COLUMBIA, S.C. - Kentucky trailed 23-16 late in the third set and was facing a deficit in the match for the first time in nearly a month. However, the Wildcats would go on an 8-1 run to tie the score at 24 apiece and eventually go on to win the set 32-30 in an epic battle. The momentum-swing was all the UK volleyball team would need to roll to a 3-1 (25-22, 17-25, 32-30, 25-19) win for its eighth-consecutive overall victory.
The win also marked the eighth-straight win over South Carolina in the series as Kentucky improved to 11-4 overall on the season and 4-0 in Southeastern Conference action. South Carolina fell to 13-2 overall and 1-2 in league play
. "I'm very proud of our upperclassman's toughness and resilience when we needed them. The upperclassman that ability and they've been in those situations before."
Kentucky had a slew of outstanding performances in the victory. Setter Olivia Dailey directed the most balanced offensive attack of the season with four Wildcats reaching double-digit kill totals. Dailey dished out 53 assists and added six digs.
Reaching double-figures in kills was Leah Edmond (13), Kaz Brown (11), Emily Franklin (10) and Brooke Morgan (10). Franklin paced the attack with a .600 percentage, while Morgan topped double-digits for the second time this season. Edmond recorded her fourth career double-double as she also added 11 digs.
Senior Anni Thomasson had one of the most complete matches of the season for Kentucky. She logged nine kills and 11 digs. Junior Darian Mack started the match hot early and ended with eight kills and three digs.
Junior libero Ashley Dusek led the floor defense with 15 digs, while Franklin paced the net effort with five blocks. Sophomore McKenzie Watson contributed six digs in the winning effort.
The Wildcats will remain on the road for a rematch with Mississippi State on Friday. UK and the Bulldogs will face off at 8 p.m. ET in Starkville, Miss.
Set One: The teams opened to a back-and-forth battle to begin the first frame until consecutive kills from Franklin and Mack gave UK a two-point edge at 6-4. It sparked a 5-0 run for the Cats to take a 9-4 advantage. Mack was UK's spark in the early going with four kills and a block as UK went ahead by a seven-point margin at 15-8. Kentucky maintained the lead for the remainder of the frame until the Gamecocks were able to pull to within three at 23-20, forcing UK into a timeout. Out of the break, USC earned another block to pull to within two, but UK's defense forced an errant attack to give the visitors set point. Franklin converted a quick-set for the winning point and a 25-22 win for the Cats. Mack had six kills to pace the attack as UK logged 13 kills on .100 hitting. South Carolina managed nine kills on a .029 percentage, but remained in the game with seven blocks in the stanza.
Set Two: South Carolina scored the second set's first two points and the home team maintained a two-point edge until Dailey found Morgan for a pair of kills to tie things at six apiece. A back-and-forth battle ensued until the Gamecocks shook loose for two-straight for a 15-13 lead at the media timeout. Following the break, the home team scored two more to stretch its lead to four. It was all the more room the Gamecocks would need as the home team knotted the score at 1-1 apiece in the match with a 25-17 second set win. The Gamecocks had 16 kills on a .538 hitting clip in the set victory.
Set Three: The Wildcats raced out to a 5-1 lead to begin the third set, but the Gamecocks would not go away, however, as the home team eventually fought back to knot the score at seven apiece. The Gamecocks continued to come on strong and eventually took a 9-7 advantage. South Carolina would earn a four-point lead late in the set at 20-16. South Carolina eventually had a 23-16 advantage, but UK would go on a monstrous 8-1 run to tie the score at 24-24. Outstanding play by both sides saw each team with at least two chances to win, before things became interesting at 30-30. Thomasson appeared to be blocked by the Gamecocks, but Skinner chose to challenge the call that the home team's blocker was in the net. The call was overturned in UK's favor and then Morgan converted a powerful kill off the slide for the 32-30 win. Kentucky utilized 21 kills on a .275 clip to overcome the deficit. South Carolina had 18 kills on a .255 percentage.
Set Four: UK benefited from the momentum shift and opened to a 4-0 lead in the fourth set. The lead extended to 6-2 and the Gamecocks opted for an early timeout. The Gamecocks would not go away and pulled to within one at 8-7. Kentucky quickly dispelled of the threat to once again capture a comfortable lead at 12-8. It was all the more breathing room the Wildcats would need as the visitors closed out the match with a 25-19 final set victory. Kentucky's defense was in top form in the final set, holding the Gamecocks to a -.061 clip and just eight total kills. UK, conversely, totaled 13 on a .171 percentage.
By the Numbers
10 - Ten kills from Brooke Morgan, matching a season high. 8 - Eight-consecutive victories for the Cats on the year, and eight straight in the series vs. South Carolina. 4 - Four players topped double figures in the kills' column. 4 - Fourth career double-double for Leah Edmond and the first in SEC play.