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Volleyball Hosts NCAA Tournament Saturday and Sunday

Head coach Craig Skinner has guided the Wildcats to nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances

Head coach Craig Skinner has guided the Wildcats to nine straight NCAA Tournament appearances

Dec. 5, 2013

NO. 17 KENTUCKY VOLLEYBALL HOSTS NCAA FIRST AND SECOND ROUNDS
Match 1: No. 20 Michigan State vs. Ohio, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 at 2:30 p.m. ET
Match 2: No. 17 Kentucky vs. Duquesne, Saturday, Dec. 7, 2013 at 5 p.m. ET
Match 3: Match 1 Winner vs. Match 2 Winner, Sunday, Dec. 8, 2013 at 4 p.m. ET

Where: Memorial Coliseum, Lexington, Ky.
Tickets: UKathletics.com/tickets | 800-928-2287 or 859-257-1818
Radio (UK Matches): 1580 AM | UKathletics.com Stream: Match 2 | Match 3
Live Video: Match 1 | Match 2 | Match 3
Live Stats: Match 1 | Match 2 | Match 3
Match Info: Postseason Media Guide
NCAA Tournament Info: UK NCAA Tourney Central | NCAA Bracket
Additional Info:
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For the ninth straight season, the No. 17 University of Kentucky volleyball team earned a bid to the NCAA Tournament and will host the NCAA First and Second Rounds Friday and Saturday in Memorial Coliseum.

Inclement weather forced the tournament, originally scheduled to commence Friday, to begin a day later, with the first round on Saturday and the second round on Sunday. The Wildcats play Duquesne Saturday at 5 p.m. ET after No. 20 Michigan State and Ohio square off at 2:30 p.m. in the first round opener. The winners of each match will meet Sunday at 4 p.m. in the second round with a chance to advance to the NCAA Regionals, hosted by UK Dec. 13-14.

All three first and second round matches will feature a live video stream and stats on UKathletics.com. UK's contest against DU, and, if it should advance, Saturday's second round, will air live on 1580 AM, with Dick Gabriel and Mandy Robbe on the call. An audio stream can also be found on UKathletics.com.

UK finished the regular season with a 21-8 record and a 13-5 mark in Southeastern Conference play, good for third in the league. The Wildcats, who earned the No. 15 national seed in the 64-team tournament, are an even 14-14 all-time in NCAA play. Under head coach Craig Skinner, Kentucky is 7-8, having made the `Big Dance' in each of his previous eight seasons.

The Wildcats' first round matchup is against Duquesne, the Atlantic 10 Conference champions. The Dukes were 20-9 in the regular season and 12-2 in the A-10. In the opening match, 20th-ranked Michigan State, 21-11, meets a 27-5 Ohio team that won both the MAC regular season and tournament titles.

TICKETS, PARKING AND FAN INFO
All-session tickets are now on sale and can be purchased at the UK Ticket Office, online at UKathletics.com/tickets or by calling the ticket office at 800-928-2287 or 859-257-1818. All-session tickets are $12 for reserved seats at Memorial Coliseum. Adult general admission tickets (13+) are $10, while seniors (65+) and UK students can purchase all-session tickets for $6 and youth (ages 3-12) general admission tickets cost $4. Single-session tickets, which are $8 for reserved seats and $7 for adult general admission seats and $5 for seniors and $4 for youth, go on sale Friday at 9 a.m. With a valid student ID, UK students can receive a complimentary ticket at the ticket window for UK's matches.

Parking is available in the lots surrounding Memorial Coliseum. The E-Lots will go off patrol three hours prior to Friday's first match and all day Saturday, while parking structure No. 5 will be available starting an hour and a half prior to both Friday and Saturday's matches.

CATS IN THE TOURNAMENT
Kentucky is making a school-record ninth-consecutive appearance in the NCAA Tournament and its 15th in program history.

With UK selected to host the first and second rounds in addition to already being one of four regional sites, UK will now have hosted a portion of the tournament 12 times in the history of the program. Kentucky has hosted at least one round of the tournament in five of the last six seasons under the direction of UK coach Craig Skinner.

The Wildcats are 14-14 all-time in NCAA Tournament action, twice advancing to the regional finals (Elite Eight).

The Wildcats made their first NCAA appearance in 1983 and advanced to the regional finals before falling to Hawai'i, 3-1. UK returned to the regional finals in 1987, falling to Texas in four sets.

