Nov. 15, 2013
STARKVILLE, Miss. – A strong defensive outing from the University of Kentucky volleyball team, which included a season-high 19 blocks while holding Mississippi State to just .008 hitting, led UK to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 24-14) sweep Friday night at MSU’s Newell-Grissom Building.
The Wildcats (19-6, 11-3 Southeastern Conference) limited the Bulldogs (11-16, 2-11) to a .008 hitting clip, the lowest for a UK opponent since MSU hit -.026 on Oct. 12, 2012. The 19 blocks was the most since UK recorded 20.5 on Oct. 21, 2011 and the most in a three-set match in the 25-point, rally scoring era in Wildcat history. The three Bulldog blocks are tied for the third-lowest total for a UK opponent on the year.
“I’m really happy with our blocking, that was a huge advantage for us,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “To have 19 blocks in three sets is a big deal. Our offense wasn’t smooth, so it was great to be so effective at the net. The blocking of Zan and Whitney was really sharp tonight.”
UK posted a 36-28 edge in kills but was held to a .186 hitting clip. Kentucky notched three services aces and limited Mississippi State to two aces and five errors, while the Wildcats held a slight, 58-56 advantage in digs.
Morgan recorded a career-best 11 blocks, while Billings tied a career high with eight. Morgan’s 11 blocks are the most from a UK player since she notched 10 nearly a year ago, on Nov. 18, 2012. She added seven kills on .438 hitting, while Billings posted six kills in addition to eight digs.
For the fourth straight match, freshman Anni Thomasson led UK with nine kills. The reigning SEC Player of the Week also tallied 14 digs. Sophomore setter Morgan Bergren dished out 27 assists in addition to having eight scoops. Sophomore Kayla Tronick tallied three kills with a season-high four blocks and redshirt freshman Kelsey Wolf had five digs. Sophomore Shelby Workman came off the bench to post three kills with two digs and a career-high-tying two assists while junior Lauren O’Conner totaled four kills. Junior libero Jackie Napper notched 20 scoops with three assists.
Kentucky’s final roadtrip of the regular season concludes Sunday at Ole Miss. The Wildcats and Rebels square off at 2:30 p.m. ET.
The opening set was a back-and-forth affair early, with 12 ties and four lead changes before UK notched two straight points to take a 16-14 lead. It was the first two-point advantage for either team in the contest, and while the Bulldogs got within one twice more, the momentum was on the Wildcats’ side of the court. A 17-16 lead quickly turned into a 20-16 edge. Kentucky rattled off eight of the final 10 points to secure the 25-18 win. Morgan posted four kills on .571 hitting, while Billings and Thomasson each notched three. The Blue and White, with a 14-11 edge in kills, hit .270 and held their hosts to .075 hitting while out-blocking the Bulldogs by a 4-2 margin
It was another tight affair in the second frame, and the Wildcats found themselves down for much of the contest. After it took a 4-3 lead, UK found itself down, 7-4. Kentucky battled back, and after tying the set four times, finally took the lead at 16-15. An 18-16 advantage was the result of a 4-1 Wildcat run, and the lead quickly turned to 21-17. MSU wouldn’t give up though, and UK’s lead was cut to one at 21-20 and again at 22-21. That’s when the Blue and White tallied the final three points, the last two courtesy of Bulldog attack errors, to earn a 25-21 victory. UK hit just .114 in the frame with 24 kills, but it held MSU to .029 hitting with 22 kills and 10 attack errors. The Wildcats had seven blocks and did not allow the Bulldogs to have any. Billings, Morgan and Tronick each totaled three blocks.
The third set was capped by an impressive 9-0 run by the Wildcats to secure a 25-14 win and the sweep over the Bulldogs. UK’s 9-0 tally came on the heels of a 4-0 MSU run, which brought the Bulldogs to within one at 14-13. The two squads traded points before Kentucky’s match-ending streak. The run was fueled by two kills from Thomasson and a kill and service ace from Billings. Mississippi State also committed three attack errors, including the match-clincher. In the decisive third frame, Thomasson had six of UK’s 12 kills, while the team had eight blocks, six from Morgan. The Blue and White hit .171 with 12 kills, but once again limited the Bulldog offense to six kills on a -.067 hitting clip.
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 UKathletics.com/tickets.
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.