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Fourth-Ranked Missouri Upends No. 16 Kentucky

UK Volleyball 300LEXINGTON, Ky. (11/25/13) – Undefeated and fourth-ranked Missouri claimed a 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-16) win over the No. 16 Kentucky volleyball team on Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum. Senior Whitney Billings logged nine kills and eight digs in the loss to pace the Wildcats.
 
With the loss, Kentucky falls to 21-7 on the year and 13-4 in Southeastern Conference action. Missouri improves to 33-0, 17-0 in league play. UK will remain home for its regular season finale playing host to No. 7 Florida on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET.
 
“They (Missouri) played awfully well,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “They have two of the best players in the league without question in (Molly) Kreklow and (Lisa) Henning and they were on fire today. That team showed why they are a top five team. We didn’t play aggressive enough against them. With only four missed serves, I feel like we need to serve tougher to create some situations where we have to worry about one attacker and not three or four at a time.”
 
Missouri charted 47 kills on .407 hitting with a pair of players in double-figures. Kentucky notched 34 kills on .183 hitting and was flustered into 17 hitting errors. In addition to nine kills from Billings, junior Lauren O’Conner notched eight. UK got seven kills from both of its middle blockers in senior Alexandra Morgan and sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder. Morgan and freshman Anni Thomasson led the team with three blocks apiece. Sophomore setter Morgan Bergren dished out 31 assists.
 
Defensivley, junior Jackie Napper had six digs, freshman Kelsey Wolf totaled four, sophomore Shelby Workman had two and senior Jessi Greenberg added one.
 
Prior to the match, UK honored the class of 2013. Billings, Greenberg, Morgan and Desirre Wilkerson have notched 20 or more victories in three of their four seasons and are on pace to advance to an NCAA Tournament in each of their four seasons donning the Blue and White.
 
Billings opened the match with a kill off the Mizzou block to lift UK to the early lead. The Tigers fired back, however, and scored the frame’s next three points before Billings once again came through for the Cats to spell the visitors’ run. Missouri maintained a three-point advantage for much of the early stages of the set until the Tigers shook loose for a three-point swing to push its lead to 8-3 forcing Kentucky into a timeout. The margin would be enough for the visitors as Missouri rolled to a 25-15 opening set victory.
 
The Tigers utilized a .414 hitting clip with 15 kills compared to 10 for the Cats at a .147 rate. O’Conner led the way for UK with three kills in the frame.
 
Schwarzwalder capitalized on an overpass for the second set’s first point before Missouri fired back with a kill of its own. The Tigers used a pair of UK mistakes to earn a 4-2 lead, but consecutive kills from O’Conner and Schwarzwalder tied the score at four apiece. Billings followed with a solo block to begin a back-and-forth exchange between the two teams.
 
Missouri reclaimed the lead at 12-11 and then a ball handling error charged to the Cats forced UK into a timeout trailing 13-11. Schwarzwalder came up with a kill out of the break to end the 4-0 Mizzou run, but the Tigers would again answer with another multi-point rally to claim an 18-14 edge. Kentucky responded with three-straight points to pull to within 18-17, forcing the visitors to take a timeout. After the Tigers scored five of the next six points a big-time kill prompted the Tigers to take their final timeout ahead 23-20 late in the second set. Two Wildcat miscues would lift Missouri to a 25-20 second set win.
 
Mizzou posted 18 kills on .361 hitting with two players notching six apiece. UK managed 13 on .290 hitting. Schwarzwalder and Morgan both logged four each. Wolf had four digs for UK to lead the way defensively.
 
The third set opened in a back-and-forth battle with Billings accounting for UK’s first two points on kills. Missouri then pushed ahead by four at 7-3 before O’Conner’s kill to the back corner ended the early visitor’s run. A ball handling error by the Tigers enabled the Cats to pull back to within three at 11-8, but Missouri responded by utilizing a 7-2 run to stretch the advantage to eight at 18-10. The margin would be enough as the Tigers fended off consecutive Billings’ kills for two match-saving points before the Tigers earned the match’s winning tally on a kill.
 
Billings had six kills in the final frame for the Wildcats, and Napper had a team-high three scoops. UK put down 11 kills at a .107 rate. Missouri, however, fired away for 14 kills on a .462 hitting clip to earn the win.
 
Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. The regional will get underway Dec. 13, with semifinal contests at 5 and 7 p.m. ET, while the regional final will commence Dec. 14 at 4 p.m. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Seattle, Wash., from the Lexington Region. This marks the second time in three seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.

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