Sep 30, 2012 6:26 PM
Behind another spectacular performance from junior Whitney Billings the Kentucky volleyball team rolled to a 3-1 (25-23, 22-25, 25-19, 25-17) win over Auburn on Sunday in front of 1,443 fans in Memorial Coliseum. The Helena, Ala., native charted her third-straight double-double effort and the 20th of her career with a season-high 19 kills and 15 digs. She added four blocks and a pair of aces in the win.
With its fourth-straight win over Auburn in the series, the Wildcats have won three-straight league matches to improve to 9-6 overall and 3-2 in Southeastern Conference action. Auburn drops to 12-4 and 3-3 in league play. UK will next hit the road for a pair of matches at Ole Miss on Friday night before an early season rematch at No. 12 Florida on Sunday.
"It's (defense) really important and it started with our serve." UK coach Craig Skinner said. "We had 13 serving errors, but Auburn was out of system a lot of the time today and you have to be able to do that with our serve and we did a good job of it. We were able to turn points when we needed. We let them crawl back a little bit but we extended the lead in games three and four when we needed it."
In addition to another stellar performance from Billings, UK got a career-day from junior Alexandra Morgan who logged a career-high 15 kills on a team-best .375 hitting clip. She also added five block assists. Senior Christine Hartmann dished out 45 assists and logged her 18th career double-double with 12 digs. She nearly had her first triple double with a team-leading six blocks, including three solo rejections.
Senior Stephanie Klefot led the back line defense with 17 digs. Sophomore Jackie Napper added 13 and junior Jessi Greenberg made eight highlight-reel diving scoops. Senior Ashley Frazier logged 10 hammers, with sophomore Lauren O'Conner contributing six on the night. Freshman Kayla Tronick added four kills and a trio of block assists in her first extended action in league play.
"They're (the team) pretty focused throughout the day and the seniors are to starting step up and lead in that way and understanding that we have to be ready to go," Skinner said. "This is a different league with a lot of good teams and Auburn is one of them."
UK opened to a 25-23 first set victory. The Wildcats notched 13 kills on a .100 hitting clip, but limited Auburn to 10 hammers on .075 hitting. Billings started hot with four kills in the opening set.
The home squad jumped out an early 10-4 lead capped by a kill from Frazier. The visiting Tigers clawed back to bridge the gap at 23-20, before UK earned set point on a kill from Morgan. Auburn saved set point twice before O'Conner ended the stanza with a slicing cross court kill.
Auburn knotted things up with a 25-22 second set win to even the match at 1-1 going into the locker room. Both squads struck for 13 kills, but the Tigers benefited from five service errors from the Cats.
Kentucky steamrolled to a 25-19 third set win to grab the 2-1 lead. UK blistered the Tigers for 18 kills on .250 hitting with Billings and Morgan teaming up for 13 in the stanza. Frazier added four to the Wildcat cause, while Klefot was at her best with seven scoops in the set.
The teams swapped points back and forth until UK shook loose for a four-point swing capped by a block from Tronick and Hartmann to make the score 20-16. Kentucky would then close out the frame on a 5-4 run with Frazier earning the set-clinching kill.
UK then claimed the match behind a 25-17 dominating fourth set that saw UK chart 16 kills and add a trio of blocks. Auburn was held to nine kills on a meager .079 hitting percentage. Billings had seven digs and Tronick four kills to lead the way.
Kentucky jumped out in front by a 8-1 score to begin the set and never looked back. In the opening nine points the Wildcats registered three kills and an ace from the right hand of Billings. Auburn fought back to within three at 13-10, but UK responded with a 12-7 run to close out the frame including forcing the Tigers into a final hitting error to win the match.