COLLEGE STATION, Texas – The 16th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team rolled to a 3-0 (25-18, 25-21, 25-19) sweep of Texas A&M to advance to the Sweet 16 for the second time in three seasons under the direction of Craig Skinner. Kentucky garnered a season-high 17 kills from sophomore Whitney Billings and the 2011 senior class charted its 100th career victory in dominating-fashion.
“We’re just really excited, not just because we won the match, but because of how we performed tonight,” Skinner said. “It was a heck of a team effort. For whatever reason I had a feeling on the way over here on the bus that we were pretty focused and ready to go, and the team definitely proved that thought right.”
Kentucky advances to the Sweet 16 and will return home to the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum Dec. 9-10 as Lexington is a designated host site for the NCAA Regionals. UK’s opponent is yet to be determined, but the opening round matches begin on Friday night at 5 p.m. ET. Kentucky has notched 17 consecutive victories in its home gym.
UK improves to 28-5 on the season with the victory, while Texas A&M’s season ends with a 23-8 mark.
Billings led the charge with a season-high 17 kills on a .400 hitting clip. Junior Ashley Frazier contributed 14 kills on a sizzling .522 percentage. Senior Becky Pavan totaled eight kills and posted a team-high eight blocks in the win. Junior setter Christine Hartmann dished out 44 assists and added six digs.
Freshman Lauren O’Conner tallied seven kills and a career-high five blocks, while senior Ann Armes added four and four digs in the winning effort.
Junior Stephanie Klefot recorded 17 digs and now has achieved the new single-season UK record for digs in a season with 587 on the season. Freshman Jackie Napper and sophomore Jessi Greenberg totaled six and five digs, respectively in the winning cause.
Texas A&M opened the match by scoring the game’s first point, but UK responded immediately with consecutive kills from Billings and O’Conner. Kentucky then quickly claimed a four-point lead fooling consecutive kills from Billings at 10-6. It was all the breathing room the Blue and White would need as it rolled to a 25-18 opening set victory.
Billings and Frazier both notched five kills in the set to lead the attack. Frazier posted her kills on a .714 clip with Billings totaling a .625 percentage. Kentucky combined for 17 kills on .441 hitting, while also recording a trio of blocks.
The Aggies began the second set in much the same fashion by scoring the set’s first point, but UK once again scored two quick points to answer. Billings had a kill and then teamed with Pavan for a rejection. Texas A&M responded by grabbing a 14-11 lead in the middle portion of the frame, but UK would chart a 14-7 run to close out the frame and take a 2-0 lead into the locker room following a 25-21 second set win.
Billings posted eight kills in the set to lead the charge as the Wildcats notched 17 kills on .244 hitting. UK limited the home team to 11 kills on a mere .114 hitting with 4.5 blocks in the stanza.
Kentucky came out clicking on all cylinders in the third frame to jump out to an early 10-4 advantage. UK charted seven kills in the early going and picked up an ace from Frazier in the run to force the Aggies into an early timeout.
Out of the break the Aggies scored two straight points, but Kentucky responded with back-to-back kills from O’Conner to go up 13-8. In the run, Klefot recorded her 11th dig of the match to set the new single-season standard. Texas A&M did not quit and turned back three straight UK attacks to pull back to within two at 13-11 and Kentucky chose to use a timeout.
The Aggies tied the score at 15 and from there the teams would exchange points back and forth until UK broke loose for three straight points to capture a 22-19 lead. In the run, Pavan and O’Conner teamed up for a block and then O’Conner crushed a kill. Billings capped the run with an ace and A&M opted to use its final timeout.
That would be all the closer the home squad would get as UK scored the final three points of the match to grab a 25-19 final set win. UK closed the set with consecutive blocks to end the match in thrilling fashion.
Kentucky again succeeded both offensively and defensively. UK notched 17 kills on .273 hitting and posted three blocks in the final frame.
Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 9-10. UK is one of four sites selected for Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, from the Lexington Region. Opening night matches are scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. ET. Saturday’s final is set for a 4:30 p.m. ET first serve.
Tickets are now on sale through the UK Ticket Office. All-Session Tickets are reserved for all ages at $14. General Admission tickets for adults are priced at $12 and students or seniors' general admission is slated for $8.
Single session tickets are priced at $8 for reserved for all ages. General admission for adults is priced at $7, with students and seniors priced at $5. Youth single session tickets are $4.
For tickets or more information feel free to call, 1-800-928-CATS.
Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the UK volleyball team and all of Kentucky’s 22 teams.
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