No. 5 Kentucky hands Ole Miss first loss of the season
OXFORD, Miss. - Alli Stumler had 22 kills and Madi Skinner had 21 as the No. 6 Kentucky Volleyball team knocked Ole Miss from the ranks of the unbeatens Wednesday night in a 3-2 (25-20, 25-23, 20-25, 16-25, 15-9) five-set thriller.
With the win, Kentucky improves to 9-3 on the season and is now 2-0 in Southeastern Conference play through two match days of action. Ole Miss suffers its first loss of the year and falls to 12-1. The Rebs are 1-1 in the SEC.
"First off, hats off to Ole Miss and how far they've come," UK head coach Craig Skinner said. "Along with that progress, their environment was tremendous and great for SEC Volleyball. Tonight's match wasn't always pretty, but we fought hard in the fifth set when it mattered. Our execution was very good in the sets that we won tonight."
UK played well through two sets, taking the first two sets in tight margins, having trailed late in both frames. In the third and fourth sets, the Wildcats were rattled offensively but picked it back up and hit over .350 in the fifth set en route to a 15-9 win of the fifth set.
Emma Grome and Cameron Scheitzach split the setting responsibilities Wednesday night with Grome recording 41 assists and Scheitzach tallying seven.
Defensively, it was another strong performance off the arms of Eleanor Beavin, who racked up 14 digs in the match Wednesday to go along with five assists. The freshman now has recorded 10+ digs in every match as the Wildcats' starting libero.
Kentucky will take the weekend off to rest and recover before facing Mississippi State next Wednesday night inside Memorial Coliseum. The match will start at 6 p.m. ET, and will be televised by ESPNU, ESPN3 and streaming live on the ESPN app.
Also in double-figure scoring tonight for Kentucky was Azhani Tealer, who had 10 kills on 23 swings with three blocks.
The first set was tight with both teams killing the ball at a high rate in the early run of points. Kentucky went on a 2-0 run into the media timeout, leading 15-13, matching its largest lead of the set as neither team led by more than a pair after the first 28 points. The first three-point lead fell Kentucky's way on Alli Stumler's fourth kill of the match at 18-15, and a back-row termination by the senior made it 22-19 UK as the Rebels called their first timeout of the set with Stumler already logging six kills. Following a sideout from Reagan Rutherford to make it 23-20 as Rutherford ended her fourth rally of the night, Ole Miss called its final timeout, trailing 23-20 and Kentucky two points from closing the set. Kentucky closed the set on a 4-0 run, winning five of the final six points to close it out, 25-20. UK hit .515 in the set with eight kills from Alli Stumler. Emma Grome had 17 assists and Eleanor Beavin had five digs to lead all players in the match.
Azhani Tealer recorded her first stuff of the night to put the punctuation on a 7-2 run for the Wildcats and after trailing by four, UK found itself leading 10-7 and Ole Miss called its first timeout of the set trailing by its largest margin of the frame thus far. Out of the timeout, Tealer was joined by Stumler to block a second-successive point and the Wildcat lead grew to four points at 11-7. Ole Miss rallied back to tie the set on a blocking error called by the down judge to make it 12-12 as a 5-1 Ole Miss run equalized the set. A 4-0 scoring run by the Rebels turned a deficit into an Ole Miss lead at 16-14 and UK was forced into their first timeout. After trailing 20-22 and by as many as three late, Kentucky went on a 4-0 run capped by an Emma Grome kill and that gave UK the lead back to make it 23-22 and Ole Miss called its final timeout. Out of the break, an attack error by the Rebs gave UK its first set point at 24-22 and a sideout gave Kentucky the 25-23 win in set two. Stumler was up to nine kills as the offense was clicking at a .348 clip with eight kills from Madi Skinner, as well. Grome had 26 assists and both Eleanor Beavin and Lauren Tharp logged eight digs to co-lead the Wildcats.
The third set was full of runs, as Kentucky took a 5-1 lead and was buoyed by a 4-0 start before the Rebels ran of five in a row to take a 7-6 lead and cut the UK lead into pieces. Stumler broke into double digits early in the third set and her 13th kill of the contest tied the match at 11 after the Wildcats trailed. Back-to-back hitting errors by Kentucky gave Ole Miss the 15-13 lead at the media timeout of the set. Ole Miss took an 18-14 lead out of the media timeout and with Kentucky trailing by a match-high four points, Kentucky called a timeout. Out of the timeout by Kentucky, the Wildcats went on a 3-0 run highlighted by a Tealer and Rutherford block and that cut the Rebel lead to one at 19-18 and Ole Miss called its first halt to play. Rutherford blocked another ball out of the timeout, but after UK had two successive hitting errors, it was 22-19 Ole Miss and Kentucky had to use its final timeout. Ole Miss rode that momentum to a 25-20 third set win.
Kentucky's offense continued to struggle into the fourth set as a setter change to Cameron Scheitzach pulled the Wildcats to within two points at 6-4, but Ole Miss began to run off series of points and after trailing 12-7, UK called its first timeout to try and stop the Rebs momentum. Nothing worked for the Wildcats in the fourth, as UK struggled to a 25-16 result in the fourth set to set up a fifth frame for the third time this season.
Kentucky entered Wednesday 1-1 in five-set matches, having dropped a decision to No. 3 Louisville and winning a decision against No. 14 Stanford. After trading sideouts in the first two points, a 4-0 Maddie Berezowitz service run made it 5-1 Kentucky and a kill by Madi Skinner from the right pin pushed Ole Miss into its first timeout of the set. UK held that lead and crossed the halfway mark at 8-4 thanks to a nice play by Beavin to illude a Rebel serve that was just out over the baseline. The match ended at 15-9 in the fifth set on a net violation by the Rebels.