Azhani Tealer’s 18 Kills and Nine Blocks Outlast Arkansas in Five
FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – The No. 19 Kentucky Volleyball team used 19 kills from Reagan Rutherford, 18 kills and nine blocks from Azhani Tealer and a career-high tying 63 assists from sophomore Emma Grome to outlast the Arkansas Razorbacks in five sets, 3-2 (29-31, 25-22, 25, 21, 21-25, 15-12) to complete a perfect road sweep.
Kentucky squandered six set points in the opening set that ultimately cost the Wildcats as the Razorbacks got set point at 30-29 and scored on the left pin to close out the opener, just as it did Friday night. Also similar to Friday night, Kentucky won sets two and three to take seeming control of the match.
After a lackluster fourth, Kentucky fought back on the road with a dominant late-stage set of plays in the fifth set from several different players as it won its first five-set match of the year after dropping three of them in a row prior to Saturday night’s contest.
With the win, Kentucky improves to 5-1 in Southeastern Conference play and is sitting in first place in league action as its overall record improves to 10-5. Arkansas falls to 11-5 overall and is 2-4 in SEC play this year.
Kentucky will play host to Ole Miss on Wednesday night at 8 p.m. ET live on SEC Network, ESPN+ and the ESPN app with Courtney Lyle and Katie George on the call from Lexington. Tickets are available by calling the UK Athletics Ticket Office.
At the media timeout of the first set, Arkansas held a 15-13 lead on the backs of four UK hitting errors that erased what was a 9-5 Kentucky lead in the early stages of the opening set. Out of the timeout, Friday night’s hero Reagan Rutherford had a side-out kill from the right pin and a block to put Kentucky back on level terms at 15-15. Arkansas held the lead by no more than one point for the entirety of the set all the way until a Hailey Melby kill at 23-23 made it Kentucky who arrived first at set point, 24-23. With the back-to-back points, Arkansas burned its first timeout facing set point. Kentucky squandered five set points in the opener – all at 24-23, 25-24, 26-25, 27-26 and 28-27 but serving woes and hitting errors forced the turnaround and Arkansas converted on its second set point at 30-29 off a service ace to take the frame and a one set to none lead in the match. Reagan Rutherford had five kills on seven swings in the set as UK hit .273, but a .375 Arkansas hitting percentage ultimately did the Cats in, as well as four hitting errors.
An ace from Eleanor Beavin, her second of the match, put Kentucky ahead 15-12 at the media timeout of the second set with UK hitting .526 for the frame to that point. Another ace by Beavin on the other side of the media timeout made it a 16-12 Kentucky lead and a block by Azhani Tealer catapulted UK to an 18-13 lead, its largest advantage of the set. Back-to-back service errors by the Wildcats saw Arkansas creep back into the thick of things as the Hogs dwindled the deficit to just two at 19-17. Bella Bell salvaged the momentum for UK with a huge solo stuff on the longest rally of the match to that point as UK got to 20 and led by four with five points to go to secure the frame. Kentucky arrived at set point leading 24-18 and successfully converted on its fourth attempt to level the match at one set each. UK hit .441 in the set with no errors that ultimately helped UK to win the frame.
Kentucky got a block from Bella Bell followed by Azhani Tealer’s seventh termination of the match to take a 10-7 lead, the first lead of more than two points for either team in the set. At the media stoppage, Kentucky got a kill from Haley Melby on the left pin to give the Wildcats the 15-13 lead, as Melby logged her sixth kill of the match. UK then used an Eleanor Beavin service run to expand on its lead as Emma Grome and Bella Bell put a block on the Razorbacks to make things 18-14 Kentucky and UA called its first timeout of the set. The Wildcats arrived at set point with a 24-21 edge and closed out a 2-1 lead in the match thanks to a kill from Azhani Tealer, her 14th of the match.
Kentucky played its worst set of the weekend in the fourth set Saturday night, as Arkansas sent the match to a fifth set, by closing the frame on a 9-4 run and winning the set, 25-21.
The fifth set was played in just a three-point window until Kentucky was able to dig deep and rely on the power from the pins and swallowed up a 13-12 lead to force Arkansas into a timeout as UK took its first lead since 9-8. After the Arkansas timeout, Kentucky got a killer block from Azhani Tealer and Emma Grome to bring the Kentucky lead up to 14-12 and put the Wildcats at match point. On an extended rally, Erin Lamb ended the match with a kill from the left pin and UK closed out a five-set win on the road for the first time this season.