Skinner Wins 200th Career Match as Cats Sweep Ole Miss
Nov. 17, 2013
OXFORD, Miss. – Head coach Craig Skinner won his 200th career match as the University of Kentucky volleyball team earned its 20th victory of the season with a 3-0 sweep (25-23, 25-22, 25-21) at Ole Miss Sunday afternoon.
In addition to Skinner’s 200th career win, all in nine seasons at Kentucky, UK posted its 20th victory of the season for the third straight year and the sixth time in the past seven campaigns. Skinner owns a 200-82 mark and sits nine wins shy of matching Kathy DeBoar’s all-time Wildcat win total of 209, set from 1984-92.
“It feels good to be associated with so many great players and so many great coaches that have helped us get to this point,” Skinner said. “Kentucky is a great place and I’m honored to be the coach. I’m thankful to have such a great wife and family to support me through this milestone.”
It was a hard-fought, tight contest for the Wildcats (20-6, 12-3 Southeastern Conference), in their final regular season road contest of the season. The match featured 27 ties and 8 lead changes. The Rebels (13-15, 3-12 SEC) became the first team to score at least 20 points in every set against UK in the Wildcats’ 13 three-set sweeps this year.
“I thought we played fairly consistent most of the match,” Skinner said. “Our intensity and execution got better throughout the sets. We did a good job of closing them out.”
The Wildcats hit .263 in the match with 44 kills while holding the Rebels to .137 hitting and 37 kills. Kentucky and Ole Miss each notched eight blocks and three service aces. UK led the Rebels to commit 23 attack errors to Kentucky’s 18, while the Blue and White held a 43-35 advantage in assists and a slight 37-35 digs edge.
Senior Whitney Billings led Kentucky with 11 kills and contributed eight digs and two blocks. Freshman Anni Thomasson totaled nine kills with six digs, while senior Alexandra Morgan posted six kills on .400 hitting with a team-high six blocks.
Junior Lauren O’Conner had nine kills on a team-best .412 hitting. Sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder tallied six kills with two blocks and sophomore setter Morgan Bergren notched 38 assists in addition to four blocks, three digs and three kills. Junior libero Jackie Napper had 14 digs with two assists.
The Wildcats return home for the final three contests of the regular season, with outings against Texas A&M, No. 7 Missouri and No. 5 Florida. The Aggies come to Lexington Nov. 22 at 7 p.m. ET, while the Tigers play their first SEC match at Memorial Coliseum Nov. 24 at 1:30 p.m. on senior day. The home, regular season finale is Nov. 27 at 8 p.m. against the Gators.
UK held a 24-19 lead in the first set, but the Rebels held of set-point four straight times before the Wildcats sealed a 25-23 win. Mississippi closed the set with nine of 12 points before Kentucky’s 25th tally. The run came after a stretch where the Wildcats scored 12 of 16 to take a 20-12 lead. The frame opened with six ties and included a 3-0 run to give UK a 5-4 advantage, its first of the match. The Blue and White had 15 kills on a .333 hitting clip, while Ole Miss posted 14 kills on .276 hitting. Billings, Thomasson and O’Conner all had a set-high-tying three kills, while Morgan and Bergren each assisted on both of UK’s two blocks.
The second set was a back-and-forth, tight frame which featured 11 ties and five lead changes. It was the final lead change that was the difference maker though, thanks to a 4-0 Wildcat run that put them up, 19-16. Kentucky scored the final two points to win 25-22, after Ole Miss again fought back to cut a four-point, 22-18 deficit to one at 23-22. Billings and O’Conner once again led the Wildcats with four kills each, while Schwarzwalder added three. Morgan had two of Kentucky’s three blocks. In the set, UK hit .167 with 13 kills, but held the Rebels to .024 hitting with 11 strikes.
Kentucky trailed for much of the third set early, but came back for a 25-21 win. UK took a 1-0 lead for the first time in the match, but a 3-0 Ole Miss run gave the Rebels a 7-5 advantage. The Wildcats would not take the lead again until a 3-0 run of their own gave them a 17-15 lead. Ole Miss would get close, but UK’s lead never was lost. Thomasson tallied five kills on a blistering .833 hitting clip with three digs, while Billings had four kills. Morgan posted three kills and two blocks as Kentucky hit .303 as a team with 16 kills and three blocks.
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.