No. 16 UK Faces Road Tests at Arkansas, No. 24 Texas A&M

Oct. 23, 2014

LEXINGTON, Ky. - The No. 16 Kentucky volleyball team returns to the road for a pair of Southeastern Conference contests, at Arkansas on Oct. 24 and at Texas A&M on Oct. 26 on the SEC Network. The Wildcats and Razorbacks square off at 8 p.m. ET, while the nationally-televised top-25 showdown vs. the Aggies will be at Noon ET.

MATCH CENTER
#16 UK at ARKANSAS, #24 TEXAS A&M
Kentucky at Arkansas
Friday, Oct. 24 - 8 p.m. ET
Barnhill Arena, Fayetteville, Ark.

Kentucky at Texas A&M
Sunday, Oct. 25 - Noon ET
Reed Arena, College Station, Texas

Match Info: Match Notes (PDF)
COVERAGE
TV: SEC Network (at Texas A&M)
SEC Network +:
at Arkansas | at Texas A&M
Online Audio: at Arkansas | at Texas A&M
Live Stats: at Arkansas | at Texas A&M
Text Updates: Subscribe

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Sunday's contest in College Station, Texas, will air on the SEC Network with Nell Fortner and Paul Sunderland calling the action. Both matches will be streamed live on the SEC Network+, available to SEC Network subscribers on SECNetwork.com and Watch ESPN. Mandy Robbe will also have an audio broadcast of both contests on UKathletics.com. Live stats for Friday's match in Fayetteville, Arkansas can be found on ArkansasRazorbacks.com, while 12thMan.com will have live stats on Sunday.

Kentucky (17-3, 7-1 SEC) is coming off a sweep at Georgia on Oct. 17 and a 3-2 loss to LSU on Oct. 19. The five-set defeat to the Tigers snapped UK's 11-match winning streak, the second-longest in head coach Craig Skinner's 10-year tenure. The Wildcats are second in the SEC standings, one of two teams with fewer than two losses in conference play.

Arkansas (11-9, 5-2 SEC) looks to rebound from a 3-0 loss at No. 8 Florida after it had won three in a row, including a 3-1 victory at then-No. 20 Texas A&M on Oct. 15. Texas A&M (12-6, 4-3 SEC) is ranked No. 24 in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll after a 3-2 win at South Carolina on Oct. 19. The Wildcats beat the Aggies, ranked No. 21 at the time, 3-0 in Lexington on Oct. 5.

PLENTY OF HISTORY BETWEEN UK'S SKINNER, ARKANSAS' PULLIZA
Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner and Arkansas head coach Robert Pulliza were teammates at Ball State in 1993. Both played four seasons for the Cardinals under legendary head coach Dr. Don Shondell. Pulliza also served as an assistant coach under Skinner at Kentucky from 2005-07 and helped UK reach three NCAA Tournaments. Additionally, current UK assistant coach Anders Nelson was an assistant coach for the Razorbacks during the 2012 season.

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

WILDCATS IN THE POLLS
Kentucky is ranked 16th in the latest AVCA Coaches' Poll. The Wildcats have been ranked in each of the last 26 polls, 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. Kentucky is one of three Southeastern Conference teams in the top 25.

UK is No. 9 in the third NCAA RPI ranking of the season, announced Oct. 20. Used to rank teams based on record and strength of schedule, UK is one of two conference teams in the top 10.

SCOUTING ARKANSAS
Arkansas is 11-9 in 2014 and 5-2 in conference play. The Razorbacks, who are 8-3 at home, saw their three match SEC winning streak snapped with a 3-0 loss at No. 8 Florida on Sunday. Arkansas' conference season was highlighted by a 3-1 win at then-No. 20 Texas A&M on Oct. 15.

The Razorbacks are led by Meredith Hays' 359 kills on .203 hitting. Chanell Clark-Bibbls is second on the team with 160 kills and a team-high .322 hitting percentage, 80 blocks and 17 service aces. Monica Bollinger leads Arkansas defensively with 300 digs, while Bailee Hankenson has directed the offense with 673 assists.

Arkansas is coached by Robert Pulliza, in his seventh season. Pulliza, a UK assistant from 2005-07, owns a 101-104 record after leading the Razorbacks to back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances in 2012 and `13.

SERIES HISTORY VS. THE RAZORBACKS
Kentucky leads the all-time series vs. Arkansas, 18-15. UK won last year's lone matchup, 3-1 in Fayetteville after Arkansas won both contests in 2012. Prior to 2012, the Wildcats had won 10 in a row in the series. The series is tied 8-8 in Fayetteville, while Skinner is 14-4 all-time vs. Arkansas.

