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College volleyball: Kentucky sweeps Morehead, reaches 20 wins yet again

If you thought Kentucky would take Morehead State's struggling volleyball team for granted Monday night, think again.

The 17th-ranked Wildcats came out focused and dispatched the visiting Eagles 3-0 (25-20, 25-13, 25-13).

UK (20-4), playing its final non-conference match of the regular season, reached the 20-win plateau for the fourth year in a row and for the seventh time in eight years.

Morehead (2-25) has lost 23 in a row to the Wildcats and trails the all-time series 26-7. The Eagles didn't lose for lack of effort, though.

"They were ready to play," said Jackie Napper, who led UK in digs with 13. "They had the mentality that they had nothing to lose. So we had to come out with that same mentality and ready to put the pedal to the metal."

Lauren O'Conner had 11 kills and hit .611 for UK, while Shelby Workman added 10 kills and a .444 percentage. Overall, UK hit .449 to MSU's .094.

"We really worked on that in practice over the weekend," O'Conner said of UK's hitting success. "We had the weekend off from games, so we focused on transition hitting. I think it carried over to this match."

Morgan Bergren had 31 assists for UK.

"Me and Morgan, actually this week, we went in and worked on a faster tempo, one that we clicked on, connected with," Workman said. "And I think that worked better for both of us, for our team. ... Just getting back on top of the ball and hitting hard, going for it."

Laura McDermott, Colbey Cameron and Hannah Sigala led Morehead with six kills each. Cameron added 17 assists.

As for hitting the 20-win mark, "I guess I don't think a whole lot about it," said Craig Skinner, UK's all-time winningest coach. "But it's the next win and as we go down the stretch, I think some matches down the road are more important — Georgia obviously being the first one this weekend."

"We take it one match at a time, and this was just like any other match," Napper said. "We had to mentally prepare and we had to come out and be ready to play against this team."

The common thread in UK's 20-win teams?

"Always just focusing on one game at a time," said O'Conner, a senior outside hitter. "We focus on a practice at a time, which leads up to the game. And just preparing each and every game the same way."

Morehead, which won 20 or more matches in each of the last eight seasons, never led Monday.

The best the Eagles could do was rally from a 5-1 deficit in the first set to tie at 13.

MSU was still within a point, 18-17, before UK closed with a 7-3 run.

The Wildcats jumped to a 6-0 lead in the second set and a 7-0 lead in the third and never looked back.

"We want to go out and sweep teams. We want to beat them in three," Workman said. "But we take it point by point, game by game; each point matters. We just go out and play hard."

"When, on paper, you should win a match, it's hard to always be focused the entire way," Skinner said. "For us, I don't think we had any hitting errors in set three ... For us to be able to do that and sustain it through three sets, I think was good."

UK was coming off a rare weekend off. Did Skinner get what he wanted out of Monday's match?

"Yeah, I think so," he said. "We were able to try some different things. We've been trying to smooth out some things with Shelby and trying to get some people playing time in different scenarios, and we were able to do that and rest a couple people that have been banged up a little bit. So it was nice to be able to take care of business."