LINCOLN, Neb. – Led by a dynamic performance from starting middle blockers Alexandra Morgan and Sara Schwarzwalder the 19th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team earned its second-consecutive sweep with a 3-0 (25-14, 25-13, 25-18) win over Duquesne on the opening night of the Ameritas Players Challenge in Lincoln, Neb.
“It was a good effort offensively for us,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “We played well and made smart decisions offensively. I thought we were disciplined with our blocking defense as well.”
Morgan and Schwarzwalder both turned in career-best performances with the duo both charting 10 kills. Morgan utilized an .833 attacking clip with Schwarzwalder turning in a .769 performance.
“It is really important for us to establish our middles,” Skinner said. “I thought Zan (Morgan) and Sara (Schwarzwalder) did a nice job of being available and getting up quick to be able to score.”
The victory moves the Wildcats to 6-2 on the season with Duquesne dropping to 8-2 on the year. UK will next face Oklahoma at 7 p.m. ET on Friday in the second day of competition at Nebraska’s tournament.
UK hit above .400 for the second-straight match charting a .413 clip in today’s win. Senior Ashley Frazier led the kill production with a season-high 15 hammers. Morgan and Schwarzwalder were the only other players to reach double figures.
Freshman setter Morgan Bergren saw her first career action and dished out 22 assists in two sets of action while also contributing a trio of kills. Senior Christine Hartmann passed out 15 assists in the opening set in leading UK to a match-high .577 hitting percentage.
Morgan led the way defensively with seven block assists as the unit came up with 12.5 blocks in three frames of action for a season-best total. Junior Whitney Billings posted four. Frazier, Schwarzwalder and Bergren chipped in with three apiece. Billings paced the back-line effort with 11 digs for the match.
Kentucky surged to a 25-14 opening set victory as Schwarzwalder opened flawlessly with a team-high four kills and a 1.000 attacking clip. Billings had seven digs in the opening frame.
The Wildcats scored the opening point of the set and never trailed the entire way. Billings fired away for the opening point and UK earned its largest lead early at 15-5 with a kill from sophomore Lauren O’Conner. A service error by the Dukes served as the set-clinching point for the Cats for the 1-0 lead in the match.
UK continued its relentless attack as it rolled to a 25-13 win in the second set to take a commanding 2-0 lead into the locker room. The Wildcats charted 15 kills on .393 hitting with Frazier totaling five kills in the stanza to lead the way.
For the second-straight set the Wildcats scored the opening point and never looked back. UK jumped to a commanding 7-1 lead which was highlighted by a trio of blocks from Morgan. Duquesne fought to bridge the gap to just four at 12-8, but Kentucky went on a 5-0 run capped by a block from Frazier and Morgan to shake free. Frazier concluded the set with her second service ace of the match for the Kentucky win.
UK finished the match with a 25-18 third set win to snatch its second-straight sweep after earning a 3-0 win over Western Carolina in its last action. The Wildcats charted a match-high 18 kills on .316 hitting in the third frame to power past the Dukes. Frazier again paved the way offensively with seven kills in the set.
It was a back-and-forth battle to start the frame with neither team breaking free for more than a three-point lead. Kentucky capitalized on a 12-5 run in the middle portion of the set to shake the Dukes and take a 21-15 lead. Frazier gave the Blue and White the victory with her 15th kill of the match for the 25-18 win.