The Kentucky volleyball team used a balanced offensive attack to win for the 12th-straight time, topping Ole Miss 3-0 (25-20, 29-27, 25-19) on Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum.
Kentucky (15-4, 8-0 SEC) had three players with at least 10 kills in the match. Freshman Leah Edmond led the way for the Wildcats with 12 kills, while juniors Kaz Brown and Darian Mack had 11 and 10 kills, respectively.
“We need that, we want that, because we want it to be difficult to prepare for us, so we want to have that balance,” Kentucky head coach Craig Skinner said. “(Setter Olivia Dailey) does a good job of recognizing who hasn’t gotten the ball lately and tries to get them involved to keep the blockers on their toes. That’s a very important piece of playing at an elite level.”
Dailey continued to play well for the Wildcats, both offensively and defensively. The three-time defending Southeastern Conference setter of the week had 46 assists in the match, while adding six block assists and six digs. The 46 kills marks a new 25-point rally scoring era record for a three-set match. It’s the most digs in a three-set affair since 2011.
The 23rd-ranked Wildcats also got key contributions from both of the team’s seniors on Sunday. Sharay Barnes had six kills and hit .400 for the match, while classmate Anni Thomasson also had six kills, along with 10 digs and a pair of assists.
“I’m proud of Sharay, she came in and did a really good job this weekend,” Skinner said. “Anni was big at the end of the second set. She had a couple of kills, she made several good digs, and while she didn’t have aces, her serve really put them in some tough situations offensively.”
UK blitzed the Rebels for 55 total kills – the most in a three-set match in the 25-point rally era. It also tops a season high total, as Kentucky posted 54 against Mississippi State a few weeks ago. Six players registered six or more kills on the day to pace the attack.
Junior libero Ashley Dusek led the backline defensive effort with a match-high 17 digs. Thomasson had 10, while Edmond and sophomore McKenzie Watson both contributed eight.
Kentucky returns to action on Friday night, when the Wildcats host South Carolina in Memorial Coliseum. The match is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen on the SEC Network+.
Kentucky grabbed the lead early in the set behind a pair of kills from Edmond and Dailey. When Dailey teamed with Brown on a block assist, the Wildcats led 6-3. Kentucky stretched the lead to 13-9, but Ole Miss cut it to 13-12 before the Wildcats were able to extend the lead and eventually win the set 25-20. Kentucky hit .317 as a team in the set, while holding Ole Miss to a .100 hitting percentage. Edmond paced Kentucky with six kills, while Brown had four. Dusek had 10 digs for the Wildcats, while Dailey had 12 assists.
The second set was a back-and-forth affair, with each team making significant runs during the set. Kentucky trailed 15-11 before going on an 11-1 run to lead 22-16. But Ole Miss fought back with six straight points to tie the set at 22-22. Kentucky faced set point, trailing 26-25, but the Wildcats eventually won the frame 29-27. Kentucky hit .231 in the set, but held Ole Miss to just a .160 percentage. Brown had six kills in the set, in addition to four block assists. Thomasson had three key kills late in the set, and added six digs. Dailey added another 17 assists.
There would be no such drama in the third set. Kentucky established a lead early and never looked back. Barnes had three kills early in the set as the Wildcats built a 5-1 lead. Ole Miss got as close as 13-11, but Kentucky was able to pull away late in the set behind Edmond’s five kills. The Wildcats won the set 25-19 to finish the match. Kentucky hit a sizzling .621 in the set, with 20 kills and just two errors. Dailey added 17 assists for the second straight set, while Dusek had four digs.
BY THE NUMBERS
46 – Set assists by Olivia Dailey, the most assists she has had in a three-set match this season and a 25-point rally scoring era record
55 – Kills by the Wildcats, the most in any three-set match this season and the most ever in a three-set match since the inception of the 25-point rally era
6 – Kills by Sharay Barnes, her highest kill total of the season
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