LEXINGTON, Ky. - After starting Southeastern Conference play with a win over Georgia on Wednesday night, the Kentucky volleyball team made it two in a row by beating Mississippi State 3-1 (25-21, 22-25, 25-14, 26-24) on Sunday afternoon in Memorial Coliseum. The win is the sixth-consecutive overall for the Wildcats.
Kentucky (9-4, 2-0 SEC) had 10 service aces in a match for the first time since 2013, with four different Wildcats recording an ace in the match. Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey accounted for four of those aces, while senior Anni Thomasson had three.
"It (the win) really started with our serving," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "We got a lot more aggressive with our serving in that set (third), and it really gave us opportunities to score and get kills in transition. So, our serving pressure was certainly a difference after the break."
Freshman Leah Edmond led the Wildcats with 14 kills, while junior Kaz Brown had 12 and sophomore Brooke Morgan added 10, matching her season high. Junior Emily Franklin posted nine and added a team-best five blocks.
Dailey had 47 assists in the match, her second-highest total of the season. Dailey added four digs and four block assists in the match as well.
Junior Ashley Dusek led the defensive charge for the Wildcats behind a season-best 27 digs. Thomasson added nine, while Edmond chipped in with eight. Sophomore McKenzie Watson contributed five on the afternoon. Kentucky has now limited six-straight opponents to a .162 attacking clip or lower as the Bulldogs managed just a .140 percentage in today's match.
"The thing that means most to me is we have a level of defense and serving that we can play and aspire to that's pretty high," Skinner said. "Mississippi State throws a little bit of lightning speed at you, and you've got to be ready to make plays and anticipate. We responded when they played it to us in game two and I'm proud of our players responding when we needed them to."
Kentucky returns to action on Wednesday night, when the Wildcats travel to Gainesville, Florida, to face the sixth-ranked Florida Gators. The match is set to begin at 7 p.m. ET and can be seen on the SEC Network.
Kentucky jumped out to a quick 5-1 lead, with Edmond and Morgan both registering two kills early. The Wildcats stretched the lead to 18-10 before settling for a 25-21 first-set win. Dailey had a solid all-around set for Kentucky, with 11 assists, two service aces and three digs. Edmond led Kentucky with six kills in the set, while Morgan and Brown each added three. Dusek had six digs for the Wildcats and Edmond had five. Kentucky hit .250 as a team in the set while holding Mississippi State to a .103 hitting percentage.
The second set was tight throughout, with neither team leading by more than three points. Kentucky took a 20-19 lead late in the set on a kill by Thomasson, but Mississippi State answered by scoring the next four points to lead 23-21. The Bulldogs were then able to close out the set, winning 25-22. Brown led Kentucky with four kills in the set, while Edmond added three. Dailey has 12 more assists, as well as another service ace. Dusek added six digs. Kentucky hit .179 in the set, while MSU hit .194.
The third set was tied at 6-6 when Brown and Thomasson decided to take over the match. Kentucky went on a 6-0 run, with Brown registering three kills and a block during the run, while Thomasson had a solo block and a kill in the same stretch. As Kentucky stretched its lead, it was Thomasson continuing to do damage, including a run of three-straight service aces late in the set. Brown had four kills in the frame for the Wildcats, while Franklin had three kills and three block assists. Dailey had eight assists in the set, as Kentucky hit .346 as a team.
Mississippi State won the first three points of the set before Kentucky mounted a rally to take a 9-6 lead. Kentucky extended its lead to 15-11 on a kill by Morgan, but MSU would not go away quietly. Trailing 24-21, the Bulldogs ran off three points in a row to tie the set at 24. But Morgan and Edmond closed with consecutive kills to win the set 26-24 and give Kentucky a four-set victory. Morgan had five kills in the set for the Wildcats, with Franklin and Thomasson each adding three. Dailey had 16 assists in the set and Dusek added another 14 digs.