UK volleyball wins Kentucky Classic over VCU, Liberty, ETSU

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By Kyle Arensdorf

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UK volleyball downed East Tennessee State University, 3-0, on Saturday to win the Kentucky Classic.

The Cats retired ETSU in straight sets (25-21, 25-15, 25-20) behind a .284 hitting percentage and a 45-kill effort, 10 of which belonged to junior outside hitter Lauren O’Conner.

“Positively, we’re killing the ball,” head coach Craig Skinner said. “15 kills a game tonight. That’s a big number, and we’re pretty happy with that.”

Only a season ago, ETSU gave the Cats their first victory in the NCAA Tournament, which saw them reach the round of 16 for the second consecutive year.

The straight-set victory was the Cats’ second of the day as they defeated Liberty University on Saturday morning (25-22, 25-17, 25-20).

Freshman outside hitter Anni Thomasson had her first double-double of her career (12 kills, 13 digs) in the Liberty match, earning her a spot on the All-Tournament team and high praise from her head coach.

“Her IQ (for) the game is off the charts,” Skinner said. “If there are five skills to the game of volleyball, she does them all, when some players are limited to two or three.”

Following her third kill of the set, senior middle-blocker Alexandra Morgan gave the Cats a 10-9 lead midway through the first set.

A kill by sophomore setter Morgan Bergren regained the lead for UK at 21-20. The set was closed in the Cats’ favor by the 20th UK kill of the set.

The Cats boasted a .462 hitting percentage in the set.

An ace by Morgan gave the Cats a four-point lead early in the second set, making the score 8-4.

UK dominated the middle of the set, and after Thomasson’s first kill of the set, the lead was extended to 17-6.

Thomasson sealed the second set with her fourth kill, giving UK a 10-point victory and a 2-0 lead for the game.

The Cats held a sizeable lead throughout the third set, and senior outside hitter Whitney Billings extended that lead to 21-17 with her eighth kill of the match.

After a controversial out-of-bounds call, UK had match point. Despite a small rally by ETSU, Thomasson put the set and the match away for the Cats with her seventh kill.

“It feels really good,” Thomasson said. “It was nice to show them what I’ve got.”

Junior defensive specialist Jackie Napper was also named to the All-Tournament team and received Tournament MVP honors as a result of her play over the weekend.

The Cats will put their winning record on the line as they take on No. 17 Louisville on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum.