Straight-Set Victory Over Little Rock Propels UK to Bluegrass Battle Title
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 15 University of Kentucky volleyball team led wire-to-wire on Saturday evening in their second straight-sets victory of the day, taking down the Little Rock Trojans, 3-0 (25-23, 25-14, 25-22) in Memorial Coliseum with 1,467 fans cheering the team along the entire night.
The Wildcats offense was clicking, setting a new season-high for attacking percentage, with the team posting a scorching .310 clip. The team also registered 49 kills – just five shy of the three-set record during UK’s 25-point rally scoring era.
“I was really impressed with our focus this weekend,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner. “For us to average the amount of kills per set that we did this weekend is something that I don’t think we expected, yet we’re proud of it. We were able to get a lot of people involved this weekend, and that gives us some confidence moving forward.”
With the win over Little Rock, Kentucky moved to 3-0 on the season and was crowned the 2015 Bluegrass Battle champions. Three Wildcats were named to the All-Tournament team in sophomore Ashley Dusek, senior Mogran Bergren and sophomore Kaz Brown – the tournament MVP. The All-Tournament team also included IUPUI’s Kaitlyn Hickey, Little Rock’s Edina Selimovic and Michigan State’s Allyssah Fittere and Alyssa Garvelink.
Sophomore outside hitter Darian Mack led the way for the offense, posting team highs for points (15.5) and kills (13) while adding eight digs. Brown and junior Anni Thomasson both tallied double-digit kills as well, with Brown notching 11 on a team-beast .562 hitting, while Thomasson had 12 in addition to six digs. Sophomore Emily Franklin placed a team-high four blocks in addition to five kills, while freshman Brooke Morgan posted five kills and two blocks. Dusek paced the team with 11 digs, while Bergren had a team-high 34 assists while adding four kills. Freshman Anna Nyberg made her collegiate debut, while sophomore Sharay Barnes saw her first action of the season as well.
The Wildcats came out of the gate on a tear, ripping open a 6-1 lead to begin the set. Kentucky led by as many as seven points, before the persistent Little Rock squad pulled within one point, 23-22. The two sides traded blows until a giant kill from Mack gave Kentucky the 25-23 edge and set one. Brown led the way with five kills at a .500 clip, while Dusek and Thomasson each recorded five digs.
The second set was a dominant one for the Wildcats, with large runs powering the team to a 25-14 win. After splitting the first four points, the Blue and White opened up a 5-1 run to take an 8-3 lead, cornering Little Rock into calling timeout. The Trojans fought back to within two points before a 6-0 spurt gave Kentucky a 15-7 lead. Both sides exchanged points before UK closed out the set with five-straight points. The set included four service aces for the Wildcats, who hit an astonishing .375 during the second frame.
The third set began in a back-and-forth battle, with both sides trading points to a 9-9 tie. The duo of Morgan and Brown then made a crucial block to spark a 4-0 UK run. Little Rock came within two points at 21-19 before a 4-2 run from the Wildcats and a powerful finish from Brown sealed the win for Kentucky. The team continued their impressive attacking in the final set, hitting at a .361 clip.
By the Numbers
.310 – Kentucky’s attacking percentage against the Trojans, marking a new season high
126 – The total number of assists that All-Tournament selection Morgan Bergren logged over the weekend
43 – Kaz Brown’s 43 kills paces the Wildcats after the weekend.
6 – Wildcats had four or more kills in the win
4 – Players posted at least two blocks on the night as UK won the battle at the net 7-4 in blocks
3 – The Wildcats placed three players on the All-Tournament team in Ashley Dusek, Morgan Bergren and MVP Kaz Brown
2 – Wildcats made their season debuts tonight, Nyberg and Barnes
The Wildcats take back to the floor on Tuesday evening, where they clash with MAC foe Ohio. The Bobcats come into the matchup looking to right the ship after a three-set loss to Purdue. The two sides will faceoff Tuesday night at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.