LEXINGTON, Ky. (9/9/13) – For the seventh time in the eight year history of the event, the No. 21 Kentucky volleyball team won the Kentucky Classic with a 3-0 (25-21, 25-15, 25-20) sweep of East Tennessee State Saturday night in Memorial Coliseum.
The Wildcats (4-2) went a perfect 3-0 on their home court in the four team, six match tournament. After a five-set win over VCU Friday night in its first game, UK swept Liberty in Saturday morning’s first match. UK returns to the court Tuesday at 7 p.m. when the Wildcats host in-state rival and 17th-ranked Louisville at Memorial Coliseum.
Junior Jackie Napper was named the Kentucky Classic MVP, while sophomore Morgan Bergren and freshman Anni Thomasson were named to the All-Tournament Team.
“I like the way this team concentrates, they’re really engaged in each and every point,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “Even when we lost a couple, we were engaged, and when we won a couple, we were engaged. That’s one of the best things this team does.”
Napper registered a team-high-tying eight digs and six assists in the Classic finale. On the weekend, the defensive setter posted 43 digs, 18 assists and one kill.
“It feels good, I definitely think our block has a big part of that (our defense),” Napper said. “We did a good job of channeling the ball to me, so I was able to dig a lot of balls. Our serving was really aggressive, so we were able to get the other team out of system.”
Thomasson’s weekend was highlighted by her first career double-double in Saturday morning’s sweep of Liberty. Bergren led the Cats in assists each match, with 36, 40 and 29 helpers in the three contests, respectively.
Junior Lauren O’Conner paced the Wildcats with a team-best 14 kills against ETSU. Bergren and seniors Whitney Billings and Alexandra Morgan all contributed eight kills apiece in the balanced offensive attack.
“We’re still tweaking our lineup a little bit, trying to figure out what’s best,” Skinner said. “I think Lauren O’Conner playing better today and Anni Thomasson stepping up gives us some more flexibility on the outside. Defensively we have to continue to get better. Our blocking is okay, but I think we can be a much better blocking team. Positively, we’re killing the ball well, so I’m pretty happy with that.”
The opening set was the closest set of the match and featured 46 points of back-and-forth action. The frame featured five lead changes and 14 ties. With the score knotted at 10, the Bucs took an 11-10 lead, and while they allowed the Wildcats to tie it several times, UK would not take the lead again until it snapped a 20-20 tie to go ahead for the remainder of the set. Bergren led UK with four kills and 13 assists in the opening set.
The second set began with two straight points by ETSU, followed by three-straight UK points. It was tied at four when the UK offense picked things up in a big way. The Wildcats went on a 14-3 run and led 18-7. The next two points were harder to get, as the Bucs countered with six points of their own to cut Kentucky’s lead to 20-13. Skinner and UK called a timeout, and what followed was a 5-2 run to close out the set to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead.
Like many sets on the weekend for UK, the third frame against ETSU began as a back-and-forth affair. The Wildcats led by as many as three, and never lost the lead, but it wasn’t until it was 10-9 that Kentucky went on a 7-2 run to break it open and make it a 17-11 set. The Bucs would get to within four at 19-15 but no closer, as the Wildcats closed the match for a 25-20 victory.
Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. 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.
Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the Kentucky volleyball team and all 22 varsity sports.
Information provided by Charles Healy (UK Athletics)
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