UK has had six players earn NCAA All-Region Tournament team honors in school history, with the last being Ashley Frazier in 2011.

In 2005, Craig Skinner's first season, the Wildcats returned to the tournament, snapping an 11-year NCAA drought. The following year, Kentucky's win against No. 20 Ohio in the first round of the 2006 NCAA Tournament marked the Cats' first Tournament victory since the 1992 campaign.

The Wildcats advanced to the NCAA Sweet 16 in 2009, marking the first time UK had advanced to the round of 16 since 1993. It also was the first time UK had won two NCAA matches in the same season since 1989. Kentucky matched that feat with runs to the Sweet 16 in 2011, defeating Dayton and No. 16 seed Texas A&M before falling to the No. 1 overall seed, Texas, at home.

With Kentucky again advancing to the Sweet 16 in 2012, UK charted consecutive appearances in the round of 16 for the first time since the 1987-88 seasons. The Wildcats have never advanced to three-straight Sweet 16s.

Craig Skinner is the only UK coach to lead his team to the NCAA Tournament in nine consecutive seasons.

LUCKY THIRTEEN
UK is one of just 13 teams in the country to appear in each of the last nine NCAA Tournaments. UK joins the following schools in achieving that feat: California, Colorado State, Florida, Hawaii, Louisville, Minnesota, Nebraska, Penn State, Southern California, Stanford, Texas and Washington.

A FINE TIME FOR NINE
With a Sweet 16 appearance in both 2011 and 2012, the Wildcats are one of just nine teams to advance past the second round both years. UK joins Penn State, Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Southern California, Michigan, Purdue and Iowa State as the others to advance. Going to the round of 16 in three of the last four years has UK as one of 12 teams in the nation to achieve that feat. The list of schools who have been to three of the last four include: Penn State, Florida, Minnesota, Texas, Purdue, Southern Cal, Iowa State, Michigan, Nebraska, Stanford and Illinois.

SCOUTING DUQUESNE
Duquesne claimed its first Atlantic 10 title in 2013 and went 20-9 on the year and 12-2 in league play. The Dukes beat Dayton and VCU, both by 3-1 scores, to win the Atlantic 10 Tournament. DU, coached by 16-year head coach Steve Opperman, lost a 3-1 decision at Michigan State in its lone matchup with a ranked team this season.

Last season, the Wildcats swept the Dukes at the Ameritas Players Challenge in Lincoln, Neb., in the only other meeting between the two teams. Alexandra Morgan and Sara Schwarzwalder each posted 10 kills, with Morgan hitting at a .833 clip and Schwarzwalder at .769.

The only common opponent between UK and DU is Lipscomb. The Wildcats posted a 3-0 road win, and the Dukes suffered a 3-1 neutral site defeat.

SCOUTING NO. 20 MICHIGAN STATE
No. 20 Michigan State went 21-11 in the regular season and 10-10 in Big Ten competition. The Spartans are led by Cathy George, in her ninth season, and finished seventh in the league standings. MSU posted a 5-8 mark against ranked teams, which included wins at top-ranked Penn State and No. 13 Ohio State in addition to home wins over No. 9 Nebraska and No. 12 Oregon. Michigan State lost both contests to No. 15 Wisconsin and No. 10 and 11 Minnesota.

MSU holds a 1-4 edge in the all-time series against UK. The teams last met in 2009, a 3-0 Wildcat win in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Lexington. Kentucky lost a 3-0 decision in 2007, also in the NCAA's first round. All five meetings in the series have been sweeps, the first occurring in 1978.

Common opponents between the Wildcats and Spartans in 2013 include Illinois and Minnesota. MSU swept the Illini on Oct. 4 before a 3-1 loss in Champaign on Nov. 9. The Spartans lost both decisions to the Golden Gophers, 3-2 on Oct. 17 on the road and 3-1 on Nov. 23 at home. Michigan State also played Duquesne, UK's first round opponent, and notched a 3-1 win on Sept. 21.

SCOUTING OHIO
Ohio, with a 27-5 record claimed its eighth MAC Tournament crown and eighth regular season title. Under the direction of Ryan Theis, in his sixth season, the Bobcats finished 14-2 in league play and won both the MAC regular season and tournament championships in the same year for the sixth time in program history. OU earned a 2-2 mark against ranked foes in 2013, with upset wins at No. 8 Oregon and No. 21 Western Kentucky and losses at 10th-ranked Michigan and No. 24 North Carolina.

