Tealer’s Five Blocks Hand No. 13 Kentucky Eighth-Straight Win
COLUMBIA, S.C. – The No. 13 Kentucky Volleyball team got five blocks from senior middle blocker Azhani Tealer and 50 assists from junior setter Emma Grome to run past the South Carolina Gamecocks 3-1 (25-17, 25-17, 18-25, 25-17) on Friday night inside the Carolina Volleyball Center.
With Friday night’s win, Kentucky improves to 12-7 overall on the year and is a season-high five matches above .500. The Wildcats advance to 10-1 in the Southeastern Conference and now sit in sole possession of first place in the SEC with Arkansas’ loss to Georgia on Wednesday night. The Gamecocks fall to 8-13 and are now 2-10 in league play.
Kentucky’s four-match road trip continues into Sunday as the No. 13 Wildcats will face off against No. 20 Florida at 3 p.m. ET on ESPN with Courtney Lyle, Holly McPeak and Katie George on the call from Exactech Arena in Gainesville.
Thanks to four service aces inside the first 25 points of the match, including three from freshman Molly Tuozzo, Kentucky took a 15-10 lead at the first media timeout, hitting .455 as a team with two kills each from Reagan Rutherford and Megan Wilson from the pins. A kill by Reagan Rutherford in transition followed by a Gamecock hitting error put Kentucky up 17-11 and USC decided to call its first timeout of the first set as UK’s lead grew to six points, a high for the set thus far. Rutherford’s third kill of the match grew the lead to seven for UK at 21-14 and a sideout by Megan Wilson for her third termination of the frame made things 22-16 with the finish line near for UK in the opening frame. A kill by Rutherford on the right side ended the set as Kentucky hit .409 in the opener to take a 1-0 lead, 25-17.
Kentucky was slow out of the gates in the second set, as South Carolina never trailed all the way up to the first media timeout, but the Gamecocks lead also never grew to more than two at 15-13. The Wildcats only won consecutive points once in the first 28 points of the second set as USC sided out over 90 percent to that point when play was stopped at 15-13. Kentucky won three-straight points out of the media timeout with a setter dump by Emma Grome, a kill by Azhani Tealer and block from Tealer and Wilson to give UK its first lead at 16-15 and push the Gamecocks into their first timeout of the set. Tealer had back to back kills out of the middle as Kentucky’s lead ballooned to 20-16 and USC decided to call its second timeout with Kentucky leading by four, a set high. An out-of-system swing from Brooklyn DeLeye closed out the set on an 11-2 run and Kentucky won the second set, 25-17 to take a 2-0 lead in the match after rallying to hit .321 in the set and three UK players had 5+ kills after two sets.
South Carolina took a 10-6 lead in the third set and with UK trailing by a match-high four points, the Wildcats elected to call their first timeout of the match and try to stall the Gamecock momentum. South Carolina ballooned its lead to six at 20-14 and Kentucky called its second timeout with USC just five points from the finish line to the set. SC won, 25-18 to send the match to the fourth set.
The fourth set was much more assertive for Kentucky, who took charge early with a 15-8 lead at the media timeout thanks to clinical serving and the terminations of Brooklyn DeLeye and Azhani Tealer out of the middle. After not recording an ace for two sets, Eleanor Beavin cranked out a pair of her own to give UK the seven-point lead at the halt of play with a diving missile for the Wildcats’ seventh as a team for the match.
Stat That Matters
.516. The Kentucky Wildcats offense hit .516 in the fourth set as it fought off the late-momentum from USC as the Gamecocks looked to force the match five sets.
The key moment in the set was Brooklyn DeLeye’s out-of-system kill in the early stages of the fourth set as the Wildcats took a 14-8 lead and created separation between themselves and the Gamecocks.
Azhani Tealer was the key player in the match, hitting .588 with 13 kills on 17 swings and five blocks.
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.