By Kyle Arensdorf | Volleyball beat writer
The match between UK Volleyball and Mississippi State University in Memorial Coliseum Friday took a backseat to DanceBlue night and the fight against pediatric cancer.
The team warmed up in gold warm-ups before the game, and UK head coach Craig Skinner sported a gold tie, deviating from his traditional UK blue.
“It means a heck of a lot to many more people that are bigger than us,” Skinner said. “Pediatric cancer and breast cancer awareness is so much more important than what we’re able to do on the court.”
The warm-ups and the tie will be auctioned off along with a special gold volleyball to raise money for the Golden Matrix Fund of UK’s Pediatric Oncology Clinic in support of pediatric cancer research.
Freshman outside hitter Anni Thomasson, who got her first taste of DanceBlue night at UK, said that the program strives to have a strong community relationship.
“We’re community strong,” Thomasson said. “We are fortunate to get the opportunity to play at Kentucky so it means a lot to give back to the Lexington Community.”
Thomasson was instrumental in the UK victory (25-13, 26-24, 25-21), punctuated by a first set that was led by UK after a 3-3 tie in the beginning moments of the match.
The Cats skated to a first-set victory 25-13 behind five Thomasson kills and six kills from senior outside hitter Whitney Billings.
“I think we came out really strong and motivated in the first (set),” Billings said. “But we kind of let that go in the second.”
The second set was more of a back-and-forth affair and after each team held multiple leads, the score was tied at 19-19. Mississippi State proceeded to go on a 4-1 run and take the lead 23-20. Clinging to a one-point lead at 23-22, Mississippi State was forced to call a timeout. The Cats held off Mississippi State, who had reached set-point, and took the second set 26-24.
“We just came out a little flat in the second (set), but I think we picked it up towards the end when we were behind and I’m proud of the way we finished it,” Billings said.
UK maintained a sizable lead throughout the third and final set, and after a service-error by Mississippi State, had match-point. The Cats seized the set and the match with a kill by senior outside hitter Alexandra Morgan, 25-21.
After the match, students and fans that were presented with a yellow flower during the game were invited to place it on a banner that was laid out on the court.
The banner was white with a gold ribbon in the center, representing pediatric cancer awareness.
The Cats are back in action on Sunday as they face-off against the University of Alabama in Memorial Coliseum at 1:30 p.m.