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The Official Website of the Southeastern Conference

Kentucky battles back to defeat Auburn in five sets

2410 days ago
Kentucky Athletics

LEXINGTON, Ky. -- The 24th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats wrapped up the regular season in dramatic fashion on Friday evening, toppling the Auburn Tigers in five sets, 3-2 (21-25, 25-17, 21-25, 25-14, 15-13), in Memorial Coliseum in front of 1,884 cheering fans on Senior Night.

It took a full five frames to find a winner, with little to separate the two in the early going as they tied at 4-4 early on. Kentucky scored once before Auburn took three straight and made it 5-7, leading to a Kentucky timeout. Freshman Brooke Morgan responded with a kill before Auburn took the next point and the Cats trailed by two at the break, 6-8. A big kill from junior Anni Thomasson pulled it within one at 8-9. Over the next three points, sophomore Kaz Brown grabbed a kill and a block to tie the set at 10-10, forcing Auburn to call for time. Kills from Brown and classmate Darian Mack forced Auburn's second timeout at 14-12.

Following the timeout, Auburn's Breanna Barksdale registered a kill to make the match 14-13. It was only fitting that the match ended with the two seniors who had been honored prior finishing it, as senior setter Morgan Bergren dished the ball to classmate Sara Schwarzwalder, who thundered it home for a 15-13 win in the tiebreaker.

The win gives 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner his 250th career victory. The milestone adds to an already impressive career for Skinner, who has reached 10-consecutive NCAA tournaments, totaled at least 17 wins in every season and has guided the Wildcats to 20 or more wins in eight of the past nine years.

"I'm really proud of the effort, intensity and passion that our team played with," Skinner said. "I thought it was a match that we needed. Auburn played great and we responded. It's pretty cool to see two seniors end a match on a connection like that for the winning kill. They've put a lot of hard work and energy into this and they've given a lot to this program."

The Wildcats conclude the regular season with a 21-9 mark while going 14-4 in Southeastern conference play. Auburn wraps up play with an 18-12 record including a 10-8 SEC action. Both teams look forward to the NCAA tournament selection show to find out their futures, as Kentucky looks for its 11th-consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. The selection show will air on Sunday Nov. 29 on ESPNU, beginning at 9 p.m. EST.

Kentucky had a host of solid performances en route to the win, with Brown leading the way. The sophomore had an impressive performance, logging her second career double-double with 13 kills and 11 blocks during the outing. Mack led the team with 14 kills while adding four blocks and a dig. Morgan rounded out those scoring double-figure kills with 13. She also notched five blocks and a dig.

Both seniors played notable roles in the match, as Bergren led the team with 46 assists and contributing five digs and six blocks in the mix. Schwarzwalder had five kills including the match-winner while blocking three balls.

Thomasson played a well-rounded game with nine kills, two assists, 16 digs and two blocks. Sophomore middle Emily Franklin had three kills, an ace and three digs. Freshman Olivia Dailey guided the teams serving efforts with a pair of aces while getting nine digs. Sophomore Ashley Dusek and freshman McKenzie Watson both played a large role in the back row. Dusek accounted for 32 digs and five assists. Watson chipped in with 18 digs and a kill.