Oct. 12, 2012
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LEXINGTON, Ky. -
In front of the largest crowd in the Craig Skinner era and in its first appearance in Rupp Arena the Kentucky volleyball team swept Mississippi State 3-0 (25-18, 25-18, 25-18) on Friday night. As the kickoff event to Big Blue Madness, 5,261 fans saw the Blue and White earn its first ever victory in historic Rupp Arena.
“It was pretty special for our kids,” Skinner said. “A lot of people that haven’t gotten to see volleyball tonight and (got to) see some pretty explosive athletes do some things, which is great for us.”
With the win, Kentucky improves to 11-7 overall and 5-3 in Southeastern Conference action. Mississippi State falls to 4-13 and 0-7 in league action. Kentucky returns to action on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. ET. UK will play host to Texas A&M in a “Dig for the Cure,” match in which fans are encouraged to wear pink.
“I had no idea what to expect,” Skinner said. “I wanted people exposed to the high level volleyball that our athletes compete at and give them a chance to see it and hopefully come see it at Memorial Coliseum.”
The Wildcats’ defensive effort was impressive as UK limited Mississippi State to 22 kills and a negative .026 hitting percentage. Kentucky charted 35 kills on .262 hitting with senior setter Christine Hartmann passing out 29 assists.
Senior Ashley Frazier and junior Alexandra Morgan both led the offensive effort with eight kills apiece. Sophomore Lauren O’Conner added seven and junior Whitney Billings logged five. Morgan also contributed a career-high four service aces.
Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder and Hartmann led the defensive prowess at the net with a trio of blocks. Hartmann also was tops on the team with eight digs. Senior Stephanie Klefot had seven and Billings contributed six.
The Wildcats raced out to a 12-4 lead to open the match with Billings notching a pair of aces in the run. The Bulldogs made a run and got to within three at 16-13, but UK closed out the set on a 9-5 run with a pair of Frazier aces and a block by the duo of Billings and Schwarzwalder en route to the opening set victory.
UK totaled 12 kills on .360 hitting in the set with Mississippi State managing just five kills on a negative .200 clip.
Consecutive kills from Billings and O’Conner opened the second frame as UK never trailed in the stanza.UK took its largest lead at 23-10 on a kill from junior Desiree Wilkerson. Freshman Shelby Workman gave UK set point with a kill, but Mississippi State saved the set six times before Wilkerson finally gave UK a 25-18 set with another kill.
UK posted a match-high 13 kills on .114 hitting in the stanza. Mississippi State earned six kills on .037 clip.
O’Conner opened the third set with a kill as UK captured the opening point of all three frames and never looked back. Back-to-back kills from Frazier gave the home squad its largest lead of the set at 12-3. The Bulldogs fought back to within three at 16-13, but UK ended the match on a 9-5 run for the second time in the match for its historic win.Hartmann closed out the match with an ace before UK forced the Bulldogs into their 24th attacking error of the match.
Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the UK volleyball team. For additional coverage of the volleyball squad be sure and check out CatScratchesBlog.com/volleyball.
UK Coach Craig Skinner Quotes
“It was pretty special for our kids. A lot of people that haven’t gotten to see volleyball tonight and see some pretty explosive athletes do some things, which is great for us.”
On the team responded to the different surroundings…
“We started every game really well then I think we fell asleep a little bit then finished strong at the end. That was important for us. I think the air conditioning currents were up a little bit. The ball floated a little more than usual serving and passing wise, so I think on both teams it was very difficult to serve receive and both teams served pretty tough and that caused for some interesting points but overall it was a great experience for us.”
On whether team got out of the match what they thought they would …
“Yeah, it’s different, we were successful and won 3-0 against an SEC team. You have to get uncomfortable during the season to play your best by the end. I am definitely happy with it.”
On whether the environment affected play …
“I think it did. You’re in a different depth perception, different place, different feel and your traditional loyal fans aren’t there so you are a bit out of your comfort zone. We started out strong and didn’t play great in the middle but finished it off when we had to against an SEC team.”
On the six service errors in the first game…
“Its hard to swallow a little bit. They served aggressively and I do think the building has an affect on that because you’re in a different surrounding than what we practiced last night, so it does have an impact. We did have ten aces and a one-to-one ratio of aces to errors so you can live with that as a coach.”
On setting the attendance record in the Craig Skinner era…
“It’s fun. I had no idea what to expect, I doubted we would get the national attendance record a few hours before (Big Blue) Madness but what I wanted to get out of it was getting people exposed to the high level volleyball that our athletes compete at and give them a chance to see it and hopefully come see it at Memorial Coliseum.”
On how the change the environment changed the mindset of the players…
“I think it was pretty similar. I mean, they are a pretty loose group and have a good time. They were pretty focused in serving and passing today so I thought it was pretty similar.”
On the importance of winning 3-0 instead of 3-1 or 3-2 ...
“You’ll take a win anytime but when you are able to win 3-0 it gives yourself some confidence to not allow teams to get momentum. Volleyball is such a momentum sport, for an example we were up 2-0 against Florida and the came back to win the match. Closing out that third set is important for us to do.”
On returning to Rupp Arena for a game in the future…
“I would definitely consider the option of coming back. I think it would be a great environment to host a Regional or Final Four in. We hosted the Regional last year and to continue the growth of volleyball around here would be pretty special for the female athletes of this level.”