LEXINGTON, Ky. (9/2/13) – Behind a sizzling offensive display of 53 kills on a .371 hitting percentage the 17th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team cruised to a 3-0 (25-17, 27-25, 25-15) win over Long Beach State on Sunday afternoon.
Sophomore Shelby Workman posted a career-high total with 13 kills, senior Alexandra Morgan notched 11 kills on a .647 hitting percentage, and senior Whitney Billings logged her third-straight double-double effort with 13 hammers and 10 digs.
“I’m proud of the way we battled back in game one being down 10-6, and I liked our fight and composure in game two to pull that out,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “Those two moments were the difference in the match. We had several great individual performances tonight, and it really helped show a glimpse of the team we can become.”
Kentucky improves to 1-2 on the year with a win over the 49ers who are receiving votes in the preseason poll. Long Beach drops to 1-2 on the young season. The tournament was considered one of the top fields in the nation in the opening weekend of competition with UK and Florida State ranked in the top 20, and Illinois and Long Beach receiving votes to begin the season.
“This tournament featured four very good teams who are all capable of winning big matches this season,” Skinner said. “I think all of the teams will really benefit from this weekend as the season progresses.”
UK returns to the court Friday, Sept. 6 as the Wildcats play host to the Kentucky Classic Tournament in Memorial Coliseum. The Blue and White take on VCU on Friday at 7 p.m. ET. Liberty and East Tennessee State will also comprise the field for the weekend’s round robin tournament.
Billings was joined on the All-Tournament team by sophomore setter Morgan Bergren. Bergren contributed 36 assists, six kills, seven digs and a block in tonight’s victory while leading the offense to the tune of its season-high hitting percentage.
Billings again led the team with 13 kills, a team-high 10 digs and a team-best three blocks. Morgan was perfect from the field with 11 kills with zero errors. Workman notched the career-high tally in kills (13) while adding four digs. Sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder contributed four kills and a trio of blocks. Freshman Anni Thomasson added a career-best four kills to couple with six digs. Junior Jackie Napper added eight digs and senior Jessi Greenberg logged a trio.
Morgan got things going for the Wildcats with a kill off a slide to begin the scoring in the first set. Following a kill from the 49ers, O’Conner and Morgan gave UK back-to-back kills for an early 3-1 lead. The home squad was able to fire back and knot the score at five, before stretching the lead to two at 7-5. Kentucky took its first timeout trailing 10-6 after a 6-1 run by the 49ers.
Out of the break, UK got Billings involved who ignited an 8-1 run to go in front 14-11. In the run, Billings had a pair of kills and Workman two momentum changing digs. The Wildcats continued to roll en route to a 25-17 opening set victory capped by a thunderous kill from Billings.
Morgan led the offensive effort with six kills on an .857 hitting percentage and Billings added four on a .500 clip. As a unit, Kentucky laid down 16 kills on a sizzling .429 percentage with Bergren dishing out 12 assists.
A back-and-forth battle ensued to open the second stanza, until the 49ers shook loose for two points to go ahead 8-6. The Wildcats rallied back with two kills from Billings to tie the score at nine apiece. The run continued as UK jumped in front by a 12-10 margin after a spectacular defensive effort from the Cats. Long Beach fired back and tied the score at 12, and the teams would then exchange points until Long Beach converted on consecutive blocks to once again maintain a two-point edge at 15-13. Kentucky opted to use its first timeout to attempt to quell the run.
Kentucky clawed back and tied the score at 15, but a pair of blocks ignited the Cats to an 18-16 lead forcing Long Beach to burn a timeout. The 49ers were able to fight back and knot the score at 20 promptly taking the lead at 21-20. A misplay by Long Beach State tied things up at 23 apiece and the home team opted to use its final break. A block by the 49ers gave them set point, and Kentucky opted to take its last timeout. Workman responded with a cross-court shot, and then Long Beach was forced into a miscue giving UK set point at 25-24. With their backs against the wall, the 49ers responded with a kill of their own to again tie things. Schwarzwalder came up with a timely kill off the block once again giving the Blue and White set point. After a stellar dig from Bergren, Thomasson used her wits and simply found an open spot on the floor for the set-clinching point and a 2-0 lead into the lockerroom.
UK throttled the 49ers for 20 kills in the second set led by five from the hand of Billings. Schwarzwalder and Morgan both contributed four apiece. Billings led the charge defensively with six digs and a trio of blocks in the 27-25 second set victory.
Morgan eclipsed 10 kills with her opening swing in the third set. Bergren followed the point with a block and UK quickly went ahead 2-0. Long Beach State opted to take a very early timeout with UK ahead immediately. Out of the break, the home team fired back for three points to take the 3-2 edge. Kentucky responded with a 5-1 run for a 7-4 lead. With UK out in front by three, Long Beach State took its final timeout. It would be all the breathing room UK would need as the Cats cruised to a 25-xx third set victory and a sweep of the host 49ers.
Workman’s six kills in the stanza paced the offense which laid down 17 kills on a sizzling .500 hitting percentage. Billings logged four and a squad-high four digs.
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.
Information provided by Deborah J. Moore (UK Athletics)
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