Brown and Mack team up for 23 kills as Bergren dishes out 32 assists
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 21st-ranked Kentucky volleyball team rolled to a 3-0 (25-17, 25-20, 25-20) sweep of visiting Mississippi State in front of 1,663 fans in Memorial Coliseum on Friday night. Senior setter Morgan Bergren directed the offense to the tune of a .306 attacking clip and 42 kills as the Wildcats dominated the Bulldogs from start to finish.
With the win, the Wildcats improve to 10-5 overall and a perfect 3-0 in Southeastern Conference action. Mississippi State falls to 10-5 and 1-2 in league play. UK returns to action on Sunday as the Wildcats host Alabama at 1:30 p.m. The match will be available to watch on the SEC Network+ via the WatchESPN app.
“I was very pleased with our defensive effort,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner on the team’s second SEC sweep of the season. “I thought we made some really nice plays in the back row, and our block as the match went on got really involved. Emily Franklin has been a beast the last couple of weeks, and she showed that at the end of the third set. Happy to get another win over a quality Mississippi State team.”
Bergren led the Kentucky offense to a pair of sets in which the Cats utilized a hitting clip of .394 or better. With her 32 assists, she moved into sixth place all-time in the career standings for assists in program history, passing Irene Smyth (1993-1996). The sophomore duo of Kaz Brown and Darian Mack benefited from Bergren’s distribution, as Brown notched 12 kills on a blazing .429 hitting clip with Mack contributing 11 kills on .333 hitting.
Junior Anni Thomasson and sophomore Emily Franklin both chipped in with seven kills apiece. Sophomore Ashley Dusek led the way from the backline defensive effort with 13 digs, while Thomasson picked up 11. Franklin helped guide UK to 11 total blocks on the night with six. Bergren and Brown were both in on four apiece.
The teams traded points back-and-forth to begin the match until UK shook loose for two straight to make it 9-7. The lead stretched to as many as seven at 15-8 following a solo rejection from Thomasson. The Bulldogs opted to take their second timeout of the stanza with Kentucky leading 17-9 following the second kill of the frame by Mack. It was all the more breathing room the Cats would need en route to a 25-17 opening set victory. Brown led the way with six kills as UK hit with a scorching .406 hitting clip. Mack added four hammers, while two players logged four digs for the defensive effort.
UK opened the scoring to begin the second with a Big Blue block from the duo of Brown and freshman Brooke Morgan. Mississippi State would fight back and take a three-point edge at 5-2. A 6-1 run helped the Wildcats tie it again at 8-8, and from there the teams would swap points. Franklin earned an ace and then the Bulldogs were credited with a miscue to allow the home team to take an 11-9 advantage. The lead stretched to 15-11 on a kill from Mack. The Bulldogs would not get any closer as the Wildcats earned a 25-20 second set win to go in front 2-0 in the match. Mack and Brown teamed up for a block for the winning tally. Kentucky fired with a .394 hitting clip in the frame and registered 15 kills. Mack and Thomasson both had four hammers in the set. Dusek had five digs, while Brown was in on four blocks.
The Bulldogs jumped in front 2-0 to begin the third stanza, but a Thomasson ace followed by a crafty kill from Mack lifted UK to a 4-3 edge early. MSU quickly tied things up again and from there the teams would trade tallies. The visitors would earn a five-point lead at 11-6 as they attempted to extend the match. A 5-0 run by the Wildcats allowed UK to recapture the edge at 13-12. The Bulldogs would not go away, however, as the visitors against tied the score this time at 16. Mack and Franklin teamed up for a block to give UK a two-point lead late in the set at 20-18. Kentucky would not allow the Bulldogs back into the match as Thomasson laid a ball just over the block for a 25-20 third set victory and a 3-0 win.
By the Numbers
3,214 – Career assists for Morgan Bergren, UK’s sixth all-time leader in that category.
.306 – Attacking percentage by the Wildcats in today’s victory.
14 – Matches sophomore libero Ashley Dusek has topped 10 or more digs in a match including today with 13 dug balls.
7 – Seventh match this season middle blocker Kaz Brown has registered 10 or more kills and hit with a .300 hitting clip or better.
7 – Consecutive matches Darian Mack has topped double-figures in the kills’ column.
Kentucky’s Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 11-12. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Omaha, Neb., from the Lexington Region. This marks the third time in five seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.