Final Regular Season Roadtrip Sends No. 17 UK to Mississippi

Nov. 14, 2013

UK at Mississippi State: Friday, Nov. 15, 2013 at 8 p.m. ET
UK vs. Ole Miss: Sunday, Nov. 17, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ET Radio: at Mississippi State | at Ole Miss
Live Video : at Mississippi State | at Ole Miss
Live Stats : at Mississippi State | at Ole Miss
Match Info: Match Notes
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For the final time in the 2013 regular season, No. 17 University of Kentucky goes to the road, for weekend contests at Mississippi State and Ole Miss. The Wildcats face the Bulldogs at 8 p.m. ET Friday, while the Rebels entertain UK Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

Both of this weekend’s matches will feature a live radio stream and live stats, both on A video stream will be available for Friday’s outing on, while will stream Sunday’s affair.

The Wildcats are 18-6 and 10-3 in SEC action. UK is coming off a 2-0 homestand, which started with a 3-0 sweep of South Carolina and was capped by a 3-2, comeback win over LSU. Freshman Anni Thomasson, who had 30 kills and 22 digs in the win over the Tigers, was rewarded with SEC Player of the Week honors.

The Bulldogs sport an 11-15 record overall and a 2-10 mark in league play. MSU lost both contests last weekend, 3-1 to Ole Miss and 3-0 to Texas A&M, both at home in Starkville. The Rebels, who are an even 13-13 and have a 13-13 conference record, are coming off 3-1 road win at Tennessee before a 3-1 loss at home to Texas A&M. Ole Miss hosts Georgia Friday before entertaining Kentucky.

Mississippi State is 11-15 on the season with a Southeastern Conference record of 2-10. The Bulldogs, who are 8-6 in Starkville, Miss., have lost six in a row, a streak that started with a 3-0 defeat to Kentucky in Lexington on Oct. 25 and includes the last two at home to Ole Miss, 3-1 and Texas A&M, 3-0. MSU’s two league wins have come against South Carolina and Tennessee, both sweeps at home.

MSU is led by Jenny Hazelwood, in her fifth season as head coach. A setter for the Bulldogs from 1996-1999, she is the 10th head coach in the program’s history. Her first three seasons saw Mississippi State increase its win total each year, before a 4-25 campaign last season. With 11 wins two seasons ago, she has matched her 2011 win total, her most successful year at MSU.

The Bulldogs are led by Kimmy Gardiner’s 377 kills and 4.10 kills per set average. The freshman, who also has 22 service aces and 228 digs, has been named the SEC Freshman of the Week twice. Fellow freshman Chelsea Duhs leads the squad with a .279 hitting clip in addition to 146 kills. Suzanne Homer, also a freshman, has dished out 858 assists with 27 service aces, while sophomore Alex Warren has a team-high 70 blocks. Sophomore Roxanne McVey’s 493 digs are a team best. The team includes just one junior and one senior.

Kentucky leads the all-time series against Mississippi State by a 42-2 margin and is 14-2 in road contests. The Wildcats have won three straight meetings, including a 3-0 sweep on Oct. 25 in Lexington. In the Craig Skinner era, UK has won 14 of the 15 matchups.

Coming into the weekend, Ole Miss boasts a 13-13 mark on the season with a 3-10 record in SEC play. The Rebels have an 8-6 record in home contests and have won two straight, both on the road. At home, Mississippi’s lone conference win has come over Tennessee. The Rebels play host to Georgia, Friday evening before welcoming the Wildcats to Oxford, Miss., on Sunday.

Joe Getzin is in his 12th season as head coach of the Rebels. He owns a 158-195 record after a 12-17 mark in 2012. In his tenure, Getzin has led his program to three NCAA Tournament appearances, five All Region selections, eight selections to an All-SEC team and the program’s first All-America selection. He was named SEC Coach of the Year in 2006 and 2007.

Going into the weekend, Ole Miss is led by a balanced attack of three players that have posted between 221 and 237 kills. Sophomore Nakeyta Clair leads the team with 237 and a .316 hitting clip, while freshman Melanie Crow has notched 223 and sophomore Ty Laporte has 221. Clair also leads the squad with 109 blocks, while Laporte has racked up 71 rejections. Freshman Aubrey Edie has dished out 765 assists on the year. Fellow Freshman Kristen Brashear has a team best 225 digs and senior Kara Morgan leads the rebels with 26 service aces to go along with 213 scoops.

