No. 13 Wildcats led by Thomasson’s match-high 15 kills in win at Tennessee. – KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Sophomore Anni Thomasson had a match-high 15 kills on .452 hitting as the 13th ranked Kentucky volleyball team extended its winning streak to nine matches with a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-13) win at Tennessee Friday night.
The Wildcats (15-2, 5-0 Southeastern Conference) have won four in a row vs. Tennessee (7-12, 0-5 SEC) and five of the last six in the series. UK’s nine match winning streak is its longest since 2011, when the Wildcats won nine in a row twice.
“We are happy to get a win on the road,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We didn’t get a great start to the match, but we finished well. Anni Thomasson really stepped up offensively in first two games, and our serving and blocking was the difference in the third set.”
Kentucky returns home Sunday to face Auburn at noon ET, with the game televised live on the SEC Network. The contest is UK’s annual Pink Match, and fans who wear pink to Memorial Coliseum will receive free admission. The Wildcats have won 13 of the last 14 meeting in the series vs. the Tigers.
Friday night in Knoxville, UK hit .317 with 44 kills in the sweep, its sixth 3-0 win of the season and second in a row. Kentucky had five service aces to Tennessee’s two. The Kentucky defense had 35 digs and nine blocks, with six in the final set. UK held UT to .184 hitting and 30 kills and the Lady Vols had four blocks and 39 digs.
The Wildcats were led by Thomasson’s 15 kills, all but one coming in the first two sets, with a season-best .452 hitting clip. The 15 kills marks the 13th time the sophomore has notched double-digit kills this season. Thomasson added three digs and one block assist in the win.
Senior Lauren O’Conner notched eight kills on .304 hitting with four digs, while junior Shelby Workman had seven kills and seven digs with two blocks. The UK offense was directed by junior Morgan Bergren, who had 31 assists along with six kills on .500 hitting and five digs.
Defensively, UK was led by freshman Kaz Brown’s career-high eight blocks and senior Jackie Napper’s eight digs. Junior Sara Schwarzwalder added five kills and one dig.
The Wildcats erased an early seven-point deficit to come back for a 25-19 opening-set win. Tennessee jumped out to an early 7-1 lead, which it stretched to as many as seven at 11-4, but that’s when the Wildcats began to make their comeback. UK scored eight of the next 11 to get to within two at 14-12. An O’Conner kill got Kentucky within one, at 15-14, and after a UT kill, back-to-back kills by Thomasson tied the match at 16-16. Out of a Tennessee timeout, an ace by O’Conner, her first of the match, gave the Wildcats their first lead of the contest. Tied at 18-18, UK scored six straight, capped by three consecutive Thomasson kills, to set up set point at 24-18. A Schwarzwalder kill sealed the 25-19 win for the Wildcats.
UK hit .381 in the opening frame with 19 kills, led by Thomasson’s nine on .643 hitting. Schwarzwalder added three kills, while three Wildcats had two kills. Defensively, Napper had seven of UK’s 15 digs and Kentucky held Tennessee to 12 kills on .333 hitting. Bergren dished out 15 assists along with one kill and a dig.
The second set was a back-and-forth battle early, with 11 ties and seven lead changes before UK took a 14-12 lead. UK had three two-point leads early in the set, but couldn’t extend its advantage until a 4-0 run late. UT never gained a lead of more than a point in the set. With the set tied at 15-15, the 12th tie of the set, UK rattled off four consecutive points to take a 19-15 lead, its largest of the set. Kills by O’Conner and Thomasson and two UT attack errors fueled the run. After the Lady Vols cut the lead to two, the Wildcats scored the next three to force a Tennessee timeout and give Kentucky a 22-17 advantage. Out of the timeout, The Wildcats scored three of the next six, enough to secure the 25-20 victory and claim a 2-0 lead in the match.
Thomasson logged five kills on .455 hitting to once again lead the Wildcats offensively. O’Conner added four kills, while Bergren tallied nine assists, two kills and a solo block as UK hit .231 with 15 kills in the frame. Workman had three of the Wildcats’ 10 digs and three players had two. Brown assisted on two blocks.
Kentucky jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the third set, with a 6-0 run capped by back-to-back Workman kills and a Napper service ace. Out of a Tennessee timeout, the Lady Vols scored a point to stop UK’s run, but the Wildcats quickly answered with a string of five consecutive points, helped by three UT attack errors. The Lady Vols scored the next two points to make it 12-5, but a Workman kill, followed by two O’Conner kills pushed the Wildcat lead to 10. Out of a Tennessee timeout, UK’s lead was cut to eight, but the Wildcats would not let UT get any closer. UK closed out the set on a 4-1 run to secure the 25-13 win.
Brown was a force at the net for UK, recording two solo blocks and assisting on each of UK’s four additional blocks in the set. Offensively, Bergren and Workman each had three kills as UK hit .348 with 10 kills as a team in the final frame. Bergren hit a perfect 1.000 and added seven assists, while Workman hit .750 in the third set. O’Conner added two kills and three digs.
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