No. 21 Wildcats Look to Bounce Back at Shocker Volleyball Classic
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The 21st-ranked Kentucky Wildcats volleyball team looks to bounce back this weekend, as it travels to Wichita, Kan., for three matches in the Shocker Volleyball Classic on Friday and Saturday in Charles Koch Arena.
The Wildcats will have another challenging slate this weekend, beginning the tournament with a top 25 showdown against No. 7 Illinois. The Fighting Illini sit at 4-1 entering the weekend, with its lone loss coming at the hands of now third-ranked Stanford. Most recently, Illinois swept No. 23 Colorado with an impressive 25-13, 25-14, 25-17 performance.
UK will also play mid-major standouts Northern Illinois and the host Wichita State Shockers. Kentucky will take on both opponents for the first time under head coach Craig Skinner. Both squads enter the weekend at 3-3 on the season. NIU is coming off back-to-back losses – both sweeps – to No. 22 Ohio State and No. 14 Florida State. Wichita State is coming off consecutive losses as well, dropping a five-set match to New Mexico State before being swept by No. 25 Texas A&M after opening its season 3-1.
Read below for all your need-to-know information on the Shocker Volleyball Classic:
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Last Time Out: UNI Tournament
The Wildcats had a rough outing in the most recent UNI tournament, grabbing a 1-2 record over the weekend. The Cats started strong, grabbing a 3-1 (25-20, 25-27, 25-19, 25-20) win over UNI. The second day was a struggle for UK, as they were swept twice in the day – first by now-No. 6 Southern California (11-25, 19-25, 21-25) before Creighton pulled the upset (23-25, 17-25, 18-25). Ashley Dusek continued her breakout season, registering an astounding 60 digs over the weekend and adding four service aces to be named to the UNI All-Tournament Team.
Cats Dominant in Win over Northern Iowa
UK had a great all-around performance in the four-set win against Northern Iowa. On offense, the team logged a season-best 67 kills. The 67 kills ties the most kills in a four-set Kentucky match during the 25-point rally scoring era. During the match, five players had double figure kills in the match (Darian Mack, 17; Kaz Brown, 13; Anna Nyberg, 12; Brooke Morgan, 10; Sara Schwarzwalder, 10). It marked the first time four or more players had 10 or more kills since the team played Georgia Southern on September 13, 2014. Ashley Dusek had 31 digs, making her the only UK player to log 30 or more digs in multiple matches since the beginning of the 25-point rally scoring era.
The matchup with Nothern Iowa also proved to be a a big night for many individuals on the team, with five players setting or tying 10 career-bests, while two others made or tied five season-highs. Three career records were set for kills (Mack, 17; Nyberg, 12; Morgan, 10). Morgan (5) and Nyberg (2) also set a career record five blocks on the weekend, while Brown tied her career-best eight blocks. Dusek set new highs for assists (7) and service aces (3), while fellow defensive specialist McKenzie Watson had new highs in digs (9) and assists (3). Senior Morgan Bergren had a season best 11 digs while tying her season-high five kills and three blocks. Classmate Sara Schwarzwalder had season highs in kills (10) while tying her season-high three blocks.
Bergren Named Candidate for Senior CLASS Award
Premier Sports Management, Inc., announced the candidates for the 2015 Senior Class Award on Wed., Sept. 9, with Kentucky senior setter Morgan Bergren being tabbed as one of the 30 candidates for the annual honor. Bergren is one of six players on the list to have garnered All-America honors by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) in 2014 and is one of 25 candidates to hold a 3.0 GPA or higher. A national media committee narrows this field to 10 finalists per sport approximately eight weeks before the NCCA championship. Public fan voting on the Senior CLASS Award website takes place each year during the month leading up to the NCAA Championship.
Dusek’s Digs Lead Conference
With another impressive performance last weekend, in which she corralled 60 digs, Ashley Dusek leads the Southeastern Conference with a staggering 5.64 digs per set – a whole dig per set ahead of LSU’s Haley Smith. Dusek also has more total digs than anyone in the SEC so far with 141, while Alabama’s Natalie Murison comes in second with 126. In seven matches, Dusek has now posted 25 or more digs three times.
Dusek Silver Lining in UNI Tournament
Dusek earned All-Tournament honors at UNI, logging 60 digs in three matches for a whopping 6.00 digs per set over the weekend. Dusek also provided four service aces during the three matches. Dusek enters this weekend on five consecutive games charting 10 or more digs.
Wichita State vs. #21 Kentucky to Broadcast on WatchESPN
It was announced Tuesday afternoon that Kentucky’s matchup against Wichita State on Sept. 11 at 9 p.m. will be broadcast online via ESPN3 as a part of the Missouri Valley Conference’s “The Valley on ESPN.” The addition of the WatchESPN game gives the Wildcats 26 matches hosted by ESPN family of networks, including nine matches to be broadcast nationally on the SEC Network.
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. Parking is limited and fans are encouraged to arrive early.