LEXINGTON, Ky. - More than 5,000 fans gathered Friday evening for the first volleyball match held at Lexington's Rupp Arena. And the Wildcats didn't disappoint their blue-clad home crowd as Kentucky (11-7, 5-3 SEC) pulled away from some close battles to register a straight-sets win over Mississippi State (4-13, 0-8 SEC).
In the run-up event to Kentucky's "Big Blue Madness" basketball celebration, UK turned back State 25-18, 25-18, 25-18. The Bulldogs wrap up their four-match, four-state road run Sunday at 12 p.m. with a nationally-televised (ESPNU) match at Missouri.
"Kentucky is so strong offensively, and they really give teams a lot of trouble," said head coach Jenny Hazelwood. "But I thought we did a nice job of staying with them at times tonight."
MSU got improved offensive production Friday after a lineup change that moved freshman libero and SEC digs leader Roxanne McVey to the setter position and sophomore defensive specialist Alex Scott to libero.
"The players responded well to the adjustments in the lineup," said Hazelwood. "Alex was really steady in her play as the libero and did a good job in serve-receive. And Roxanne stepped in and did a great job in her first match as a setter. She came to me this week and said she was willing to do anything to help make the team better, including playing a position she'd never played before. She's a natural leader and will get better with every match."
UK hit .360 in the opening set in their 25-18 opening-set win. State trailed 14-5 before Lainey Wyman delivered MSU's first kill of the night. Katie Enright served up a pair of aces that helped State close to within three at 20-17 before UK finished out the set with a 5-1 run.
MSU trailed 8-1 and 23-10 in the second set. But State finished solidly with a late 8-1 run, powered in part by middle blocker Lainey Wyman's four-block effort at the net.
Kentucky delivered another quick punch in the third set, racing to an 8-1 advantage. But the Bulldogs used a 5-0 run midway in the stanza to get back into contention and, with back-to-back kills by Chanelle Baker, trimmed the Wildcat lead to a single point at 17-16. Kentucky then out-pointed State 8-2 down the stretch to complete the sweep.
In a statistical oddity, MSU players had match-high totals in kills, digs and blocks. Freshman Taylor Scott finished with nine kills, Alex Scott had 11 digs and Lainey Wyman registered four blocks, including two solo knock-downs.
Kentucky led State 35-22 in kills, with Alexandra Morgan and Ashley Frazier leading the UKats with eight each.