LEXINGTON, Ky. – For the eighth time in nine seasons, the Kentucky Wildcats have registered 20 or more wins, as the nation’s 24th-ranked team took down Georgia, 3-0 (25-22, 25-13, 25-20), in Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday evening.
Par for the course, Kentucky’s stifling defense played a large role in the sweep, as the Wildcats recorded its second-highest dig total in a three set match this season with 48, while tacking on an impressive 11 blocks in three sets. The serving game played a large role as well, as the Wildcats tied their season match-high nine aces.
“I thought in the first set we didn’t quite have the mentality to execute and compete,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner. “We challenged the team to step it up in the second set and it definitely carried over.”
With the victory, Kentucky stands at 20-9 in 2015 with a 13-4 record in Southeastern conference play. Georgia moves to 5-24 on the season, still in search of its first SEC victory. Kentucky closes out the regular season on Friday at 7 p.m. against Auburn in Memorial Coliseum. Seniors Morgan Bergren and Sara Schwarzwalder will be honored prior to the match.
Sophomore Darian Mack and junior Anni Thomasson both record double-figure kills in the match with 11 and 10, respectively. Mack added a dig and a block, while Thomasson provided an assist, two aces, eight digs and a block.
Sophomore middles Kaz Brown and Emily Franklin and freshmen right side Brooke Morgan each had six kills during the match. Brown lived up to her All-SEC title with nine total blocks and a dig. Franklin led the team in hitting (.500) while providing an assist, an ace and two blocks, while Morgan, an SEC All-Freshmen team selection, tacked on two blocks and a dig.
Bergren guided the offense to a .262 hitting clip with 32 assists. The All-SEC honoree was a dig shy of a double-double and added six blocks. Schwarzwalder had two kills and two aces during the third set.
On the back line, SEC Libero of the Year Ashley Dusek paved the way with a match-high 18 digs. She added five assists, an ace and a kill. Freshmen McKenzie Watson and Olivia Dailey also served as defensive specialists. Watson logged four digs, while Dailey had six digs, two assists and two aces.
Brown had a giant swing resulting in a kill to kick off the match for UK. The Wildcats tied the match at 5-5 following two kills from Morgan in the span of three plays. A three-point swing in which Bergren and Thomasson notched kills made it 9-7 before Georgia scored two in a row. Back-to-back kills for Franklin down the middle gave UK a three-point lead at 14-11. Out of the media timeout, Brown thundered down an overpass and Franklin got an ace for a 17-12 lead, prompting a Georgia timeout. Georgia pulled within two when Kentucky called timeout. Brown notched another kill and a block to make it 20-16, but Georgia responded with four straight points to tie it at 20-all. A block from Brown and Mack broke the deadlock. Bergren followed with a kill to make the lead 22-20. Georgia called for time, but two kills from Mack set up set point. Georgia would fend off set point once before Franklin notched the kill off the quick set for a 25-22 victory.
The Wildcats made an early 4-0 run thanks to kills from Thomasson, a solo stuff from Brown and an ace by Dailey. Georgia scored three points before Kentucky made a 4-0 run for the 9-3 lead capped by a block from Bergren and Franklin. Mack dug her own ball before killing it to make the score 11-6 in Kentucky’s favor. A block from Brown and Morgan took UK into the media timeout with a 15-7 lead. Brown got back-to-back stuffs to give Kentucky an 18-10 lead, forcing Georgia to call time. Out of the break Brown had another rejection and a kill from Thomasson made it 20-10. Kentucky had 11-point lead at 23-12 when Georgia used its final timeout. Mack would close out the frame with back-to-back kills for a 25-13 win.
After a 3-3 tie in the early going, Kentucky opened up a 6-2 run capped by a kill from Schwarzwalder. Georgia tried to climb back into it, but an ace from Thomasson made it a five-point game at 13-8. A kill from Thomasson led Kentucky into the media timeout with a four-point, 15-11 lead. Georgia pulled within one at 16-15, backing Kentucky into its first timeout. The Wildcats fired back, as a kill from Morgan and two aces from Schwarzwalder made it 20-17. Kentucky continued to push, making a 3-1 run before the Bulldogs used their final timeout at 23-18. Each side scored twice more, as UK took the match with a 25-20, set three win.
By the Numbers
20 – For the eighth time in nine seasons, Kentucky has had 20 or more wins
9 – All-SEC selection Kaz Brown had nine blocks in the win
6 – SEC Libero of the Year Ashley Dusek averaged six digs a set during the win with 18 total
5 – Five players recorded six or more kills in the win against the Bulldogs.
1 – With the win against Georgia, head coach Craig Skinner is one win shy of 250 career victories.
Premier Sports Management announced its 10 finalists for the annual Senior CLASS Award on Friday, Oct. 30, with standout setter Morgan Bergren being one of the remaining candidates for the honor. Nationwide fan voting begins immediately to help select the winner, and fans are encouraged to vote on the Senior CLASS Award website through Dec. 7. Fans can vote once a day until the Dec. 7 cut off.
Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 11-12. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Omaha, Neb., from the Lexington Region. This marks the third time in five seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.