The Wildcats are 6-1 against Ohio, with wins in both 2011 and 2012. Last season on the road, UK notched a 3-1 victory as Christine Hartmann had 45 assists en route to a double-double in the season's fifth contest. The two teams met in the 2006 NCAA First Round, where Kentucky tallied a 3-2 win.

The lone common opponent between Kentucky and Ohio in 2013 is VCU. The Wildcats earned a 3-2 win on Sept. 6 in Lexington, while the Bobcats fell to the Rams, 3-1, on the road in the final regular season game on Nov. 30.

MEMORIAL MAGIC
For 37 seasons of Kentucky volleyball, Memorial Coliseum has been home for the Wildcats. UK has a favorable record in the friendly confines of the historic venue.

This year, Kentucky is 13-3 at home. The record includes a 7-2 mark in SEC contests, a 3-2 upset win over then-No. 4 and undefeated Minnesota and a five-set win over in-state rival Louisville. The Wildcats also won their seventh Kentucky Classic on their home court to open the home campaign.

Overall: 375-147 (37th season) .718
Skinner Era: 115-26 (9th year) .816
NCAA Tournament: 9-3 (10 years) .816

LAST TIME OUT: VS. NO. 6 FLORIDA
In the regular season finale, Kentucky rallied from a 2-0 deficit to force a decisive fifth frame against sixth-ranked Florida, but fell just shy of the upset in a 3-2 (25-11, 28-26, 22-25, 18-25, 15-10) loss in front of 1,877 fans in Memorial Coliseum.

Senior Whitney Billings led the Wildcats with 20 kills and added 18 digs. Freshman Anni Thomasson totaled 16 kills and picked up nine scoops. Sophomore setter Morgan Bergren also registered a double-double with 50 assists and a career-high 13 digs. Junior libero Jackie Napper had 20 digs to lead the way defensively.

UP NEXT: SATURDAY VS. MICHIGAN STATE/OHIO
Should the Wildcats win Friday vs. Duquesne, they will advance to the NCAA Tournament's second round and face the winner of Friday's contest between No. 20 Michigan State and Ohio.

Kentucky is 1-4 all-time vs. the Spartans and 1-1 in the Craig Skinner era. The last time the two squads met was in the NCAA Tournament in 2009, when the Wildcats notched a 3-0 victory. The two squads also met in the 2007 postseason, with MSU prevailing, 3-0.

UK owns a 6-1 record against the Bobcats, while it is 3-0 under Skinner. A 3-1 win for the Blue and White last season marked the last outing between the two squads, while the Wildcats also recorded a 3-2 win in the NCAA's First Round in 2006.

THREE CATS EARN ALL-SEC HONORS
Three Wildcats earned All-Southeastern Conference honors. Seniors Whitney Billings and Alexandra Morgan were tabbed to the All-SEC squad, while freshman Anni Thomasson was named to the All-SEC Freshman team. Billings becomes the third player in program history to earn three All-SEC first team accolades.

Billings is the first Wildcat since Lisa Bokovoy to earn All-SEC first team distinction in three successive seasons. She joins Bokovoy and Marsha Bond as the only players in school history to achieve the honor. The senior from Helena, Ala., has been an All-SEC selection in each of her four seasons donning the Blue and White after earning All-SEC Freshman team honors in her first season.

The All-SEC first team accolade is the first of Morgan's career after she paced the squad in blocks (127) and hitting percentage (.399) for the season. She is the only player in the 25-point rally scoring era to have two career matches with 10 or more blocks. Morgan contributed both defensively and offensive with double-figure point tallies in eight total matches. She'll conclude her career ranking second all-time in career hitting percentage.

Thomasson is the ninth freshman under Skinner to earn All-SEC Freshman team accolades.  The Newark, Ohio, native ranked second on the team with 2.24 kills per set and third with an average of 2.39 digs per stanza. Thomasson's breakout match occurred when she went for 30 kills and 22 digs in a win over LSU en route to SEC Player of the Week honors. She is the only freshman in UK and SEC history to have a match with 30 or more kills and 20 or more digs.

REGULAR SEASON IN REVIEW
Kentucky's season began with back-to-back neutral-site losses, but the Wildcats quickly responded with five straight wins, a stretch that was highlighted by a thrilling, five set victory over in-state rival Louisville. UK also won all three matches of the Kentucky Classic, to win the event for the seventh time in its eight year history.

