LEXINGTON, Ky. - For the fifth match in a row and the ninth time this season, the 14th-ranked Tennessee Lady Vols swept their opponent, going on the road to Rupp Arena to best the No. 22 Kentucky Wildcats (25-23, 25-18, 25-18) on Sunday afternoon.
"I am just really proud of our team," head coach Eve Rackham Watt said. "I don't think I adequately expressed how proud I was when we spoke in the locker room. I am just so happy for this group to be able to play as well as we did and with Kentucky being such a good team. We did it on their court. We didn't play perfect, but we were close. We were so good from the block defense standpoint-probably as good as we've been all year. That's something we have worked really hard on specifically in the last week. Our service game was good but didn't result in as many points as it had been, so we had to do well with our block defense. Klaudia Pawlik came in and stepped up big for us. I thought Erykah Lovett had a tremendous match as well as Morgahn Fingall. I am so happy for the team. It was a big team win for us."
The victory marked UT's (11-1, 2-0 SEC) first win against a ranked UK team since beating the No. 23 Wildcats, 3-1, on Nov. 23, 2016, and the first for Rackham Watt against Kentucky. It was the first win by the Lady Vols in Lexington since Nov. 24, 2010, which was also a 3-0 sweep for the Big Orange.
As a team, Tennessee finished with 10 team blocks despite missing its starting middle blocker Keondreya Granberry. The defense posted 54 digs and held the Wildcats (2-7, 1-1 SEC) to just .134 hitting. Offensively, three different Lady Vols finished with double-digit kills, as UT recorded 50 kills on .282 hitting.
Fingall, a graduate student right side hitter, led the way for Tennessee, posting her second double-double on the year with 17 kills on .361 hitting, 10 digs, four blocks and an ace. Junior outside hitter Lovett also recorded her second double-double of the season and made several key plays throughout the match, finishing with 12 kills, 13 digs and three blocks.
Graduate student outside hitter Jenaisya Moore added 12 kills on .300 hitting and four digs. Putting the Lady Vol attack in positions to succeed was redshirt freshman setter Caroline Kerr, who assisted on 44 of UT's 50 kills and added five digs, one block and one kill on the day.
On defense, the redshirt sophomore middle blocker duo of Emily Beeker and Pawlik were massive at the net for Tennessee. Beeker ended with six blocks and three kills, while Pawlik tallied five kills and four blocks, including the match winner. On the back row, graduate student libero Yelianiz Torres had 13 digs, while junior defensive specialists Ashlynn King and Abby Ekeler finished with seven and two digs, respectively, off the bench.
The Wildcats jumped out to a quick 4-1 lead to open the match, but Tennessee swung the momentum in its favor thanks to a 6-0 run. Both teams went back and forth throughout the frame, but the Big Orange would take the early advantage. Fingall, Lovett and Moore each had five kills to pace the offense in the period, while Kerr had 14 assists to help UT hit .300.
Tennessee trailed 2-0 to start the second set, but like the first set, a 7-2 run shifted the frame in the Lady Vols' favor. Kentucky pulled within two points halfway through the set, but the Big Orange seven of the final nine points in the period to take the set. Fingall had seven kills and two blocks to lead UT on offense and defense. As a team, Tennessee's defense had four blocks and 14 digs in the period while holding the Wildcats to .056 hitting.
With the Lady Vols in a tight battle in the third set, Tennessee ended the match on a 9-1 run to complete the sweep. Kentucky pushed hard, but the Big Orange defense once again held strong to prevent the Wildcat attack from getting any momentum, recording 26 digs and three blocks and holding UK to .089 hitting in the final frame. Fingall and Moore each had five kills in the set.
Tennessee continues its four-match road streak by heading to the Magnolia State to take on Mississippi State and Ole Miss. The Lady Vols open with the Bulldogs on Friday at 6 p.m. ET before facing the Rebels on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Both matches will be live streamed on SEC Network+.