Volleyball looks forward to conference play after sweep against Morehead State


Whitney Billings hits the ball during UK’s volleyball game against Morehead State University at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Ky., on Monday, September 23, 2013. Photo by Eleanor Hasken l Staff

By Kyle Arensdorf | Volleyball beat writer

[email protected]

A pre-conference goal set by UK volleyball head coach Craig Skinner was on the line Monday night as the UK volleyball team took on Morehead State University in Memorial Coliseum.

“We set a goal to be at least 8-3 in pre-conference,” Skinner said.  “Our blocking still needs to get better as it’s going to be a little more physical (in the SEC) with some people hitting the ball pretty hard, so we have to (be able to) slow the ball down at the net.”

Despite five kills by sophomore setter Morgan Bergren, the first set margin remained close before the Cats were able to pull away by six points late in the set, 24-18. Set-point was picked up on a kill by senior outside hitter Whitney Billings as UK took the set, 25-18.

Bergren has been catching teams off-guard all season by attempting a kill from the setter position, and Monday she amassed seven kills early in the match the Cats captured in three sets (25-18, 25-21, 28-26).

“It really got them paying attention to me,” Bergren said. “I was able to go back to it later (in the game) … to get the one-on-ones on the outside.”

The early stages of the second set were played out in the Cats’ favor as they took a 12-7 lead.

Bergren and Billings had two fewer kills between them (12) mid-way through the second set than Morehead State had as a team (14).

Morehead State recovered and, after a four-hit no-call, brought the score to within one. Skinner was forced to call a timeout at 15-14.

A frustrated Skinner called his second timeout of the second set with UK clinging to a slight lead of 19-18.

“There was just some little decision making that wasn’t quite where it needed to be,” Skinner said. “So it was just a little frustration on the sideline that coaches get sometimes.”

Freshman outside hitter Anni Thomasson did not play Monday due to a right-arm injury, which led to extended minutes for senior defensive specialist Jessie Greenberg and sophomore middle blocker Kayla Tronick in the second set.

Out of a Morehead State timeout in the third and final set, three consecutive no-calls were a point of contention between Skinner and the head referee.

When asked about the calls, Skinner was apprehensive about commenting.

“The SEC might fine me if I do that,” Skinner said with a smile.

UK, which trailed most of the third set by as much as four points, came back and defeated Morehead State 28-26 in the third set to seize the straight-set victory.

“I’m happy about the way we competed in that last set,” Skinner said. “Morehead is a great serving team and they made us work.”

Billings garnered her sixth double-double of the season with 13 kills and 14 digs.

“I’m feeling pretty good about our team going into conference,” Billings said. “We’ve played some close matches, so we’ll know what if we get into that situation in conference.”