The season's signature win occurred Sept. 14, when Kentucky upset fourth-ranked and undefeated Minnesota in Memorial Coliseum. The win marked the biggest upset in head coach Craig Skinner's nine seasons in Lexington.

After an 8-3 non-conference slate, the Wildcats began Southeastern Conference play with four straight wins, the best start to the SEC season since 2009. A loss at No. 2 Florida snapped a seven-match winning streak that begin with the win over the Golden Gophers and saw Kentucky win 19 of 20 sets in the run.

The Blue and White registered 15 blocks in back-to-back matches, vs. Alabama on Oct. 27 and at Arkansas on Nov. 1. After a 3-0 loss at No. 7 and undefeated Mizzou Nov. 3, UK proceeded to win five straight. The run included a 3-2 thriller over LSU and a 19-block outing at Mississippi State, but the highlight was a 3-0 sweep at Ole Miss. The win gave the Wildcats their 20th of the season and Skinner's 200th victory of his career.

The regular season concluded with a sweep of Texas A&M before a 3-0 loss to fourth-ranked Missouri and a 3-2 decision to Florida, all at home.

SKINNER'S WINNERS
Ninth-year head coach Craig Skinner won his 200th career match in a 3-0 win at Ole Miss on Nov. 17. With a 201-84 career mark, he is the school's second all-time winningest coach entering the postseason and sits just eight wins shy of tying the all-time wins mark at UK. Kathy DeBoer tallied 209 in nine seasons at the helm from 1984-92.

In addition to Skinner's 200th career win, UK's victory at Ole Miss marked its 20th victory of the season for the third straight year and the sixth time in the past seven campaigns. With their 17th victory this season coming at the hands of South Carolina, the Blue and White have amassed 17 or more victories in all nine seasons of Skinner's tenure.

GETTING IT DONE QUICKLY
In the regular season, the Wildcats were involved in 19 three-set contests. UK posted a 14-5 record in 3-0 outings, including a 8-3 mark in SEC action.

The 14 sweeps by the Wildcats on the season were fueled by a seven-match winning streak, where UK posted five 3-0 wins. The winning streak included a run in which Kentucky recorded victories in 19 of 20 sets. After claiming the fifth frame in UK's upset win over No. 4 Minnesota, only Alabama was able to win a set against the Wildcats.

In UK's 10 matches this season that went longer than three frames, Kentucky has played three four-set contests and seven matches that have gone the distance.

The habit of making quick work is nothing new for the Wildcats, who notched a 12-4 record in three-set contests last season.

CLUB ROOF
In SEC play, the Wildcats led the conference with an average of 2.88 blocks per set. In conference action, senior Alexandra Morgan ranks third in the league, averaging 1.38 blocks per set, while sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder is fifth with a 1.24 average. Senior Whitney Billings is 14th with a 0.86 blocks per set average. UK is the only team with more than one player ranked in the top 10 and the only squad with three in the top 20.

On the year, the Wildcats have totaled 275.5 blocks, for a 2.65 blocks per set rate, while it has held the opposition to 219.5 with 2.11 per set. Morgan's 1.22 blocks per set average and 127 blocks on the year are both team highs.

As a team, UK has out-blocked its opponent 16 times, with wins in 15 contests and 11 victories in SEC play. The Wildcats are 6-7 in matches where they have notched equal or fewer blocks then their opponent.

Kentucky's stellar blocking totals are highlighted by a record-setting 19-block outing at Mississippi State and back-to-back 15-block performances vs. Alabama Oct. 27 and at Arkansas on Nov. 1.

The 19 blocks at MSU 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. Morgan recorded a career-best 11 blocks, the most from a UK player since she notched 10 nearly a year ago, on Nov. 18, 2012. Senior Whitney Billings tied a career high with eight.

Three players registered six or more block assists in the victory over Alabama, including eight from Billings and Schwarzwalder, while Morgan totaled six. Kentucky out-blocked the Crimson Tide 5-0 in both the first and fourth sets.

At Arkansas, Schwarzwalder posted a career best nine blocks as UK once again totaled 15 rejections. Morgan added six and Billings five in the win. The Wildcats had five blocks in the second set before a six-block performance in the third frame.

