Nov. 8, 2013
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LEXINGTON, Ky. – In one of its most dominating outings of the season, the University of Kentucky volleyball team made quick work of South Carolina with a 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-19) sweep Friday night at Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (17-6, 9-3 Southeastern Conference) held their opponents to under 20 points in each set for the third time this season and limited the Gamecocks (12-12, 3-8 SEC) 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.
“I liked our aggressive serving,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “I thought we did a good job from the serving line. We picked up our defense after the first set. In the first set, we had only five digs, it was nice to pick that up and get some people involved offensively like Kayla Tronick and Anni Thomasson. It was good to see that the people that went in were able to maintain the same level of play for us.
“One of the nice things about this group is when they go in, they know exactly where to be, they know exactly how to line up. We were very organized positionally, and that speaks to our experience and training in the gym.”
Kentucky never led by less than 2 points after opening each frame with 4-0, 3-0 and 3-0 runs. The Wildcats held their opponent to under 20 points in every set for the third time this season, and the 23 kills and .061 hitting clip by USC is the lowest for a UK foe.
UK out-blocked the Gamecocks 6-5, while the Wildcats posted four service aces to USC’s one. Four Kentucky players had at least seven kills, while no South Carolina player had more than six.
The offensive attack was led by freshman Anni Thommason’s match-high 12 kills. Senior Whitney Billings added nine in addition to six digs, two blocks and one of UK’s four service aces. Fellow senior Alexandra Morgan contributed seven kills for a .357 hitting clip along with a match-high-tying three blocks.
Sophomore Kayla Tronick, making her first start of the season, posted nine kills and hit .353 with three blocks. Sophomore setter Morgan Bergren dished out 38 assists in addition to having two kills and two service aces, and redshirt freshman Kelsey Wolf recorded a career-best nine digs. Sophomore Shelby Workman and junior Lauren O’Conner each registered four kills. Junior libero Jackie Napper notched 10 digs on the night.
“Kayla has been playing well in practice and she deserves the opportunity to play,” Skinner said. “Morgan is comfortable setting to her and it adds some diversity to the offense. Jessi Greenberg did a great job serving for us during our scoring runs as well.”
The Wildcats close out the weekend Sunday at 1 p.m. ET against LSU at Memorial Coliseum. The contest, which will be broadcast by the UK/IMG Network will air on Fox Sports South in Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. The match will also be available on the radio on 1580 AM and online at UKathletics.com.
Thanks to a 16-9 advantage in kills, including a set-high five from Thomasson, the Wildcats opened the match with a 25-17 win. Billings notched four kills, while Wolf had three of UK’s five digs. Kentucky had three blocks in the frame, including two assists from Morgan. It didn’t take long for UK to gain the advantage, which it did by opening up a 4-0 lead. The Gamecocks wouldn’t let the Wildcats extend their lead past five points until the Blue and White scored three straight to take a 15-8 lead. UK’s lead was cut to five at 20-15, but the Wildcats scored five of the final seven points to secure the opening-frame victory.
For the second straight set, the Wildcats opened with a lead, this time a 3-0 margin before USC’s first point. The Blue and White used a 5-0 run to extend their lead to 13-5, and another 3-0 stretch to make it a 19-10 contest. For the second straight set, UK only allowed USC to score three consecutive points once, and the Gamecocks only managed two 2-0 runs. Kentucky closed the frame with three of the final four points for a 25-15 win. The Wildcats hit .159 in the set with 15 kills, but held South Carolina to -.065 hitting with just three kills. Thomasson notched another five kills to put her into double digits, while Tronick posted four with two blocks. Wolf had four digs and Bergren notched two service aces on consecutive serves.
Kentucky once again jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the third frame, an advantage it would not give up in a 25-19 victory. The Wildcats extended their lead to 5-1 and 11-4. USC mustered a 3-0 run to get within four at 13-9 and a 2-0 run to cut the deficit at 16-12, but the Gamecocks could get no closer. South Carolina staved off three straight set points, but Whitney Billings prevented a fourth-consecutive USC tally with a kill to end the match at 25-19. Morgan and Workman each posted four kills in the frame, while Billings added three as UK hit .395 with 16 kills. The Kentucky defense held USC to nine kills on a .107 hitting clip.
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. For additional info on the volleyball team like Kentucky Volleyball on Facebook or follow the team on Twitter at @KentuckyVB.