LEXINGTON, Ky. (11/22/13) - The No. 16 University of Kentucky volleyball team begins a three-match homestand to close out the regular season. The Wildcats host Texas A&M Friday at 7 p.m. ET before welcoming fourth-ranked Missouri to Lexington Sunday at 1:30 p.m. on Senior Day.
Both of this weekend’s matches will feature a live video stream, radio broadcast and stats for both contests on UKathletics.com. Both contests will also air live on 1580 AM, with Dick Gabriel and Mandy Robbe on the call.
UK is 20-6 and 12-3 in the SEC after a 2-0 weekend at Mississippi State and Ole Miss. A record-breaking 19-block outing Nov. 15 propelled the Wildcats to a sweep of the Bulldogs before a 3-0 win over the Rebels gave head coach Craig Skinner his 200th career victory.
The Aggies sport a 16-10 record overall and an 8-7 mark in league play. TAMU has won five straight, including three road wins. The Tigers, who are a perfect 31-0 and 15-0 in SEC action, have won 11 road contests, eight in conference competition. MU opens the weekend Friday against Mississippi State.
SENIOR DAY SUNDAY
Sunday against Missouri is Senior Day, when UK will honor the senior class of Whitney Billings, Jessi Greenberg, Alexandra Morgan and Desiree Wilkerson before the match. They have advanced to the NCAA Tournament in every season of their career, have been part of two Sweet 16 runs and have won at least 20 matches in each of the past three seasons.
Billings, from Helena, Ala. is a two-time All-American and three-time All-SEC honoree and one of just five UK players to have recorded 1,000 career kills and digs. In the 25-point rally scoring era, she holds the UK records for kills, points, double-doubles and matches with 10 or more kills. From Melbourne, Fla., Greenberg is a defensive specialist who has tallied more than 575 career digs, which ranks fifth all-time in the 25-point rally scoring era. She is a three-time All-SEC Academic Team member and has seen action in over 115 career matches.
A Birmingham, Ala., native, Morgan is a four-time SEC Defensive Player of the Week honoree and is the only UK player in the 25-point rally scoring era to have two matches with 10 or more blocks. She has led the team in blocks and is among the top-five in total blocks and block assists and first all-time since the start of the 25-point era with a .348 career hitting percentage. Wilkerson is from Louisville and is a two-year letterwinner after coming to UK from Marshall. She averaged 3.0 kills per set as a junior, including four in her UK debut.
SCOUTING TEXAS A&M
Texas A&M is 16-10 overall and 8-7 in SEC action. The Aggies are riding a five-match winning streak and have a 6-5 mark away from College Station, Texas. TAMU’s lone win against a ranked opponent came at home against 16th-ranked Florida State on Sept. 12 in the form of a 3-0 sweep. In its winning streak, A&M has swept its opposition four of five times.
TAMU is under the direction of Laurie Corbelli, in her 21st season as head coach. A silver medalist on the 1984 Olympic team, Corbelli has won 540 matches in her career and 440 at A&M. She has guided the Aggies to 16 NCAA Tournament appearances, including second-round visits in 2011 and 2012. Corbelli has been named conference coach of the year twice and District VI Coach of the Year once at Texas A&M.
The Aggies are led by a balanced attack of three players, all sophomores, that have posted between 245 and 258 kills. Angela Lowak has notched 258 kills for a team-best 3.00 kills per set average, followed closely behind by Shelby Sullivan’s 256 kills and team best .386 hitting clip to go along with 29 service aces. Sierra Patrick has notched 245 kills on the year. Senior Allie Sawatzky has totaled 933 assists along with 205 kills and 211 digs and fellow senior Heather Reynolds leads the team with 225 digs. Freshman Jazzmin Barbers, who has garnered SEC Defensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week honors this season, has totaled 118 blocks to go along with 183 kills.
The all-time series between Kentucky and the Aggies is knotted at five wins a piece, though the Wildcats have claimed the last five contests, including two in 2012. UK also won one during the 2011 NCAA Tournament, the first meeting between the two schools since 1988. TAMU won all five outings between 1982 and 1985 but have not won since.
