OMAHA, Neb. - Junior Reagan Rutherford and graduate student Adanna Rollins each had double-digit kills, pacing the No. 16 Kentucky Volleyball offense to a 3-0 sweep of Northern Iowa to open play in the 2022 Bluejay Invitational presented by Hilton on Friday night in Omaha.
Kentucky is now 2-1 on the year and above .500 for the first time this season with Friday night's result. The Panthers fall to 1-4 with two losses Friday, including a 3-1 defeat at the hands of No. 25 Southern California earlier in the day.
Adanna Rollins led Kentucky in the offensive category for the second time in three matches on the 2022 season with 15 kills, hitting .407 for the match on 27 kills. Rutherford was the other Wildcat in double-figure scoring with 11 kills on 22 swings as the Wildcats hit .370 for the match.
Defensively, UK held the Panthers to just .160 hitting offensively and only 30 kills for the match with no NIU player reaching double-figure scoring all match. Eleanor Beavin was the key to the UK defense Friday night, registering a season-high 18 digs in the match. Azhani Tealer had three blocks, only outpaced by Rutherford's four in the match for UK.
The 2022 Bluejay Invitational continues Saturday at the D.J. Sokol Center in Omaha as Kentucky will play the host No. 17 Creighton Bluejays at 11:30 a.m. ET followed by a 6 p.m. ET match vs. No. 25 Southern Cal to conclude the tournament. The matches Saturday will be the first ranked vs. ranked games the Wildcats will play this season.
Sophomore setter Emma Grome had 36 assists in the match, the most she's had this year in a three-set match. The Loveland, Ohio native also had three aces, as she and Beavin both aced the Panthers thrice with eight digs to Grome's name, as well.
Kentucky gained its first bit of separation midway through the set as a 5-0 run powered by the serving of Adanna Rollins, including her second ace of the match took a 10-9 Panther lead and turned it into a 15-10 Kentucky lead. After Elise Goetzinger's second kill of the match and a stuff block with her and Rutherford on the right side, UNI took its first timeout of the set. After UNI cut the lead to three at 15-12, Eleanor Beavin registered two service aces within four points and stretched the Kentucky lead to 20-12 as the Panthers called their second timeout after UK's second 5-0 run of the set. UK closed out the set with a 25-16 win thanks to Adanna Rollins' third kill of the set as UK hit .452 on the way to an opening-set win.
Kentucky took an early 5-1 lead in the second set and pushed the Panthers into an early timeout with UK leading by four thanks to a pair of Adanna Rollins kills to put her match total at four. A 4-0 scoring run for Northern Iowa made it a one-point advantage for Kentucky at 8-7 before the Wildcats were forced into calling their first timeout of the match leading by a point. Emma Grome's second service ace of the night brought Kentucky's lead to 14-10 and UNI elected to use its first timeout, trailing by four. Reagan Rutherford thundered home her seventh kill of the match on the succeeding point to max out UK's lead in the set to that point at 15-10 out of the timeout. Freshman Haley Melby put the second set away with a kill from the left side, her fifth of the night, setting a new career high as UK took the second, 25-22. Kentucky hit .286 in the set, but more importantly, held UNI to just .195 to take a stranglehold of the match. Rollins and Rutherford co-led UK through two sets with nine kills each. Eleanor Beavin had 13 digs.
Terrific defense thwarted Kentucky to a 5-1 lead to start the third set as the Wildcats forced Northern Iowa into an early timeout with UK leading by four. Azhani Tealer took control of the middle of the court midway through the set with two kills within a three-point stretch and the Wildcats lead ballooned to 19-8 as they doubled the Panthers to force UNI into its final timeout. Kentucky closed out the third set with a 25-14 win.