Updated 1 year ago
For the eighth consecutive season under the direction of Craig Skinner the Kentucky volleyball team secured 17 or more victories following a 3-0 (25-14, 25-18, 25-18) sweep of visiting South Carolina on Sunday in Memorial Coliseum. The win was good enough for the team's 17th of the season, as well as continuing a season-long five-match winning streak.
"We're getting better," Skinner said. "I haven't seen us stop improving, but defensively we still have to get better. If we're able to get everyone involved (offensively), it's very difficult typically for teams to prepare. It's something we work on every day. When you see it on the floor and under the lights during matches, it builds confidence."
Kentucky improves to 17-8 on the season and 11-4 in Southeastern Conference action with the win over the Gamecocks. South Carolina falls to 15-12 overall and 3-12 in league competition.
The Wildcats enjoyed another tremendous offensive performance as UK totaled 51 kills on an impressive .471 hitting percentage for the match. Sophomore Lauren O'Conner led the way with 12 kills on .455 hitting. Senior Ashley Frazier added 10 kills on a .368 clip.
Junior Whitney Billings posted eight kills utilizing a .375 clip. Junior Alexandra Morgan and freshman Sara Schwarzwalder added seven kills apiece, with both players registering a .350 hitting clip or better. Senior setter Christine Hartmann passed out 38 assists and contributed six digs on the afternoon.
Senior libero Stephanie Klefot had a match-high 15 digs to lead the defensive effort. Sophomore Jackie Napper had nine and junior Jessi Greenberg contributed four to the winning cause.
Kentucky earned a dominating 25-14 opening set victory to begin the match. UK charted 16 kills on a blazing .560 hitting clip. Morgan led the way with five hammers on .625 hitting clip to pace the Wildcat attack. South Carolina managed 10 kills on a .192 hitting percentage.
The visitors scored the opening point of the match before Kentucky logged a kill from the hand of Morgan. The two teams exchanged points back-and-forth until UK shook free for an additional two points on a kill from Morgan and a block from the tandem of Schwarzwalder and Hartmann. Kentucky maintained the edge until it closed out the set on an 8-2 run highlighted by six points coming in the form of kills. O'Conner lifted the Wildcats to the clinching point with her second kill of the stanza.
UK earned a 2-0 lead into the locker room as the Blue and White secured a 25-18 second set victory. Kentucky tallied 18 kills on .275 hitting in the frame with O'Conner and Frazier both notching five kills apiece. The Wildcats' defense was equally impressive limiting the Gamecocks to a mere five kills on a .000 hitting clip.
Just as she closed out the set, O'Conner opened the scoring in the second stanza with a kill. South Carolina battled in the early stages of the frame before UK opened up an eight-point advantage at 13-5 on a kill from Billings. South Carolina scored 13 of the final 25 points, but the gap was too large for the visitors to overcome as the Wildcats secured the win.
The Wildcats saved their most impressive performance for last with a 25-18 third set win. UK posted 17 kills on a season-high .727 hitting clip as a team. UK committed just one error in the stanza. South Carolina had 14 kills on .545 hitting in its best performance of the day in attempt to match the Wildcats kill-for-kill. O'Conner led the way with five kills in the set on a staggering .833 hitting.
The home team raced out to a 3-1 lead on back-to-back kills from Frazier and Billings. However, South Carolina would not go away quietly and eventually pulled back to within one at 9-8. The Wildcats would put together an 8-4 run with Klefot serving five-straight points to secure the largest lead of the frame at 18-11. The cushion would be enough for the Blue and White to hang on for the 25-18 win with freshman Shelby Workman registering the match-clinching kill.
Kentucky will return to the road for a pair of matches against SEC Western Division foes. UK will first travel to Alabama for the lone meeting between the two teams on Friday for an 8 p.m. ET tilt, before wrapping up the road swing at Arkansas on Sunday.
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