Balanced Offense Paces No. 12 Kentucky to 3-1 Win over Texas A&M

Balanced Offense Paces No. 12 Kentucky to 3-1 Win over Texas A&M

by Ben Slack, UK Communications

LEXINGTON, Ky. –  Four Kentucky players attacked for double-digit kills, as No. 12 Kentucky (16-7, 14-1 SEC) knocked off Texas A&M (15-10, 7-8 SEC) by a final score of 3-1 (25-17, 25-20, 24-26, 25-12) inside Rupp Arena on Thursday night.

The win marked the 13th-straight victory for Craig Skinner’s crew, who are holders of the second-longest active win streak in the county. The 13-straight wins are also tied for the fifth-longest streak in the Skinner era, matching the highest streak form the 2016 NCAA 2nd Round team.

With Thursday night’s result, Kentucky is now 16-7 on the season with a 14-1 record in the SEC, as it now has a full one-match lead over Arkansas, who sits 13-2 in SEC play. Texas A&M, who’s RPI entering the night was 28, falls to 15-10 and is now 7-8 in the league.

Emma Grome led the balanced Kentucky attack, logging 55 assists on 63 Kentucky kills, in addition to six digs, two kills, and a solo block. The defending Southeastern Conference Player of the Year guided four of her hitters to double figure kills, with freshman Brooklyn DeLeye leading the way with 18. Elise Goetzinger notched 13 terminations of her own at a .435 clip, while junior Erin Lamb and 5th-year Azhani Tealer each had 12 apiece. The Wildcats attacked at a .360 clip on the night, while holding Texas A&M to just .211.

Defensively, 2021 SEC Libero of the Year Eleanor Beavin led the way, digging 20 balls to lead her team to just its fifth 60-dig outing of the season. While earning almost a third of the Wildcats’ 61 digs, the junior from Louisville, Kentucky was assisted by 12 pickups from sophomore Audrey Whitworth and nine pickups from freshman Molly Tuozzo.

Kentucky will wrap up its season-long three match homestand on Sunday afternoon, November 19th, by hosting Missouri inside Rupp Arena. First serve is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. (ET) and the contest will be streamed live on the SEC Network + and the ESPN app. Fans interested in purchasing tickets to the penultimate home match of the regular season can use the following link: https://bit.ly/3G4Oyh4

Set One

The match commenced with back-to-back kills from DeLeye, which was followed by a termination from Goetzinger to open a 3-0 UK lead. After the two teams traded points for some time, Texas A&M trimmed to Wildcat lead to one at 6-5, but a kill from Tealer would maintain the upper hand for the home squad. The Aggies would eventually tie the opening set at 8-8, but Rutherford’s first kill of the night pushed the Cats on top once more. The two squads would continue with a stretch of sideouts, but a setter dump from Grome would bring the score to 12-10 in favor of Kentucky. The Cats would match their largest lead of the set at the media timeout, with a Tealer termination forcing the score to 15-12. The first Wildcat block of the night would force the Aggies into their first timeout of the set, as Rutherford and Tealer teamed up to extend the Kentucky lead to five points at 18-13. The Wildcats would continue to force the issue, as A&M burned their final timeout of the stanza trailing by seven, 22-15. Tealer would close the set with a bang, hammering home an overpass to finish off an eight-point win. Grome paced Kentucky to 19 kills in the frame, tallying assists on 15 of those terminations. Goetzinger and DeLeye each notched five kills, while Beavin led the way with seven digs.

Set Two

Similar to set one, Kentucky would find itself on top from the get-go thanks to a kill from DeLeye. A trio of Aggie errors, combined with a Tealer kill, would push the Cats to an early 5-2 lead. Texas A&M would go on a 5-1 run to earn their first lead of the contest, but Lamb was able to knot the score at seven with a kill off the block. An ace by Goetzinger and an unsuccessful Aggie challenge turned the score in favor of the Blue and White,9-7. Two blocks within four points, including a joust win turned solo stuff from Grome, opened up a three-point lead for Kentucky, 12-9. The Cats would sustain this three-point cushion into the media timeout, owning a 15-12 lead at the first break of the frame. Tealer would continue her hot hitting into the second set, earning her sixth kill on seven attempts, with no errors, to find an 18-15 advantage for her team. After a successful Texas A&M challenge that brought the Aggies within two, the Cats would compound an A&M error with a kill from Lamb to double their lead and force the visitors into a stoppage at 22-18. DeLeye’s tenth kill of the match placed the Wildcats on the precipice of second set win, as the Aggies used their final timeout, trailing 18-24. The Aggies were able to put two more scores on the board, but a service error would give Kentucky a two-set lead heading into intermission. DeLeye lead the Cats in kills once again, nabbing five more kills in set two. Erin Lamb notched four terminations, while Beavin dug six more balls to lead the Cats.

