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Kentucky volleyball team’s hot streak survives top-five test

After a slow start to the 2016 season, the University of Kentucky volleyball team is beginning to reach its potential.

Kentucky traveled to fifth-ranked Florida on Wednesday night and broke the Gators’ 12-match winning streak with a 3-0 sweep.

The victory for Kentucky marked the first time since 1990 that the Cats have swept the Gators, UK took the match by scores of 25-17, 25-18 and 25-23.

“Our players were focused and determined to follow the game plan,” Coach Craig Skinner said afterward. “Offensively, we were very good on the left and as the match went on we got a lot of production out of the middle as well. We had a very balanced night.”

Wednesday night’s victory, Kentucky’s seventh in a row after a 3-4 start, put the Wildcats (10-4, 3-0) alone in first place in the Southeastern Conference. Combined with last year’s 3-1 win in Gainesville, Kentucky has beaten Florida in back-to-back trips for the first time since the 1987 and 1989 seasons. Florida fell to 12-2 overall and 2-1 in the league.

Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey directed UK’s offense to the tune of 49 kills on .290 hitting. Kentucky’s most explosive set was the second as Kentucky posted 20 kills on a .471 clip. Dailey dished out 37 assists and added seven digs and a pair of blocks.

“Olivia did a great job of getting people involved at the right time and I’m really pleased by the concentration and determination by our kids to win in a really tough environment on the road,” Skinner said. “We’ve really bought in to our defensive philosophy.”

Kentucky had 11 team blocks — seven of which came from junior Kaz Brown. Junior libero Ashley Dusek picked up a match-high 11 digs to lead UK, which accumulated 41 for the night.

Offensively, freshman Leah Edmond accounted for a match-high 19 kills — one shy of her career best. Brown and junior Darian Mack each posted nine, while Emily Franklin contributed seven. Sophomore Brooke Morgan added five kills and added six blocks.

Sophomore McKenzie Watson contributed six digs, while senior Anni Thomasson added four digs.

“Our opponent played very, very well tonight,” Florida head coach Mary Wise said. “It was a really tough match for us where things just really didn’t go our way.”

Kentucky returns to action Sunday at South Carolina (13-1, 1-1) in a 1:30 p.m. match

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