Kentucky has a 37-11 record all-time against Ole Miss, including a 15-4 mark in Oxford. The Wildcats have won six straight contests, including a 3-0 sweep on Oct. 4 in Lexington. In Craig Skinner’s tenure, UK is 12-4 vs. Ole Miss.


In the season’s first meeting against Mississippi State on Oct. 25, Kentucky used a strong offensive effort from senior Whitney Billings and freshman Anni Thomasson to sweep Mississippi State 3-0 (25-13, 26-24, 25-21).

UK’s first-set win was one of its biggest of the season, and the Wildcats dominated in nearly every statistical category. The second frame saw Kentucky down 24-22, but it staved off set point to score the final four points to earn the win. The final set was close, but after they trailed briefly early at 2-1, the Wildcats maintained the lead.

Billings led the way for the Wildcats with game highs of 15 kills and a .438 hitting clip, while Thomasson produced 12 kills and a .357 hitting margin. Billings also added six digs and a service ace. Senior Alexandra Morgan hit an even .400 with five kills.


Against Ole Miss on Oct. 4, Kentucky cruised to a 3-0 sweep (25-13, 25-16, 25-8) to secure its best start to Southeastern Conference play since 2009 in front of a raucous, season-best home crowd.

The Wildcats dominated the front line to secure a 7-2 advantage in blocks over the Rebels before 2,400 fans. 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.

Senior Whitney Billings notched a match-high 12 kills for a career best .600 hitting clip, and junior Lauren O’Conner added 10 kills for a .429 hitting percentage, also a career high. Junior Jackie Napper’s 18 digs led the match, while sophomore Morgan Bergren had 30 assists. Bergren and Napper each had two of UK’s seven service aces.


Last weekend, UK posted a 3-0 sweep of South Carolina before a thrilling, 3-2 victory of LSU that saw freshman Anni Thomasson notch a record 30 kills and 22 digs.

In one of its most dominating outings of the year, UK made quick work of South Carolina with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-19) sweep on Nov. 8. The Wildcats held their opponents to under 20 points in each set for the third time this season and limited the Gamecocks to just .061 hitting with 23 kills in the match. UK posted 47 kills on the night with a .269 hitting clip for its largest kill margin of the season.

In a career-best performance two days later, Thomasson exploded for 30 kills and 22 digs and three Wildcats posted double-doubles as Kentucky came back in the final set to beat LSU, 3-2 (23-25, 25-16, 26-24, 25-27, 15-13).

The Wildcats scored 12 of the final 18 points in the fifth and deciding set to put away a Tiger team that continued to fight back throughout the match. UK was just as tough, however, and despite suffering comeback defeats in the first and fourth sets, never let go. Thomasson, in addition to double-double efforts from senior Whitney Billings and sophomore setter Morgan Bergren, led the charge.

The Wildcats return home for the final three contests of the regular season. The homestand kicks off with Texas A&M on Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. ET before a senior-day matchup with No. 7 Missouri on Nov. 24 at 1:30 p.m.

UK is 5-5 all-time against the Aggies, and has won five straight, including both meetings last season. The Wildcats are 3-1 against the Tigers, and lost a 3-0 decision on Nov. 3 in the season’s first meeting.

Freshman Anni Thomasson has wasted no time making her presence known on the court this season for the Wildcats. On Nov. 10, she made her presence known nationally, with a record-breaking outing against LSU.

Thomasson had a match for the ages in UK’s five-set victory over the Tigers with a 30-kill, 22-dig outing. She became what is believed to be the first freshman in program history and just the second in UK history to tally 30 or more kills and 20 or more digs in a single match. She joins Molly Dreisbach as the only other player to achieve the feat. Dresibach had 33 kills and 26 digs in Nov. 26, 1994 vs. Duke.

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.

On the season, the first-year star is second on the team with 185 kills and third with an even 200 digs. She has totaled four double-doubles in her inaugural campaign.

