wildcats and Gators, with UF besting its in-state rivals 3-0.

UF is led by Mary Wise, in her 23rd season as head coach. An assistant coach at Kentucky from 1986-89 and associate head coach in 19889-90, she is the nation’s winningest coach since she was named the Gators’ head coach in 1991. Wise was named AVCA National Head Coach of the Year in 1992 and ‘96 has earned SEC Coach of the Year honors 13 times. She has led Florida to the Final Four seven times and has won 20 SEC titles.

The Gators are led by senior Chloe Mann’s 173 kills and a torrid .527 hitting percentage in addition to 43 blocks. Sophomore Ziva Recek has 160 kills for a team-best 3.56 kills per set average, while her 105 digs is second on the team. Junior Taylor Unroe’s 204 digs is a squad high, while sophomore Simone Antwi leads the Gators with 45 blocks on the year. Senior Taylor Brauneis has dished out 523 assists.

The Kentucky-Florida rivalry is the only SEC series in which the Wildcats trail. UF holds a 46-12 edge in the all-time series, with two wins last season and six victories in the last seven contests.

South Carolina boasts a 10-6 mark, which includes a 2-2 conference record and a 7-1 record at home. USC’s league contests include a 3-2 loss to Arkansas and a 3-1 win over Texas A&M at home last weekend. To open SEC play, the Gamecocks lost a 3-0 decision to Missouri and downed Tennessee, 3-1, both on the road. Before USC hosts UK, South Carolina entertains Georgia on Friday night.

USC is led by Scott Swanson, in his third season at the helm in Columbia. He led the Gamecocks to an 18-14 record last season, which marked the program’s second winning season in the last decade. Swanson holds a 42-36 record at South Carolina going into this weekend’s matches.

Senior Juliete Thevenin leads the Gamecocks with 293 kills on the year for a 4.88 kills per set average, both of which are twice as many as any of her teammates. Sophomore Darian Dozier has knotted 128 kills for a team best .352 hitting clip while adding a team high 76 blocks. Michae Christiaansen, a junior, has 231 digs and 12 service aces, both to lead the squad. Thevenin has also added 11 service aces, which ranks second on the team. Redshirt sophomore Kellie McNeil has 609 assists on the year.

The Wildcats are 28-18 all-time against the Gamecocks, which includes a 3-0 home win in 2012’s lone meeting. UK has won three straight meetings, 10 of the last 11 and 15 of the last 17. In 2011, the last time the two clubs met in Columbia, Kentucky claimed a 3-1 victory. Head coach Craig Skinner boasts a 13-2 mark in his career against USC.

In its SEC home opener, Kentucky defeated Ole Miss 3-0 on Friday before a sweep of Tennessee on Sunday. The 2-0 weekend extended UK’s winning streak to seven matches, a stretch that has seen the Wildcats win 19 of the last 20 sets.

The Wildcats cruised to a 3-0 sweep (25-13, 25-16, 25-8) of Ole Miss in front of a raucous, season-best crowd of 2,400. UK  dominated the front line to secure a 7-2 advantage in blocks over the Rebels. UK was just as good on the offensive side of things, with a 41-24 kills advantage and a hitting percentage of .439 that was over .350 above Mississippi’s .078.

Sunday, UK used another strong offensive performance and a dominating service game to sweep Tennessee 3-0 (25-14, 25-16, 25-19). Kentucky hit .348 with 42 kills and held the Tennessee offense to 31 kills on a .139 hitting clip. Defensively, the Wildcats had 8.5 blocks as a team, while holding UT to just 3.0. The Wildcats also had a 45-31 advantage in digs and had 10 service aces to the Lady Vols’ one.

After more than a week off, Kentucky returns to the road for a mid-week outing with Georgia on Oct. 23. The two teams will square off at 6 p.m. ET in a contest that will be broadcast live on ESPNU.

UK has a 36-24 lead in the all-time series against UGA, including 15 straight wins dating back to 2005.

UK has been honored with weekly honors four times by the SEC this season. Senior Whitney Billings was named the SEC Player of the Week on Sept. 16 and 29, while Alexandra Morgan earned Defensive Player of the Week accolades on Sept. 29 and Anni Thomasson garnered the Freshman of the Week award on Sept. 16.

To earn her second honor of the season, Billings was Kentucky’s impact player en route to wins over Morehead State, Alabama and Auburn. The senior logged a pair of double-doubles and reached double-figures in the kills column in each of the three wins. In the two road victories in league play, Billings averaged 4.43 kills per set on a sizzling .377 hitting percentage. She also added 3.14 digs per frame and 1.43 blocks per stanza. The .448 hitting percentage against Alabama marked a season-best in a four-set match. Her six blocks at Alabama marked a season-high, while the 17 kills was a season-best for a three-set match in the sweep of Auburn.

Morgan was terrific for the Cats in a 3-0 week. Morgan averaged 2.10 kills per set while hitting on a .472 hitting percentage. She added 17 blocks and 11 digs for the week for an average of 1.10 digs and 1.70 blocks per frame. Her nine blocks in the win at Auburn marked a season-high and just one off her career-best of 10. The nine blocks was also just one rejection shy of a single-match record in UK history for a three-set match. In the two SEC wins, Morgan averaged 2.14 kills on .429 hitting. She added a squad-best 2.14 blocks per stanza in helping UK to a pair of wins in her hometown state.

Billings was named Player of the Week for the first time when after a three-match week that saw the Wildcats down in-state rival Louisville and No. 4 Minnesota. She had 25 kills, 12 digs, a season-high five blocks and a .467 attack-percentage in the upset win over the Golden Gophers. The senior also posted double digit digs in each of the three matches.

Thommason earned Freshman of the Week honors when she provided a spark on the floor for the Wildcats in the three-contest week which included wins over U of L and No. 4 UM. She had double-doubles in two of the matches, with a career-high 13 kill, 16-dig performance in the win over Louisville. Her 3.08 digs per frame was second on the team, and Thommason was served at 41 times with no errors.

Ninth-year head coach Craig Skinner is the school’s second all-time winningest coach with 192 career victories entering the weekend. Kathy DeBoer tallied 209 in nine seasons at the helm from 1984-92. In the Craig Skinner era, the Blue and White have amassed 17 or more victories in all eight seasons, and have captured 20 or more wins in five of the last six years.

For 37 seasons of Kentucky volleyball, Memorial Coliseum has been home for the Wildcats. UK has a favorable record in the friendly confines of the esteemed venue.

This year, Kentucky is 8-1 at home. The mark includes a 2-0 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. The Wildcats also won their seventh Kentucky Classic on their home court to open the home campaign.

Overall: 370-145 (37th season) .718
Skinner era: 110-24 (9th year) .821

Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Seattle, Wash., from the Lexington Region. This marks the second time in three seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event. Tickets for the event are available now at