Kentucky tops Missouri 3-1 to advance to 2-1 in the SEC


Kentucky Wildcats opposite Reagan Rutherford (10) and setter Emma Grome (4) celebrate a point during the UK vs. Illinois women’s volleyball game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021, at Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, Kentucky. UK lost 3-1. Photo by Michael Clubb | Staff

Drew Johnson, Reporter

Kentucky volleyball notched a 3-1 victory over the Missouri Tigers to earn its second straight SEC win of the season on Wednesday.

Missouri entered the match 0-1 in the SEC, though overlooking the Tigers would have been a critical error for Kentucky with Mizzou being much improved from last year and better than its record indicated. It just needed an opportunity to prove it with the matchup against the Cats seeming like a prime opportunity.

Kentucky started off hot in the first set, winning 25-12 with multiple scoring runs including a 7-0 run, 5-0 run and a 3-0 run.

Reagan Rutherford impressed in the first set, notching six kills and contributing all over the floor even if it didn’t appear in the box score.

The Wildcat defense also did everything it could to ensure the Tigers were unable to get any momentum flowing to cut into the lead.

Despite the blowout in set one, the second set featured a much different Missouri Tigers team, with the home squad not allowing Kentucky to put together any prolonged scoring runs.

Instead, the two SEC opponents went back and forth all set until Missouri broke through with a 7-1 scoring run to put the Tigers up 23-20. The scoring run was ultimately too much for Kentucky to overcome and Missouri won the set 25-23.

The Third set was mainly centered around an 11-2 Wildcat scoring run early on to take a big lead and put the Tigers in a hole.

Emma Grome assisted nearly half of all the points during the stretch as Kentucky would eventually cruise through the remainder of the set ultimately winning 25-19.

The fourth set was once again a close battle between both teams with Kentucky trying in vain to pull away and Missouri consistently getting in the way of those ambitions.

Ultimately It would come down to one final stretch where Kelly Franxman recorded the dagger against the Tigers, ending the match in a 3-1 UK victory.

Grome went down as the star of the match, putting up an impressive 49 assists to help the Cats improve to 7-5 on the season.

Rutherford also contributed heavily to the win, leading the team with 19 kills and hitting .293 to go along with six blocks.

Kentucky’s defense was integral in earning the win on Wednesday, holding Missouri to just a .104 hitting percentage, forcing the Tigers to fall to 0-2 to start conference play.

The win saw Kentucky improve to 2-1 in the conference, building momentum as the Cats look to weather an always difficult Southeastern Conference schedule.

Kentucky will return to Memorial Coliseum on Saturday, Oct. 1, to face the Alabama Crimson Tide with the match tipping off at 4 p.m. EST and airing live on the SEC Network+.