SCOUTING NO. 4 MISSOURI
Coming into the weekend, fourth-ranked Missouri is undefeated with a 31-0 record, 15-0 in the SEC. The Tigers have played four straight road matches, highlighted by a 3-0 sweep at then-No. 4 Florida on Nov. 15. Before coming to Lexington on Sunday, MU plays host to Mississippi State on Friday.
The Tigers are led by Wayne Kreklow, in his ninth season at the helm and 14th at MU. He is assisted by Susan Kreklow, who was the head coach from 2000-2004 and currently is the Director of Volleyball Operations. The duo, who also coached Columbia College together before coming to Mizzou, has led the Tigers to a 324 144 record in 14 combined seasons. The Kreklows have led MU to 10 NCAA appearances.
Going into the weekend, Mizzou is led by senior Lisa Henning, who has notched 430 kills with a 4.26 kills per set average. A two-time SEC Player of the Week, she also has 25 service aces, 227 digs and 72 blocks. Freshman Carly Kan, who has earned SEC offensive and freshman weekly honors, has totaled 312 kills to go along with 267 digs. Senior Molly Kreklow has dished out 1,269 assists and has 255 digs has been named SEC Offensive Player of the Week twice. Kan and Kreklow both have a team-high 34 service aces. Junior Whitney Little has earned defensive honors once from the SEC and has posted 246 kills for a team-best .480 hitting clip with 122 blocks on the year. Junior Sarah Meister leads the Tigers with 382 digs on the season.
Kentucky has a 3-1 record all-time against Missouri, though the Tigers claimed their first win in the season’s first meeting on Nov. 3 in Columbia, Mo. Sunday’s outing will be Mizzou’s first-ever contest against UK in Lexington.
2012 VS. THE AGGIES
Kentucky and Texas A&M squared off twice in 2012, A&M’s first season in the SEC. UK came away with a 3-2 victory on Sept. 23 before a 3-0 sweep at home on Oct. 14.
Led by a double-double effort from Whitney Billings, UK snapped TAMU’s nine-match winning streak with a thrilling 3-2 (25-23, 24-26, 25-18, 20-25, 15-12) road win on Sept. 23. Billings logged a season-high 16 kills and 16 digs to go along with five service aces and six blocks to lead the winning effort for Kentucky. Ashley Frazier had 16 kills in the match highlighted by the 1,000th slam of her career in the fourth set.
Led by the ninth double-double of the season for Billings, Kentucky rolled to a 3-0 (25-11, 25-22, 25-19) sweep of visiting Texas A&M on Oct. 14 in front of 1,312 fans in Memorial Coliseum. Billings led the Wildcats with 11 kills and a match-high 14 digs.
The Wildcats were dominating in all phases of the game including a .351 attacking clip as a team. Billings was joined by Lauren O’Conner in double-figures with 12 kills. Frazier added nine, and Alexandra Morgan totaled eight kills on .444 hitting. Sara Schwarzwalder pitched in with seven kills on a.667 attacking percentage.
NOVEMBER 3 VS. THE TIGERS
Against the then-No. 7 Tigers on Nov. 3, UK was swept (21-25, 23-25, 22-25) in three tightly contested matches in Columbia, Mo.
The Wildcats were unable to hand the Tigers their first loss of the season in front of a lively crowd of 3,925. UK came back to tie the second set at 23 and got within two in the third set, at 24-22, but were unable to complete the comeback.
Kentucky was held to .229 hitting with 45 kills, while Missouri hit .350 with 47 kills. The Wildcats registered five blocks to the Tigers’ nine, while UK notched three service aces.
Freshman Anni Thomasson led the way for UK with a match and then career-high 15 kills to go along with seven digs, the second highest total for the Wildcats. Senior Alexandra Morgan posted eight kills on .316 hitting, while fellow senior Whitney Billings notched seven kills, three blocks and five digs.
LAST TIME OUT: AT MISSISSIPPI STATE & OLE MISS
Last weekend, UK posted 3-0 sweeps at Mississippi State and Ole Miss in its final regular season road contests. The victory over MSU was highlighted by a record-setting 19 blocks, while the win at Ole Miss marked head coach Craig Skinner’s 200th career victory and UK’s 20th win of the season.