Last season, on the strengths of 15 blocks and a balanced offensive attack, UK posted a 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-16, 25-18) win at Arkansas on Nov. 1. After a pair of close, back-and-forth sets to begin the match, the Wildcats closed out the contest over the Razorbacks with two strong frames for a 3-1 win. Offensively, UK posted 59 kills, hit .388 and held the Razorbacks to 52 kills on .197 hitting. UK servers notched four service aces, including one that was the winner in the first set. Kentucky had a 52-45 edge in digs and limited UA to two aces.

SCOUTING NO. 24 TEXAS A&M
No. 24 Texas A&M enters the weekend with a 12-6 record and a 4-3 mark in SEC action. The Aggies beat South Carolina, 3-2, on Oct. 19 after back-to-back losses at No. 9 Florida and vs. Arkansas. A&M opened conference play with wins vs. Auburn and at Tennessee before a 3-0 loss at Kentucky on Oct. 5. Texas A&M plays host to Georgia Friday.

The Aggies are led by Shelby Sullivan's 200 kills on .380 hitting and 71 blocks. Jazzmin Babers, who has 148 kills on .356 hitting also has posted 71 blocks, while Angela Lowak owns a team-high 17 service aces. Setter Stephanie Aiple, a two-time SEC Freshman of the Week, has dished out 630 assists. Defensively, Emily Hardesty's 182 digs are a team best.

Texas A&M is coached by Laurie Corbelli, in her 21st year in College Station. Corbelli holds a record of 446-215 with the Aggies and an all-time record of 546-321 in her 28-year coaching career.

SERIES HISTORY VS. THE TIGERS
After a 3-0 win at home on Oct. 5, Kentucky owns a 7-5 edge in the all-time series vs. Texas A&M, with victories in the last seven 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 4-0 all-time vs. Texas A&M at home and 5-0 under head coach Craig Skinner.

On Oct. 5, Kentucky used late-set heroics to rally past No. 21 Texas A&M in sets two and three en route to a 3-0 (25-20, 28-26, 30-28) win. In the third set, UK faced set-point on five occasions before a Kaz Brown-Lauren O'Conner block capped the frame and the win for the Wildcats. O'Conner paced the attack with a match-high 17 kills, and with her third kill of the night she became the 15th player in program history to amass 1,000 in a career. Sophomore Anni Thomasson had eight kills, 13 digs and a career-high six aces, the most aces in a three-set match since Sarah Rumely equaled that total in a win over Murray State in 2009.

UP NEXT: VS. TENNESSEE
Kentucky returns home to host rival Tennessee on Oct. 29 at 8 p.m. ET. Broadcast on ESPNU, the match between the two SEC rivals is the annual DanceBlue Match. To support the on-campus organization DanceBlue, the team will raise awareness and money to benefit children with pediatric cancer who are treated at UK's Pediatric Oncology Hematology Clinic.

LAST TIME OUT: UK SWEEPS GEORGIA, FALLS TO LSU
Last week, UK recorded a 3-0 sweep at Georgia before a 3-2 loss to LSU at home on Sunday. The win at Georgia was Kentucky's 11th consecutive victory, the second-longest winning streak under head coach Craig Skinner.

Against the Bulldogs, UK was paced by 10 or more kills from three different players and a career-day for freshman Kaz Brown. UK logged its 11th-straight victory to amass 17 wins in a season for the 10th-straight year under Craig Skinner. Brown posted career-high totals in kills (8) and hitting percentage (.667) while not committing an error. She also led the team with five blocks. Junior Sara Schwarzwalder posted 10 kills on a .769 hitting percentage - which also ranks as a career-best total. She logged three kills, and UK's middle blockers accounted for eight of the team's nine rejections.

Sunday vs. LSU, UK held a 2-0 lead before the Tigers claimed the final three sets. Brown had eight kills on .500 hitting and added five blocks. Sophomore Anni Thomasson registered a double-double with 10 kills and a season-high 21 digs, one shy of matching her career-best total of 22 which she set a season ago against LSU.

GETTING OFFENSIVE
The UK offense has posted a 14.27 kills per set rate, the best in the SEC and a .265 hitting percentage, fourth 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 245 kills for a 3.36 kills per set rate, the ninth-best in the SEC. Senior Lauren O'Conner is 10th with 3.14 kills per set and 223 kills, while sophomore Anni Thomasson is 12th with a 2.93 kills per set rate and 214 kills.

The offensive charge has been directed by junior Morgan Bergren, who is fourth in the SEC with 11.15 assists per set and has dished out 814 assists in 2014. In total, UK's 13.04 assists per set rate as a team is the best in the conference.

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.