STARKVILLE, Miss. - During a nine-match winning streak, the No. 25 Kentucky volleyball's defense has been the tale of the tape. Tonight an efficient offensive effort proved to be too much in a 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-22) victory over Mississippi State. Kentucky had 54 kills on a blazing .351 attacking percentage in the dominating win.
Freshman Leah Edmond posted 19 kills - one shy of matching a career high, while Kaz Brown added 10 hammers in the win. Both players, along with junior Emily Franklin who contributed eight kills on a .462 average all tallied .400 or better averages to contribute to the effect offensive display.
"I'm really proud of how we competed in the third set when they got a lead on us," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "Emily Franklin stepped up and had a great serving run to give us the advantage. Offensively, hitting .368 with 54 kills in a three-set match is great. Olivia (Dailey) did a really good job of distributing the ball to the right people at the right time and that allowed us to be efficient offensively.
"The great serving by Emily Franklin helped swing the set. It's motivating when your starting middle serves tough like that. She gave us an ace and two overpasses and at any time one person can make the difference and she was a big part of that."
With the win, Kentucky improves to 12-4 overall on the year and 5-0 in Southeastern Conference action. Mississippi State falls to 11-5 and 3-2 in league play. It's the second win over the Bulldogs in three matches for the Wildcats.
Sophomore setter Olivia Dailey directed UK's offense to its most productive match in SEC action. Dailey accounted for 41 assists, six digs, two kills and a pair of aces in the win. Six UK attackers logged four or more kills and no player averaged below .185 for the match. All but one player contributed a .250 or better average.
Sophomore Brooke Morgan contributed six kills, while Darian Mack added five and Anni Thomasson four. Morgan led the charge defensively at the net with a team-high five blocks.
Junior Ashley Dusek picked up 11 digs with Thomasson not far behind with nine for the evening. Dailey and sophomore McKenzie Watson both picked up six digs in the winning cause.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday when the Wildcats host Tennessee for the first of a home-and-home series this season. UK and the Lady Vols will meet at 2 p.m. and the match will air live on ESPNU. The match was originally slated to air on the SEC Network, however due to Hurricane Matthew alternate programming was scheduled to accommodate football action occurring on Sunday.
Set 1 Franklin opened the scoring with a kill from Dailey. It was a lead the Wildcats would never relinquish as the visiting team jumped out in front on the Bulldogs immediately. A kill from Thomasson gave the Wildcats an early 6-2 lead. Mississippi State would cut into the lead with a 4-0 run, but UK quickly responded to once again recapture a multiple point advantage capped by a Franklin-Morgan block to make the score 15-10 in favor of the Blue and White. The Bulldogs would again fight back to within one at 19-18, but UK would score six of the next seven points for a 25-20 opening set victory that Morgan concluded with a kill. Kentucky had 17 kills on a blistering .406 hitting percentage. Mississippi State managed 15 kills on a .324 hitting clip.
Set 2 After allowing the Bulldogs to find a bit of a rhythm in the opening frame, UK's stout defense returned for the second set as UK limited Mississippi State to just 10 kills on .161 hitting. Kentucky's offense broke out for 18 hammers on a .351 average. Much like the first set, UK opened the scoring with a block from the Franklin-Morgan tandem. However, it was UK's turn to fight off a deficit and the Wildcats eventually knotted the score at four apiece on a kill from Brown. Kentucky would never look back with a Morgan kill ending the frame in UK's favor at 25-20. Set 3 Edmond opened the scoring in the third set, setting the stage for a back-and-forth battle. Mississippi State eventually utilized a two-point swing to take a 10-8 lead, forcing UK to take a timeout. The Bulldogs continued to maintain the edge until a kill from Brown brought the Cats to within one at 19-18, prompting a timeout from the home team. With Franklin serving and picking up a pair of digs on the same rally, Edmond converted a kill to knot the score. Back-to-back kills from Brown and an ace from Franklin allowed the Wildcats' spurt to stretch to a 22-19 advantage. It was all the more breathing room the Wildcats would need en route to a match-clinching 25-22 win. Kentucky's offense was the story, as the squad registered a match-high 19 kills on a .351 clip. Mississippi State posted 14 on a .265 percentage, but it was not enough to overcome UK's attack.
BY THE NUMBERS 19 - Number of kills from freshman Leah Edmond. It matched a season-high against SEC competition and was one off of her career high. 10 - Total kills Kaz Brown had. It marked the fourth time in her last five outings she has topped double digits in the kills' column. 9 - Consecutive victory for the Wildcats. 8 - Kills for Emily Franklin who also utilized a team-high .462 hitting clip.
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