Nov. 15, the Wildcats limited the Bulldogs to a .008 hitting clip, the lowest for a UK opponent since MSU hit -.026 on Oct. 12, 2012. Kentucky’s 19 blocks was the most since UK recorded 20.5 on Oct. 21, 2011 and the most in a three-set match in the 25-point, rally scoring era in Wildcat history.
Senior Alexandra Morgan recorded a career-best 11 blocks, while senior Whitney Billings tied a career high with eight. Morgan’s 11 blocks were the most from a UK player since she notched 10 nearly a year ago, on Nov. 18, 2012. She added seven kills on .438 hitting, while Billings posted six kills in addition to eight digs. Freshman Anni Thomasson led the squad with nine kills with 14 digs.
Nov. 17th’s win at Ole Miss was a hard-fought, tight contest for the Wildcats. The match featured 27 ties and 8 lead changes and the Rebels became the first team to score at least 20 points in every set against UK in the Wildcats’ 13 three-set sweeps this year.
Billings led Kentucky with 11 kills and contributed eight digs and two blocks. Thomasson totaled nine kills with six digs, while Morgan posted six kills on .400 hitting with a team-high six blocks.
UP NEXT: VS. NO. 7 FLORIDA
The Wildcats close out the regular season Wednesday night against No. 7 Florida at 8 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. The contest will be a rematch of the Oct. 11 meeting, where the Gators claimed a 3-0 win in Gainesville.
UK is 12-47 against UF, the only SEC team the Wildcats do not own a winning mark against.
Freshman Anni Thomasson has wasted no time making her presence known on the court this season for the Wildcats. On Nov. 10, she made her presence known nationally, with a record-breaking outing against LSU.
Thomasson had a match for the ages in UK’s five-set victory over the Tigers with a 30-kill, 22-dig outing. She became what is believed to be the first freshman in program history and just the second in UK history to tally 30 or more kills and 20 or more digs in a single match. She joins Molly Dreisbach as the only other player to achieve the feat. Dresibach had 33 kills and 26 digs in Nov. 26, 1994 vs. Duke.
She is the first SEC player to turn the 30-20 trick since Alabama’s Kayla Fitterer in 2010. The last UK player to record 30 kills in a match was Sarah Spinner’s 36 in 2004.
On the season, the first-year star is second on the team with 203 kills and third with 220 digs. She has totaled four double-doubles in her inaugural campaign.
Ninth-year head coach Craig Skinner won his 200th career match in Sunday’s 3-0 win at Ole Miss. With a 200-82 career mark, he is the school’s second all-time winningest coach entering this weekend’s matches and sits just nine wins shy of tying the all-time wins mark at UK. Kathy DeBoer tallied 209 in nine seasons at the helm from 1984-92.
In addition to Skinner’s 200th career win, UK’s victory at Ole Miss marked its 20th victory of the season for the third straight year and the sixth time in the past seven campaigns. With their 17th victory this season coming at the hands of South Carolina, the Blue and White have amassed 17 or more victories in all nine seasons of Skinner’s tenure.
GETTING IT DONE QUICKLY
Through 26 matches, the Wildcats have been involved in 17 three-set contests. UK has posted a 13-4 record in 3-0 outings, including a 7-2 mark in Southeastern Conference action.
The 13 sweeps by the Wildcats on the season were fueled by a seven-match winning streak, where UK posted five 3-0 wins. The winning streak included a run in which Kentucky recorded victories in 19 of 20 sets. After claiming the fifth set in UK’s upset win over No. 4 Minnesota, only Alabama was able to win a set against the Wildcats.
In UK’s nine matches this season that went longer than three sets, Kentucky has played three four-set contests and six matches that have gone the distance.
The habit of making quick work is nothing new for the Wildcats, who notched a 12-4 record in three-set contests last season.
In SEC play, the Wildcats lead the conference with an average of 2.95 blocks per set. In league action, senior Alexandra Morgan ranks second in the league, averaging 1.42 blocks per set, while sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder is fourth with a 1.31 average. Senior Whitney Billings is ninth with a 0.96 blocks per set average. UK is the only team with more than one player ranked in the top 10.