Set Three

For the first time in the match, Texas A&M jumped in front to open the frame. After DeLeye found the floor once more, an Aggie attack error and an ace from DeLeye opened up a 5-3 Kentucky lead. Texas A&M evened Set 3 at 7, but three consecutive errors allowed for the Cats to reimpose their lead, 10-7. Megan Wilson, who entered the match after Rutherford left with an ankle injury, found the floor for the first time to keep her team on top by three, 11-8. Two blocks and an ace sparked a 4-0 Aggie push that saw the visitors from College Station claim a lead for the first time since the opening points of the stanza, 12-11. Texas A&M would continue their third set push, as they found themselves ahead 15-13 at the media timeout. After the break, A&M would score two more to push their lead to a match-high four points, forcing Craig Skinner into his first timeout of the match. Lamb’s seventh kill of the match would stop the Texas A&M push, while Tealer would follow the act with back-to-back kills to trim the deficit to one and force an Aggie timeout. Following the break, the two teams continued to trade points with Texas A&M nursing a one-point lead, but a pair of Aggie errors would tie the set at 21. Back-to-back kills for the visitors placed Texas A&M two points from their first set win of the day, prompting Kentucky to use their final timeout of the stanza. DeLeye’s thirteenth kill of the night, in combination with an attacking error from Texas A&M, tied the third set at 23 and forced the Aggies into their final timeout. Out of the timeout, Goetzinger found the floor on a slide attack to give the Wildcats match point. A&M would respond with a kill, and after a Kentucky error, found itself with its first set point of the night, an opportunity they would not waste. The set loss snapped a ten-set win streak that dated back to Nov. 5 at Florida.

Set Four

After Texas A&M scored the first point of the fourth, Tealer registered her tenth kill of the night to tie the frame at 1-1. A pair of kills from Lamb and solo block from Tealer would push Kentucky on top, 4-2. The run would balloon to 4-0 after Skinner successfully overturned a call via the challenge. A pair of kills out of the middle, one a piece from Tealer and Goetzinger, combined with an unsuccessful Aggie challenge on a Texas A&M hitting error pushed the lead to 9-3. Two kills from DeLeye and an ace from Whitworth pushed the broader Kentucky run to 10-2, as Texas A&M called a timeout trailing 4-12. Lamb’s tenth kill of the night, sandwiched between two more terminations from DeLeye, extended the Kentucky lead to double digits for the first time on the night, 15-5. The Wildcats would continue to keep their foot on the gas, never letting the Aggies within eight points down the stretch. Goetzinger’s twelfth kill of the match helped push Kentucky back in front by 10, forcing the Aggies into a final stoppage. Another kill from Goetzinger set up a second match point for the Cats, who sealed the win on a Erin Lamb kill.

Stat That Matters

  1. Eleanor Beavin’s third match meeting the twenty-dig mark paced Kentucky to a 61-dig night, their second most in a four set match this season.

Key Moment

Early in the fourth set, after Kentucky had just lost its first set in 11 days, a successful Craig Skinner challenge shifted the momentum in favor of the Wildcats. After a long rally ended with A&M only trailing by two, Skinner broke out the green card after a seemingly apparent four-contacts call was missed. He was successful and the change in score was a part of a broader 10-2 push that ended any threat of an Aggie comeback. Skinner is now 18/29 on challenges for 2023, including a 11/17 mark in SEC action.

Key Player

Azhani Tealer was the key player for Kentucky, logging 12 kills on just one error and attacking at an incredibly efficient .688 clip. She also added in three blocks, one of which was solo.

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.

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