Ninth-year head coach Craig Skinner is the school’s second all-time winningest coach with 198 career victories entering this weekend’s matches and can become just the second coach in school allure to amass 200 or more wins. Kathy DeBoer tallied 209 in nine seasons at the helm from 1984-92.

With their 17th victory this season coming at the hands of South Carolina, the Blue and White have amassed 17 or more victories in all nine seasons of Skinner’s tenure, and have captured 20 or more wins in five of the last six years. UK is just two wins shy of making that six of the last seven.

Senior Jessi Greenberg was named to the Capital One Academic All-District Team. The Melbourne, Fla., native is one of six named to the District 2 NCAA Division I team, it was announced Thursday. Greenberg automatically advances to the national ballot for Academic All-America honors.

Greenberg is an International Strategic Communications and Marketing major. She has played in 18 games for the Wildcats with four starts and has registered 37 digs and two service aces in addition to a kill and an assist on the year.

Through 24 matches, the Wildcats have been involved in 15 three-set contests. UK has posted an 11-4 record in 3-0 outings, including a 5-2 mark in Southeastern Conference action.

The 11 sweeps by the Wildcats on the season were fueled by a seven-match winning streak, where UK posted five 3-0 wins. The winning streak included a run in which Kentucky recorded victories in 19 of 20 sets. After claiming the fifth set in UK’s upset win over No. 4 Minnesota, only Alabama was able to win a set against the Wildcats.

In UK’s nine matches this season that went longer than three sets, Kentucky has played three four-set contests and six matches that have gone the distance.

The habit of making quick work is nothing new for the Wildcats, who notched a 12-4 record in three-set contests last season.

In SEC play, the Wildcats are second in the conference with an average of 2.75 blocks per set. In conference action, sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder ranks third in the league, averaging 1.34 blocks per set, while senior Alexandra Morgan is fifth with a 1.24 average. No other team has two players in the top five.

On the year, the Wildcats have totaled 220.5 blocks, for a 2.53 blocks per set rate. Morgan’s 1.11 blocks per set average and 97 blocks on the year are both team highs.

As a team, UK has out-blocked its opponent 13 times, with wins in all 13 contests and nine victories in SEC play. The Wildcats are 5-6 in matches where they have notched equal or fewer blocks then their opponent. Kentucky has 220.5 blocks on the season, while it has held the opposition to 187.5.

On Oct. 27, a season-high 15 blocks propelled the Wildcats to a 3-1 win over Alabama, a feat they matched in their next contest, also a 3-1 victory, Nov. 1 at Arkansas.

Three players registered six or more block assists in the victory over Alabama, including a career-high eight from senior Whitney Billings. Schwarzwalder matched her with eight, and Morgan totaled six. Kentucky out-blocked the Crimson Tide 5-0 in both the first and fourth sets.

At Arkansas, Schwarzwalder posted a career best nine blocks as UK once again totaled 15 blocks. Morgan added six and Billings five in the win. The Wildcats had five blocks in the second set before a six-block performance in the third frame.

UK has been honored with weekly honors five 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. Anni Thomasson garnered the Freshman of the Week award on Sept. 16 and was named Player of the Week on Nov. 11.

Senior Whitney Billings made history against Louisville with her sixth dig of the match. After she reached the 1,000 kill plateau on Aug. 31, she eclipsed the 1,000 dig mark Sept. 10. The outside hitter became the first Wildcat in the modern era of Kentucky volleyball to achieve the 1,000 kills and digs mark in her career.

With 1,296 kills and 1,169 digs in her career going into the weekend, she is the sixth member of the 1,000 kills and digs club at UK. The previous five all met the mark before the 25-point rally scoring system was introduced in 2008.

Billings notched double-doubles in the first four matches to open the year. The Helena, Ala. native has posted 10 double-double performances this season and 40 in her career.

Senior Jessi Greenberg was selected as one of 30 candidates for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate volleyball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition.

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 10-1 at home. The mark includes a 4-0 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.

: 374-145 (37th season) .721
Skinner era
: 114-24 (9th year) .826

Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. The regional will get underway Dec. 13, with semifinal contests at 5 and 7 p.m. ET, while the regional final will commence Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. 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