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Wildcats win in five sets in series opener vs. Arkansas
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Sophomore outside hitter Reagan Rutherford put the No. 5 Kentucky Volleyball team on her back and carried them over the finish line in the fifth set past Arkansas 3-2 (25-22, 25-14, 25-27, 19-25, 15-8) in five sets as the Wildcats extended their season-long winning streak to eight matches.
Rutherford had an impressive stat line all night, as the sophomore hit .308 with 12 kills on 26 swings with four digs and six blocks. The 12 kills for Rutherford is a new career high, as she had 10 vs. Alabama two weeks ago as a previous career high. Her six blocks Friday night are also a career high, as Rutherford had two kills and a block in the fifth set alone.
Kentucky improves to a season-high 11 matches over the .500 mark with Friday night’s result, now sitting at 14-3 on the year and remains undefeated at 7-0 in Southeastern Conference play. Arkansas suffers just its third SEC loss, falling to 5-3 in the league and is 14-5 overall.
The second match of this two-match SEC series will be Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET on the SEC Network+, ESPN3 and the ESPN app with Dick Gabriel and Kathy DeBoer on the call. Fans are encouraged to dress up in their Halloween costumes as UKVB celebrates Halloween with a costume contest and UKVB BINGO.
Friday night, Madi Skinner led the way with 17 kills, hitting .342 in the match with 15 digs for yet another double-double to the Katy, Texas native’s statline. Redshirt sophomore Bella Bell had 10 blocks in the match, a new career high by five, as she also went for five kills.
Kentucky had four players in double figures scoring, with Skinner’s 17, Rutherford’s 12, alongside Alli Stumler’s 15 and Azhani Tealer’s 14 kills. It was the first match all season UK had four players reach double figures scoring.
Defensively, it was Emma Grome registering a new career- best 21 digs, and Eleanor Beavin contributing 16 digs in the match. Madi Skinner (15) and Alli Stumler (10) both also were in double figures, as three players had double-doubles in the match.
The first degree of separation came on three-straight blocks as Kentucky got three-straight blocks on three-successive points by Azhani Tealer and Bella Bell as it took a commanding 15-10 lead into the media timeout seizing the first bit of momentum in the match. Arkansas closed the gap to 19-18 after two-straight Kentucky hitting errors and UK called its first timeout of the match with its lead down to one. Kentucky had another hitting error out of the timeout and Arkansas tied the set at 19-19 for the first time since it was 2-2. Reagan Rutherford had a mammoth block on the right pin to make it 24-22 Kentucky after gaining the two-point edge and Arkansas called its first timeout facing two set points. Bella Bell sent down her third kill of the set to give UK the final three points as UK took the opener, 25-22.
Kentucky had one of its most clinical offensive sets of the season in the second set as the Wildcats 27 points into the frame were hitting .750 and up 17-10. The Wildcats started the set strong, leading 8-2 with Arkansas unable to find the floor and Kentucky’s lead continuing to grow as the frame went along. Out of a timeout by the Razorbacks, the seventh block of the match for Kentucky was powered to the taraflex by Bella Bell and trailing 20-11, Arkansas called its final timeout of the frame. A Reagan Rutherford kill ended the set in which Kentucky hit over .600 and the Wildcats took a two sets to none lead at 25-13.
Kentucky had a four-point lead at 12-8 before Arkansas went on a 5-0 run, its largest of the match to take a 14-13 lead and the Wildcats were forced into their first timeout of the set. Arkansas had the lead down the stretch for a majority of the time, as UK saw its first lead at 23-22 on a kill by Alli Stumler to put the Wildcats up a point and Arkansas called its first timeout of the match as Lauren Tharp went back to serve for UK. Arkansas got a sideout and stuff block on the left pin to win the next two successive points and took set point at 24-23. Arkansas sided out at 100 percent down the stretch and won the final two points to take set three, 27-25, snapping UK’s 38-set winning streak against the Razorbacks.
A 4-1 run in the favor of Kentucky started the fourth set, but Arkansas slowly chipped away and took a 15-12 lead into the media timeout of the set after a 4-0 run to take the lead. Arkansas won two of the three points after the stoppage to take a set-high five-point lead at 18-13 as Kentucky called its first timeout to talk things over. After Kentucky cut the lead to 20-17, Arkansas won two points in a row to reinstate its five-point lead at 22-17 and UK called its final timeout. UK’s disjointed set continued down the stretch as it fell 25-19 in the fourth and Arkansas forced the match to a fifth set.
Kentucky was fast out of the gates again in the fifth set, as UK took a 5-2 lead thanks to a series of Razorback hitting errors and Arkansas called its first timeout seven points into the fifth set down three points. UK continued to play solid, consistent defense in the fifth set, holding Arkansas to