With the nonconference slate of games officially complete, it was now time for the No. 7 Kentucky volleyball team to turn its attention to SEC play, as the quest for a fifth-consecutive SEC Championship was fast approaching. And despite a slow start, the young Wildcats began conference play with one in the win column, taking down the Missouri Tigers in straight sets (27-25, 25-23, 25-22).
As she’s done all season long, freshman setter Emma Grome did a masterful job quarterbacking the Kentucky offense, pacing the Cats to the tune of 49 team kills on a .306 clip. It’s the eighth time in 11 games that the Wildcats have hit above .300 in a match and the tenth time they’ve recorded at least 40 kills as a team. Grome dished out a match-high 41 assists on the evening and helped three Wildcats eclipse double figures in kill totals.
Leading the way offensively was junior middle blocker Azhani Tealer, who tallied 14 kills on a blistering .571 clip. Following behind her was Kentucky’s dynamic duo of outside hitters, Madi Skinner and Alli Stumler, who recorded 12 and 10 kills respectively. Stumler also added ten digs to the winning effort, good for her third-straight double-double. Rounding out the scoring was Elise Goetzinger with eight kills and sophomore Reagan Rutherford with five.
Defensively, freshman Eleanor Beavin poured on one of the best performances of her Wildcat career, matching her career high with 17 digs and a trio of assists. Outside of her and Stumler, it was a balanced effort from the remainder of Kentucky’s defenders, with Lauren Tharp and Madi Skinner each adding 5 digs and Grome chipping in with four.
At the net, Kentucky was paced by four Wildcats, as Grome, Rutherford, Tealer and Goetzinger all added three blocks in the win. Madi Skinner recorded her only block at the perfect time, ending the match with a solo stuff to give the Cats the victory.
With the win, Kentucky improves to 8-3 on the season and 1-0 in SEC play. They’ll now turn their attention to the Ole Miss Rebels, a team currently holding a perfect 12-0 record and receiving votes in the Top 25. The Cats will travel to Oxford, Mississippi for a match with the Rebels on Wednesday, September 29th. First serve is set for 7:00 pm and will be broadcast live on SEC Network+.