Seventh Heaven! Kentucky Sweeps No. 9 Arkansas to Win SEC Title
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 10 Kentucky Volleyball team swept No. 9 Arkansas on Wednesday night 3-0 (25-19, 25-14, 26-24) at Barnhill Arena in Fayetteville, Arkansas to claim its seventh-straight Southeastern Conference championship.
Freshman Brooklyn DeLeye accounted for a match-high 16 kills and only two errors to hit for .350 in the match along with six digs as the Wildcats knocked off their third top-10 win of the season and second over the Razorbacks. Erin Lamb accounted for 12 kills in the match and Reagan Rutherford rounded out the double-figure scorers for UK with 10 kills of her own on only 26 swings in her first match back from an ankle injury.
Kentucky becomes just the third team all season to sweep Arkansas, joining No. 1 Wisconsin and Georgia. UK now has won a season-high 15 matches in a row and sits 18-7 on the year with a 16-1 SEC record. The win for UK clinches at least a share of the SEC title, as Tennessee can still take half of it if it were to beat South Carolina on Saturday afternoon and Kentucky were to lose its season finale against Florida.
The 2023 volleyball regular season will close on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET as UK plays No. 20 Florida on Senior Day in Rupp Arena. Tickets are available at UKathletics.com/tickets and Sunday will also be Senior Day, as fans are asked to be in their seats by 12:45 to participate in Senior Day ceremonies as Azhani Tealer, Riah Walker, Reagan Rutherford and Elise Goetzinger are all honored prior to the match.
The SEC title is not only Kentucky’s seventh in a row, but additionally, Azhani Tealer becomes the first-ever Southeastern Conference student-athlete that’s is known to have won five SEC Championships with one team in a five-year window while playing in all five years, as the senior puts the polish on yet another benchmark in her amazing and decorated career.
After Arkansas raced out to a 4-1 lead by winning four of the first five points with kills, it was Erin Lamb that slowly pushed Kentucky back to level terms, with her fourth kill of the match giving Kentucky its first lead at 8-7 and then an out-of-system swing made things 9-8 from the junior. A huge block out of the middle by Brooklyn DeLeye and Elise Goetzinger combined with a kill by DeLeye on the succeeding point sent the Wildcats into the media timeout ahead, 15-11, its largest lead of the set to that point. An Azhani Tealer quick sideout and extended-rally termination by Reagan Rutherford after a monster dig by Molly Tuozzo pushed the lead to five for UK for the first time in the match at 18-13 and Arkansas called its first timeout. After the timeout, Reagan Rutherford slammed her third kill to the floor from the pin as UK’s lea was pushed to 19-13, a new set high. Kentucky’s fourth block of the set made things 23-17 and the Wildcats reached set point at 24-17 thanks to a kill by Rutherford from the right. A block by Goetzinger out of the middle ended the opening set with UK taking a 1-0 lead thanks to a 25-19 set win. UK hit .333 in the set as it held Arkansas to just .116 for the opener and Emma Grome had 12 assists on 16 UK kills.
Two extended-rally kills and an ace by Eleanor Beavin pushed Kentucky out to a quick 5-0 lead to start the second set as Brooklyn DeLeye began to come alive with an out-of-system swing to make things in UK’s favor. After back-to-back attack errors by the Razorbacks, the UK lead, which was shrunk to one at 7-6, rebounded to a 13-8 advantage for the Wildcats and Arkansas elected to call its first timeout down by five. Azhani Tealer and Reagan Rutherford teamed up for an impeccable block on the right side to balloon the Kentucky lead to a set-high seven points at 18-11 and down seven, Arkansas burned its second timeout of the frame. Kentucky closed the set by winning six of the final eight points and took a 2-0 lead in the match thanks to a 25-14 second-set win.
It was Arkansas that had the early control of the third set, jumping out to an 8-4 lead through the first 12 points, but Razorback serving errors and a combination of Rutherford and Lamb pushed Kentucky back into the swing of things offensively, and UK tied the frame at 10-10 after Azhani Tealer’s third kill of the match tumbled to the floor. After trailing by as many as four and getting an unlucky break on a call going into the media timeout, Brooklyn DeLeye hammered a kill to the floor and a block by Elise Goetzinger and Emma Grome gave Kentucky its first lead since 4-3 at 16-15. Arkansas then went on a 3-0 run to take an 18-16 lead and UK called its first timeout of the night. Arkansas had set point at 24-23 and Brooklyn DeLeye bailed the Wildcats out with a kill and an Elise Goetzinger kill pushed Kentucky to match point two points later at 25-24. DeLeye put a peach of a serve in that was overpassed and Elise Goetzinger hammered home Kentucky’s seventh-straight SEC Championship.
Brooklyn DeLeye’s serve at 25-24 to get an overpass that Goetzinger hammered home for the title was the key moment in the match.
Eleanor Beavin had 19 digs, the most she’s ever had in a three-set match.
3-0. UK became just the third team to sweep Arkansas all season.
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.