Grome’s Six Aces and 48 Assists Eclipse Ole Miss in Four
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 19 Kentucky Volleyball team got a career-high six aces and 48 assists from sophomore setter Emma Grome and 15 kills from senior middle blocker Azhani Tealer on Wednesday night, beating the Ole Miss Rebels 3-1 (25-15, 26-28, 25-12, 25-20) in four sets.
Kentucky came out of the gates blazing hot with a .500 hitting percentage in the first set with a 75 percent side-out conversion rate and 17 kills by six different players as the Wildcats rolled the Rebs 25-15 in the opening frame.
UK kept up the strong offense all night, hitting .278 for the match, but it was the defense of Bella Bell, Grome and Tealer, who all had six blocks, which was the difference-maker in the match as UK held OM to a .155 percentage. Eleanor Beavin had 21 digs on the night, a new career high for a four-set match for Beavin and by far the most of anyone in the match.
UK has now won six matches in a row to extend its season-high winning streak to a half dozen as the calendar shifts to mid-October. The Wildcats are now 11-5 overall and sit 6-1 in Southeastern Conference play, now alone at the top of the standings after play on Wednesday night.
Kentucky has reached its SEC bye week for league play, as it will take the next 10 days off before returning to competition on Oct. 22 at Texas A&M in College Station.
The Wildcats started strong with two kills each by Reagan Rutherford and Erin Lamb pulling ahead to an 8-1 lead. Additionally, UK brought the fire defensively with four blocks to increase its lead to 12-2. Bella Bell and Azhani Tealer both added a kill bringing the Wildcats to an impressive .778 hitting percentage and a 13-point lead in the opener. The Wildcats used the Rebels size to their advantage and dominated offensively with Tealer and Rutherford adding two kills, bringing the Wildcats to 12 kills total for the set. Freshmen Audrey Whitworth and Haley Melby worked together with two digs by Whitworth and a clever placement play by Melby to bring the Wildcats to a 12-point lead, the largest lead of the set. A Rebels missed serve and a thunderous kill by Tealer brought the Wildcats a first-set win, 25-15.
The Rebels gained some momentum off a Kentucky service error and added three-straight kills to bring the score to 8-3, prompting the Wildcats to take a timeout, their first of the match. Bella Bell added one kill and a service ace to pick up the pace for the Wildcats bringing the score to 9-5 out of the timeout. Audrey Whitworth executed her first kill of the season adding energy to the court and a kill by Emma Grome. A Rebels service error led to a Kentucky service ace by Whitworth, making it just a 16-2 Rebel lead. Melby added a kill bringing her to four kills on the match and Tealer added two additional kills bringing her to a total of 10 on the match as the Wildcats tied it up at 22-22. Kentucky pulled ahead, 23-22, as Grome and Tealer stuffed the ball back over the net causing the Rebels to take their second timeout of the set. Scrappy defense by Sophomore Eleanor Beavin and a kill by Erin Lamb help tie the score to 24-24, but the battle continued as an Ole Miss kill and block lead to the Rebels taking set two with a score of 28-26.
Adanna Rollins made her first appearance of the night off a four-match absence with a kill on the first point of the set. Tealer contributed on defense yet again with another block to tie it up 3-3. The Rebels pulled ahead executing on offense with two back-to-back kills to take a 6-3 lead. Bell contributed one stuff block and a kill to bring the Wildcats to seven total blocks and 35 kills on the night sending Grome behind the line at a score of 6-5. Grome set the tone aggressively serving four aces as the Wildcats went on a 12-0 run. Bella Bell crushed an overpass and added one solo block bringing the Wildcats to lead 15-7. Beavin contributed defensively with 15 digs on the night next to Whitworth with seven digs and a service ace at 17-9. Kentucky pushed ahead to set point, 24-12, as Rollins added another kill and solo block. Kentucky took set three, 25-12, with a kill by Rollins from an Ole Miss overpass.
Rutherford nailed the ball down the line to start the Wildcats off strong with a score of 6-3. Taking control of the defense, Tealer and Bell added four blocks and Beavin continued to work hard with 21 total digs for the match. Bell destroyed the ball off an overpass, keeping Grome on a serving run of four-straight points. Kentucky moved forward despite an Ole Miss challenge on the play with a kill by Rutherford. The Wildcats led 15-9 as Rollins hammered an overpass kill sending Whitworth to the back row with 11 total digs on the match. Tealer and Lamb ripped two kills off the Ole Miss defense sending the confident and aggressive Emma Grome back to serve. Rutherford swung cross-court to get the kill leading Kentucky to set point, 24-20. Rollins stayed hot and closed out the match with another kill and a set score of 25-20.