Sep 7, 2013
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 21 Kentucky volleyball team used a career-best performance from freshman Anni Thomasson to sweep Liberty 3-0 (25-22, 25-17 and 25-20) in its second match of the eighth-annual Kentucky Classic Saturday morning at Memorial Coliseum.
After a five-set thriller to open the home campaign Friday night against VCU, it was another back-and-forth battle between the Wildcats (3-2) and Flames (1-6). UK was able to pull away towards the end of each set for the victory.
“We terminated the ball a lot, had a lot of kills, which is a positive,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We made some nice plays defensively, but I just don’t think we competed very well. Even though we won 3-0, on our side of the net I don’t think we competed well individually. That’s something that needs to be better. Liberty’s a good team and we have to continue to improve every time we step on the court. That’s another learning opportunity for us.”
A career-high 12 kills to go along with 13 digs gave Thomasson her first collegiate double-double. The outside hitter posted eight of her kills in the first set, the highest single-set total of the match. She hit a .545 in the match’s opening frame.
“Anni was great for us,” Skinner said. “She is a very competitive, high-IQ volleyball player. She’s very smart out there and made a lot of individual plays that allowed her to be successful.”
Senior Whitney Billings notched a game high 14 kills. Her nine digs left her just one scoop short of a fifth-straight double-double to open the season. Fellow senior Alexandra Morgan contributed seven kills on 13 attempts for a match-best .462 hitting clip.
Junior Jackie Napper contributed a game high 16 digs, while sophomore Morgan Bergren dished out 40 assists and had six digs with five kills. At the net, Morgan had a game-best four blocks, while sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder posted three.
The Wildcats return to the court tonight at 7 p.m. against East Tennessee State in the final match of the four-team Kentucky Classic. UK is one win away from winning its seventh Classic.
UK opened the game on a 7-0 run before an attack error led to Liberty’s first point of the day. A kill by Thomasson gave the Wildcats a 10-2 lead before the Flames went on a 5-0 run to come within three at 10-7. Thomasson responded with a kill to stop Liberty’s run, but LU continued to cut into UK’s lead and took a 16-15 lead, its first of the match. With the score tied at 19, a kill by Morgan gave Kentucky a lead they would not relinquish. Three Liberty errors and kills by Thomasson and Billings helped seal the set win.
The second set was back-and-forth until UK took a 9-8 lead. In the first 17 points between the two teams, there were seven ties and three lead changes. After they called a timeout with a 13-12 lead, the Wildcats closed out the set on a 12-5 run to seal the win at 25-17. Bergren and Billings each contributed two kills on the closing run, while Morgan and Schwarzwalder posted one apiece.
Kentucky never trailed in the third set, and after breaking a 2-2 tie, the Wildcats had a lead that reached as high as seven at 20-13. Morgan hit at a perfect 1.000 clip with three kills in the set. Billings, Thomasson and Napper all recorded three digs to lead the way for UK. Billings and Morgan each posted service aces, the second of a game-high-tying two for Billings.
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.
Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the Kentucky volleyball team and all 22 varsity sports.