COLUMBIA, Mo. – The No. 19 University of Kentucky volleyball team fell to No. 7 and undefeated Missouri, 3-0 (21-25, 23-25, 22-25) in three tightly contested matches Sunday afternoon at the Hearnes Center.
The Wildcats (16-6, 8-3 Southeastern Conference) were unable to hand the Tigers (26-0, 9-0 SEC) their first loss of the season in front of a lively crowd of 3,925. UK came back to tie the second set at 23 and got within two in the third set, at 24-22, but were unable to complete the comeback.
“It was disappointing to not extend the match and give us a chance to win,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “We are not tough enough in those situations yet. Give credit to Missouri for making plays when they needed too.”
Kentucky was held to .229 hitting with 45 kills, while Missouri hit .350 with 47 kills. The Wildcats registered five blocks to the Tigers’ nine, while UK notched three service aces.
Freshman Anni Thomasson led the way for UK with a match and career-high 15 kills to go along with seven digs, the second highest total for the Wildcats. Senior Alexandra Morgan posted eight kills on .316 hitting, while fellow senior Whitney Billings notched seven kills, three blocks and five digs.
Sophomore Morgan Bergren dished out 34 assists in addition to five kills, six digs and two blocks. Sophomore Shelby Workman contributed six kills, two assists and three digs and sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder led the team with four block assists. Redshirt freshman Kelsey Wolf had five digs, while junior libero Jackie Napper had eight digs, three assists and one service ace.
The Wildcats return home for a weekend series with South Carolina and LSU. The Wildcats and Gamecocks square off Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. ET, while the Tigers come to Lexington Nov. 10 at 1:00 p.m. The match with the Tigers will air live on CWKYT locally in Lexington and again on Fox Sports South later in the evening.
UK and MU began the first set with three lead changes and eight ties, but four straight Tiger points gave them an 11-8 lead, which they would never relinquish. After Mizzou extended their lead to 20-14, the Wildcats went on a 5-0 run to get within one, at 20-19. Kentucky could not get any closer, and Missouri pulled away for the 25-21 first set victory. Thomasson led UK with six kills, while Billings and Schwarzwalder each had two block assists. Billings, who had three kills, also registered UK’s lone service ace in the frame. The Wildcats hit .235 in the frame with 14 kills, while the Tigers posted 17 kills with a .424 hitting clip. UK out-blocked MU, 3.0-1.0.
Two late comebacks, including one to tie the set at 23, wasn’t enough in the second set, as UK fell by two, 25-23. The Wildcats got an early 3-2 lead, but the Tigers quickly responded with a 5-1 run and led, 7-4. Mizzou extended its lead to 18-10, the largest of the match, but that’s when Kentucky mounted its comeback. The Blue and White scored seven of the next eight points to get within two, and after MU extended their lead to four at 21-17, the Wildcats answered right back to knot the contest at 23. Missouri scored the final two points, to earn the 25-23 victory. Kentucky registered 16 kills in the frame, with four from Morgan, and hit .163, while Mizzou hit .235 with 13 kills. UK had two blocks, while MU had six.
The Wildcats found themselves down late in the third set, but again they staged a comeback to get within three at 23-20 and 24-22. It was not enough to extend the match, as Mizzou scored the final point to win the match and keep its perfect season alive. Kentucky hit .312 in the set with 15 kills. Thomasson notched six kills to lead all players in the set, while Workman added three.
Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Seattle, Wash., from the Lexington Region. This marks the second time in three seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.