Hometown duo of Brown and Morgan shine in loss to USC
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 10 Kentucky volleyball team suffered its second setback of the season on Saturday afternoon, falling in a top-10 showdown with No. 8 Southern California, 3-0 (25-11, 25-19, 25-21) in the McLeod Center.
The duo of sophomore Kaz Brown and freshman Brooke Morgan, both Iowa natives, paced the Wildcats in UK’s morning session. Brown led the match with 12 kills at a .500 hitting clip. Morgan registered seven kills on a team-best .538 hitting while adding a block.
After dropping the match to USC, the Wildcats move to 4-2 on the season, while the Women of Troy remain perfect at 5-0. Kentucky wraps up the UNI tournament this evening where it will face Creighton at 6:30 p.m.
“I was impressed with USC’s ability to not make mistakes and put the pressure on us to score our own points,” said 11th-year head coach Craig Skinner. “We started to step up as the match went on, and we really improved from the beginning of the match up through the third set. We gave ourselves a great chance in the third set, and it comes down to our young team learning how to execute in those situations. I think as long as we continue to get better, we will [execute] as the season goes on.”
Outside of Brown and Morgan, sophomore Ashley Dusek had a solid performance, registering 11 digs in the three-set match. Sophomore outside Darian Mack had seven kills and two digs in the match, while senior middle blocker Sara Schwarzwalder added five kills and a block. Senior setter Morgan Bergren finished the match with 27 assists, three digs and two kills. Freshman outside hitter Anna Nyberg had a kill and two digs during the match, while classmates McKenzie Watson and Olivia Dailey each had service aces. Watson made five digs, while Dailey added one of her own.
The Wildcats found themselves trying to claw back early, after USC opened up on an 8-3 run and Kentucky called a timeout. Southern Cal continued to double up on Kentucky to a 14-7 lead, before a 12-4 run closed out the set, 25-11. Dusek led the Cats with five digs in the set, while Brown registered a team-high three kills.
UK was the first to strike in the second, opening the stanza on a 5-2 run. Southern Cal responded with three straight, tying the match at five. Both sides swapped points until the set was tied at 16-all, when USC scored seven straight points to take a 23-16 lead. The Cats cut the lead to five before the Trojans pulled it out, 25-19, to enter the break with a 2-0 advantage. Brown had a team-high five kills in the set.
In the closest set of the match, there was nothing to separate the two sides early on. Both teams exchanged points to 17-all, with neither side leading by more than three points at any time before then. The sides tied again at 21, before USC scored four straight to close out the set and match, winning the third 25-21.
By the Numbers
.538 – Brooke Morgan’s team-best and career-high hitting percentage
12 – Kaz Brown led the Wildcats with 12 kills, marking her fifth match with kills in double-figures
11 – Ashley Dusek posted 11 digs, now giving her four straight matches with double-figure digs
4 – Four players recorded five or more kills in the match
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.