UK volleyball team sweeps Morehead State

mmaloney@herald-leader.comSeptember 23, 2013 

There's something to be said about knowing how to finish off an opponent.

Witness Kentucky's three-set volleyball sweep of Morehead State on Monday.

The 18th-ranked Wildcats (8-3) won 25-18, 25-21, 28-26, finishing each set with a flourish before a Memorial Coliseum crowd of 1,273.

UK scored 10 of the last 12 points in the first set and six of the last eight in the second. Then, the Cats rallied from four points down to complete the sweep.

"That's a pleasing part of this match, for sure," UK Coach Craig Skinner said. "I thought our concentration level went way up when we got to point 20. That's a sign of a mature team and a competitive group."

Whitney Billings, a 6-foot-2 senior, led the Wildcats with 13 kills. She also had 14 digs and tied Sara Schwarzwalder with three block assists.

"I'm really proud of us, the way we came back in the third set," Billings said. "We fought. We didn't give up."

Shelby Workman added nine kills for UK and Lauren O'Conner had eight.

Morgan Bergren, the setter, totaled seven kills, 36 assists and two service aces. Five of her quick-flick kills came in the opening set, causing Morehead to adjust.

"It really got them paying attention to me," Bergren said. "I noticed they had more one-on-ones outside and just mixing it up. I was able to get back to it later on because they stopped jumping with me. It was good to get involved early on just to get the one-on-one outside."

Jackie Napper, UK's libero, racked up 16 digs.

Morehead led 16-15 before UK closed with a 10-2 rush in the first set, capped by a Billings kill.

Things were tied at 19 in the second set, but UK closed out the win 6-2, this time finished with a Morehead service error.

The Eagles led by as many as four in the third set and were still up by three, 22-19, late in the set.

UK scored the next three points to tie, and the teams then never separated by more than a point until Workman's kill ended it.

"It feels good," Skinner said. "I'm happy with the way we competed at the end of that last set and pulled out a deuce game. ... Morehead is a great serving team and a pretty balanced team, and made us work."

Morehead (9-5), which had a five-match winning streak snapped, was led by Laura McDermott with 11 kills and five block assists.

Alex Fitzmorris had six block assists and Hannah Sigala added five.

"You're never pleased with a loss, but I was proud of the performance," Eagles Coach Jaime Gordon said. "I thought our kids played hard. They showed a lot of heart and passion, especially in that third set. It was a battle.

"We knew we were going to have to play well against such a quality opponent like Kentucky."

Morehead was UK's last non-conference opponent of the regular season. The Cats open Southeastern Conference play Friday at Auburn.

"I'm feeling pretty good going into conference," Billings said. "We played some really good teams pre-season that's prepared us for going into conference. And we played some close matches, so we know ... what we have to do."

Mark Maloney: (859) 231-3229. Twitter: @MarkMaloneyHL. Blog: markmaloney.bloginky.com

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