Beavin’s 30 Digs Help No. 20 Kentucky Grasp SEC Pole Position
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 20 Kentucky Volleyball team got a career-high 30 digs from junior libero Eleanor Beavin as it beat No. 10 Arkansas in five sets 3-2 (16-25, 25-16, 25-22, 19-25, 15-10) to assume pole position in the Southeastern Conference championship chase Sunday afternoon inside Rupp Arena.
The Wildcats were able to gut out the five setter thanks to wins in sets two, three and five, and had three players who reached double-figures scoring with freshman Brooklyn DeLeye logging 17 kills on 46 swings to lead all Wildcats and Reagan Rutherford joining Elise Goetzinger with 14 kills each as Kentucky hit .305 in the match with 52 assists from All-American setter Emma Grome.
Defensively, not only did Beavin have 30 digs, but sophomore DS Audrey Whitworth also had a new career-high 18 digs in the match as she helped push the Wildcats across the finish line in the fifth set. Rutherford had six blocks, including three in the fifth set alone on back-to-back-to-back points as Kentucky jetted ahead 7-2 in the decisive frame.
With the win Sunday, Kentucky improves to 10-7 on the season and sits 8-1 in the Southeastern Conference, tied atop the league table with Arkansas, whose winning streak was snapped at 16 on Sunday afternoon and is now 18-3 on the year with an 8-1 league record.
Kentucky will return to SEC play Friday night at LSU at 9 p.m. ET live on SEC Network.
Arkansas went on a 3-0 run going into the media timeout of the first set as the Razorbacks took that and extended their lead to 15-11, the largest lead for either team in the first set to that point. Kentucky could not stop the bleeding in the set, as Arkansas used an out-of-system swing and its fourth service ace to take the lead to six at 17-11 and UK called its first timeout. The Razorbacks trucked their way to a 25-16 clinical close to the set and hit .389 doing so, with 16 kills on 36 swing and only two errors to take the 1-0 lead in the match.
Kentucky flipped the script in the beginning stages of the second set as UK got its longest run of points to that point in the match a 4-0 run, bookended by an Eleanor Beavin ace and a kill by Reagan Rutherford put the Wildcats up 11-8 and Arkansas elected to use an early timeout down three and down a key player after an injury to Zoi Evans. Reagan Rutherford’s seventh kill of the match put the Wildcats ahead by six at 21-15 and the Razorbacks burned their final timeout as UK’s lead of six was the highest it had been all set. Kentucky then ran away in the late stages of the set, not allowing the Razorbacks more than two points in a row at any point down the stretch and took the second set 25-16 to even the match at 1-1 through two.
Thanks to the terrific serving of Elise Goetzinger, Kentucky got off to a flyer of a start in the third set and the Razorbacks were pushed into an early halt of play trailing 11-5. The lead kept extending throughout the set as a 6-0 run punctuated by a setter dump from Emma Grome made things 18-8 and thus, giving the Wildcats their largest lead of the match. Arkansas used a 7-0 run late in the set to put some match pressure on the Wildcats after the UK lead was up to 10 at one point, but a critical sideout from Reagan Rutherford and a kill from Azhani Tealer out of the middle put a close to the frame and Kentucky took the 2-1 lead in Rupp Arena with a 25-22 third-set win.
Set four was all Arkansas from the jump, as the Razorbacks took the set, 25-19. The Razorbacks took an early 12-8 lead and it spiraled from there for the Wildcats, who fell down as many as nine points at 21-12, and despite a 5-0 run late in the set, Arkansas held off the late UK run to make things all square after four and force a fifth set for a second time this season for Kentucky.
Three-straight blocks gave Kentucky a 7-2 lead in the fifth set and Arkansas called its first timeout after the first one when Reagan Rutherford had a solo stuff on the right pin to give the Wildcats the 5-2 lead at the time. Arkansas then went on a 4-0 run thanks to exceptional defense to pull the Hogs to within one point and Kentucky had to use its first timeout. A kill by Brooklyn DeLeye crept things back into Kentucky’s favor as the Wildcats got her 17th kill of the match to make things 11-7 and Arkansas called its final timeout down four and with Kentucky four points from the finish line. Erin Lamb finished the game off with her fourth kill of the match as UK won 15-10 in the fifth set.
Stat That Matters
4. Erin Lamb’s four kills, all coming in the fifth set, were the difference in the match as the Wildcats super sub off the bench made a huge difference.
Brooklyn DeLeye’s 16th kill of the match to put UK up 11-7 in the fifth set was the key moment.
Eleanor Beavin, who had 30 digs, an ace and three assists was the key player in the match.
8-6. Kentucky outblocked Arkansas, 8-6.
Kentucky Volleyball in Rupp Arena
UK Athletics announced earlier this spring that Rupp Arena at Central Bank Center will serve as the primary home venue for the Kentucky gymnastics, volleyball and women’s basketball teams for the 2023-24 season while Memorial Coliseum undergoes an $82 million renovation.
For the latest on UK Volleyball, follow the Wildcats on Twitter and Instagram at @KentuckyVB.