LEXINGTON, Ky. –Sparked by an all-around effort the Kentucky volleyball team rolled to a 3-1 (25-19, 18-25, 25-14, 25-17) win over visiting Georgia on Senior Day in Memorial Coliseum in front of 1,404 fans.
Prior to the match, Kentucky honored its three-member senior class of Ashley Frazier, Christine Hartmann and Stephanie Klefot.
The trio helped lead a dynamic effort by the Blue and White en route to its 18th victory of the season improving to 18-10 overall and 12-6 in league competition. Georgia drops to 13-15 and 7-11 in Southeastern Conference action. Kentucky will wrap up non-conference action away from home with matches at Missouri (Nov. 21) and Auburn (Nov. 23).
“It was a good win and we played really well for three sets,” UK coach Craig Skinner said. “Georgia played really well in set two. I like the way we responded. We put some serving pressure on them to help setup our blocking defense.”
Hartmann directed five UK players to seven or more kills with 45 assists and 13 digs for her 21st career double-double effort. Frazier posted nine kills and Klefot added a match-high 19 digs, four assists and her first kill of the season. The 19 digs in a four-set match is a season-high within league play for the Louisville, Ky., native.
Junior Alexandra Morgan narrowly missed on a double-double with nine kills and a career-high 10 blocks. The 10 rejections are the most for any UK player since Lauren Rapp had 10 on Dec. 4, 2009 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Morgan ripped her nine kills on a .400 hitting clip, added three aces and four digs to her stat line.
“Zan did a great job, very impressed with her blocking,” Skinner said. “She worked hard on it this week and spent a lot of time on it. She came in to do some extra work. Before I think she was reaching for the ball, but today she took away space, which is the most important thing. When she does that, she’s tough to hit around.”
Junior Whitney Billings contributed her career-best 15th double-double of the season which ranks as an SEC-leading number for right side attackers. Billings logged 13 kills and 16 digs while also contributing four blocks. Sophomore Lauren O’Conner led the Wildcats in the kills’ column with 14 and tallied four blocks and four digs to aid the defensive cause.
Freshman Kayla Tronick came off the bench and sparked UK with seven kills on a match-high .417 hitting clip and added a block and her first career assist.
“She (Tronick) earned it this week in practice,” Skinner said. “She had a heck of a week in practice. Honestly, she deserved to start the way that she had been playing. We just needed a change of what we were doing and Kayla (Tronick) obviously did a great job. She brings a lot of energy and great play for us.”
Defensively, the defensive specialist duo of junior Jessi Greenberg and sophomore Jackie Napper had a combined 17 digs which included several highlight-reel plays.
Kentucky raced out to a 25-19 opening set victory to take the early 1-0 lead in the match. UK posted 18 kills on .289 hitting while limiting Georgia to nine hammers on just a .054 clip. O’Conner, Billings and Frazier all had four kills to lead the way with Hartmann and Klefot both logging five digs to lead the defensive effort.
The teams swapped points for much of the opening portion of the frame until UK was able to rattle off a 9-5 run with Klefot and Billings spearheading the charge from the service line. O’Conner capped the stanza with her fourth kill of the set for the early advantage.
Georgia fired back with a 25-18 second set to even the match at 1-1 into the locker room. The Bulldogs capitalized on a few UK miscues and held UK’s offense to just 10 kills on .050 hitting for the win.
Following the break, Kentucky dominated the third set behind four blocks from Morgan and a perfect 5-for-5 kills from Billings for the 25-14 win. UK smacked down 15 kills on .440 hitting and had four blocks to frustrate the visitors into seven hitting errors compared to just nine kills in the set.
Again the set began in a back-and-forth battle until the Wildcats were able to shake loose for four consecutive points led by kills from Tronick and Billings to make the score 16-10. Back-to-back blocks from Morgan ignited the crowd with the Cats leading by 10 at 22-12. UK kept the pressure on and Morgan closed out the stanza with a kill for the 25-14 win.
Kentucky raced out to a 2-0 lead behind a kill from Frazier and an ace from Morgan in the fourth set and would never look back. UK charted 15 kills on .314 hitting and had a trio of blocks in the set for the 25-17 victory to clinch the match behind a 3-1 score.
Four players tallied three kills for UK and Billings had seven digs to prevent Georgia from forcing a decisive fifth frame.