SEC HONORS WRAP-UP
UK has been awarded with weekly honors six times by the SEC this season. Senior Whitney Billings was named the SEC Player of the Week on Sept. 16 and 29, while Alexandra Morgan earned Defensive Player of the Week accolades on Sept. 29 and again on Nov. 18. Anni Thomasson garnered the Freshman of the Week award on Sept. 16 and was named Player of the Week on Nov. 11.

The six weekly honors ties the most in one season in UK history, since the league began giving out three awards each week in 2005. The Wildcats also were honored six times during the 2008 campaign.

RECORD-SETTING FRESHMAN
Freshman Anni Thomasson has wasted no time making an impact on the court this season for the Wildcats. On Nov. 10, she made her presence known nationally, with a record-breaking outing against LSU.

Thomasson had a match for the ages in UK's five-set victory over the Tigers on Nov. 10 with a 30-kill, 22-dig outing. She became what is believed to be the first freshman in program history and just the second in UK history to tally 30 or more kills and 20 or more digs in a single match. She joins Molly Dreisbach as the only other player to achieve the feat. Dreisbach had 33 kills and 26 digs in Nov. 26, 1994 vs. Duke.

She is the first SEC player to turn the 30-20 trick since Alabama's Kayla Fitterer in 2010. The last UK player to record 30 kills in a match was Sarah Spinner's 36 in 2004.

On the season, the first-year star is second on the team with 226 kills and third with 241 digs. She has totaled four double-doubles in her inaugural campaign.

GOING OUT WITH A BANG
Alexandra Morgan is having a senior season to remember, leading the team in blocks (127) and hitting percentage (.399). During SEC play, the Birmingham, Ala., native had four matches with 10 or more kills and 10 matches with five or more blocks. She contributed both defensively and offensive with double-figure point tallies in eight total matches.

Morgan had eight or more blocks in three matches while setting a career-high with 11 blocks in a win over Mississippi State. She is the only player in the 25-point rally scoring era to have two career matches with 10 or more blocks. Morgan's blocks-per-set rate of 1.22 is fourth in the SEC.

Morgan hit at an efficient rate with 10 matches hitting at a .400 clip or better against conference foes. She'll conclude her career ranking second all-time in career hitting percentage, and her hitting clip of .399 not only leads the team, but is fourth best in the SEC and ranks 27th nationally.

GREENBERG WINNING IN THE COMMUNITY AND CLASSROOM
For the second consecutive season, senior Jessi Greenberg is Kentucky's selection to the SEC's Community Service Team. Named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District team in November, she has an impressive resume of athletic, academic and community service excellence.

Greenberg has compiled more than 100 hours of community service in her four years at UK. Her work includes spending the summer of 2013 as a volunteer at the Salvation Army's Boys and Girls Club, where she spent five hours a day with the children approximately 3-4 days a week.

An active volunteer with the local schools in Lexington, Greenberg has offered time for events ranging from Read Across America, after school programs, walk-a-child to school day and assisting with cross country practices.

Additionally, she was a lead organizer to promote coach John Calipari's votes for the charity challenge sponsored by ESPN and has represented the volleyball team as the Student Athletic Advisory Committee representative for the last two seasons.

Greenberg is one of six named to the District 2 NCAA Division I All-District team. She excels in the classroom with a cumulative grade point average of 3.9 and is working towards degrees in both marketing and integrated strategic communications. She is expected to graduate in December, a semester early.

Greenberg was also selected as one of 30 collegiate volleyball candidates for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award®. The award recognizes notable achievements in four areas of excellence - community, classroom, character and competition.

BILLINGS TIMES 1,000, TWICE
Senior Whitney Billings made history against Louisville with her sixth dig of the match. After she reached the 1,000 kill plateau on Aug. 31, she eclipsed the 1,000 dig mark Sept. 10. The outside hitter became the first Wildcat in the modern era of Kentucky volleyball to achieve the 1,000 kills and digs mark in her career.

With 1,357 kills and 1,221 digs in her career entering NCAA Tournament play, she is the sixth member of the 1,000 kills and digs club at UK. The previous five all met the mark before the 25-point rally scoring system was introduced in 2008.

Billings notched double-doubles in the first four matches to open the year. The Helena, Ala. native has posted 12 double-double performances this season and 42 in her career. On the year, she has led the team in kills 18 times and has posted team bests in blocks and digs six times.

UK TO HOST 2013 NCAA REGIONAL

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.


 

 

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