On the year, the Wildcats have totaled 247.5 blocks, for a 2.66 blocks per set rate. Morgan’s 1.23 blocks per set average and 114 blocks on the year are both team highs.
As a team, UK has out-blocked its opponent 14 times, with wins in all 14 contests and 10 victories in SEC play. The Wildcats are 6-6 in matches where they have notched equal or fewer blocks then their opponent. Kentucky has 247.5 blocks on the season, while it has held the opposition to 198.5.
UK’s stellar blocking totals are highlighted by a record-setting 19-block outing at Mississippi State and back-to-back 15-block performances vs. Alabama Oct. 27 and at Arkansas on Nov. 1.
The 19 blocks at MSU was the most since UK recorded 20.5 on Oct. 21, 2011 and the most in a three-set match in the 25-point, rally scoring era in Wildcat history. Morgan recorded a career-best 11 blocks, the most from a UK player since she notched 10 nearly a year ago, on Nov. 18, 2012. Senior Whitney Billings tied a career high with eight.
Three players registered six or more block assists in the victory over Alabama, including eight from Billings and Schwarzwalder, while Morgan totaled six. Kentucky out-blocked the Crimson Tide 5-0 in both the first and fourth sets.
At Arkansas, Schwarzwalder posted a career best nine blocks as UK once again totaled 15 rejections. Morgan added six and Billings five in the win. The Wildcats had five blocks in the second set before a six-block performance in the third frame.
SEC HONORS WRAP-UP
UK has been awarded with weekly honors six times by the SEC this season. Senior Whitney Billings was named the SEC Player of the Week on Sept. 16 and 29, while Alexandra Morgan earned Defensive Player of the Week accolades on Sept. 29 and again on Nov. 18. Anni Thomasson garnered the Freshman of the Week award on Sept. 16 and was named Player of the Week on Nov. 11.
The six weekly honors ties the most in one season in UK history, since the league began giving out three awards each week in 2005. The Wildcats also were honored six times during the 2008 campaign.
GREENBERG NAMED TO ACADEMIC ALL-DISTRICT TEAM
Senior Jessi Greenberg was named to the Capital One Academic All-District Team. The Melbourne, Fla., native is one of six named to the District 2 NCAA Division I team, it was announced Thursday. Greenberg automatically advances to the national ballot for Academic All-America honors.
Greenberg is an International Strategic Communications and Marketing major. She has played in 22 matches with four starts and has registered 43 digs and two aces in addition to a kill and an assist on the year.
BILLINGS TIMES 1,000, TWICE
Senior Whitney Billings made history against Louisville with her sixth dig of the match. After she reached the 1,000 kill plateau on Aug. 31, she eclipsed the 1,000 dig mark Sept. 10. The outside hitter became the first Wildcat in the modern era of Kentucky volleyball to achieve the 1,000 kills and digs mark in her career.
With 1,313 kills and 1,185 digs in her career going into the weekend, she is the sixth member of the 1,000 kills and digs club at UK. The previous five all met the mark before the 25-point rally scoring system was introduced in 2008.
Billings notched double-doubles in the first four matches to open the year. The Helena, Ala. native has posted 10 double-double performances this season and 40 in her career. On the year, she has led the team in kills 15 times and has posted team bests in blocks six times and digs five times.
GREENBERG HAS CLASS
Senior Jessi Greenberg was selected as one of 30 candidates for the 2013 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate volleyball. To be eligible for the award, a student-athlete must be classified as an NCAA Division I senior and have notable achievements in four areas of excellence – community, classroom, character and competition.
For 37 seasons of Kentucky volleyball, Memorial Coliseum has been home for the Wildcats. UK has a favorable record in the friendly confines of the esteemed venue.
This year, Kentucky is 10-1 at home. The mark includes a 4-0 mark in SEC contests, a 3-2 upset win over then-No. 4 and undefeated Minnesota and a five-set win over in-state rival Louisville. The Wildcats also won their seventh Kentucky Classic on their home court to open the home campaign.
Overall: 374-145 (37th season) .721
Skinner era: 114-24 (9th year) .826
UK TO HOST 2013 NCAA REGIONAL
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. Tickets for the event are available now at UKathletics.com/tickets.
Information provided by UK Athletics
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