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  • SEC CHAMPIONS! Kentucky Wins Sixth-Consecutive SEC Title

    LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky Volleyball team swept South Carolina 3-0 (25-21, 29-27, 25-16) on Saturday afternoon inside Memorial Coliseum to claim its sixth-straight Southeastern Conference volleyball championship, finishing the 2022 SEC season with a 15-3 record in league matches.



    Senior Azhani Tealer once again led the way for the Wildcats, as she hammered home 16 kills on a .520 hitting percentage. She also contributed two blocks. Two other Wildcats also had double-digit kills, as Adanna Rollins and Reagan Rutherford each had 11 terminations. Rollins padded the stat sheet with eight digs, six blocks, and an ace. Rutherford also added four digs and a block.

    As a team, Kentucky’s offense fired on all cylinders Saturday afternoon. Emma Grome dished out 44 assists and ran the offense to the tune of a .366 hitting percentage. The Wildcats registered 50 kills in just three sets, marking just the fourth time the Wildcats eclipsed the half-century mark in a sweep this season. In addition to the double-digit trio of Tealer, Rollins, and Rutherford, Erin Lamb contributed six kills, while Elise Goetzinger and Bella Bell had four and two, respectively.

    The Wildcat defense was paced by Eleanor Beavin who added 16 digs to her stat column. As a team, Kentucky racked up 42 digs, nine blocks, seven aces, and held the Gamecocks to a .184 hitting percentage for the match.

    While Kentucky now has already clinched a share of the regular-season title, a Florida loss at Ole Miss later Saturday evening would mean the Wildcats would clinch the championship outright. If Florida wins in Oxford tonight, the SEC will declare the Wildcats and the Gators co-champions. Because the two teams split their head-to-head meeting in Gainesville, the league would use the secondary tiebreaker of head-to-head points scored to award the automatic qualifier for the NCAA Tournament. The Gators hold that advantage 139-136.

    Kentucky now improves to 20-7 on the year, including a 15-3 record in Southeastern Conference play. The 2022 season marks the 12th-straight season of 20 wins or more for the program and the 15th such season in the 18-year tenure of head coach Craig Skinner.

    The Wildcats now await the decision of the NCAA selection committee before knowing their next match. Selections, including host sites, seeded teams and first-round matchups will be announced during the 2022 NCAA Volleyball Selection Special, which will air on Sunday, November 27th at 7:30 pm ET. It will be televised on ESPN2 and streamed live on the ESPN app.

    SEC awards including All-SEC, All-Freshman, player of the year, coach of the year and libero of the year will be announced Sunday afternoon by the league office.

    Set One

    After South Carolina took an early 4-1 lead, back-to-back kills by Adanna Rollins and Reagan Rutherford were followed up by an Emma Grome ace to knot the game at four. South Carolina was able to build a lead as large as four points, but the Wildcats would continue to claw back into the set, eventually tying the match at 13 on a Gamecock attack error. On the next play, a successful challenge from Coach Skinner reversed an Azhani Tealer attack error into a kill, giving the Wildcats their first lead of the set since 5-4. At the media timeout, Kentucky led 15-14. Kentucky opened up its first multi-point lead, at 17-15, of the opening stanza following a stuff block from Adanna Rollins and Bella Bell. Following a termination from Bell, South Carolina called its first timeout of the set, trailing 18-16. Out of the timeout, Kentucky kept the run going, as a block from Rutherford and Bell was followed up by a service ace from Rollins. This 4-0 scoring run forces the Gamecocks to burn their final timeout of the set, trailing 21-16. Late in the set, a 4-1 burst from Carolina led to a Kentucky timeout, as the Wildcats were nursing a slim 22-20 lead. After the Gamecocks cut the Kentucky advantage to one, back-to back kills by Rutherford and Lamb, in conjunction with a Carolina attack error, gave the first set to Kentucky, 25-21. Three different Wildcats had at least three kills in the first frame, with Reagan Rutherford leading the way with five.

    Set Two

    After an extended rally, a kill from Azhani Tealer opened up the scoring in the second stanza. After both teams traded side-outs, South Carolina was able to open up an early lead at 11-7, forcing a Kentucky timeout. The Wildcats were able to find some momentum midway through the set as four straight kills, two from Rollins and two from Tealer, tied the match at 15 and forced Carolina coach Tom Mendoza to use his first timeout of the set two. Immediately following the timeout, Adanna Rollins slammed home an overpass to give the Wildcats their first lead of the frame since 1-0. Back-to-back block assists from Elise Goetzinger, one in combination with Adanna Rollins and one with Emma Grome, stretched the Kentucky lead to 20-17 and compelled the Gamecocks into their final timeout. An ace from Emma Grome at 23-18 gave Kentucky its largest lead of the frame. Craig Skinner used his last stoppage of the set as three straight Gamecock points cut the score to 23-21. After a South Carolina service error gave Kentucky set point, the Gamecocks were able to put together a 4-0 run to gain a set point of their own, but a kill from Erin Lamb knotted the set at 25. After the two sides traded points, an Azhani Tealer hammer gave Kentucky another set point. The frame was finally finished as Lamb and Tealer combined for a stuff block, gifting the set to the Wildcats, 29-27, and sending Memorial Coliseum into a ruckus. Azhani Tealer led the way for the Wildcats in set two with nine terminations. Kentucky hit 22 kills in the second frame on .459 hitting; the 22 kills was a season high for kills in a set.

    Set Three

    The Wildcats got off to another strong start as a solo block from Adanna Rollins and back-to-back service aces from Audrey Whitworth gave Kentucky the opening three points of the third set. A pancake dig from Eleanor Beavin, followed by a bump set from Elise Goetzinger, led to an extraordinary Erin Lamb kill that gave the Wildcats a 7-5 lead. The two teams traded points for most of the early part of the set, but a Gamecock attack error sending the set to its media timeout, with Kentucky leading 15-12. Out of the timeout, Kentucky began to pull away, as serves from Eleanor Beavin caused an ace, as well as an easy overpass slam for Azhani Tealer, pushing the score to 17-12. Kentucky kept inching closer to the finish line, as an Adanna Rollins kill ballooned the Wildcat advantage to 22-15. After a Gamecock timeout, a Goetzinger kill and a Carolina attack error set up match point. Elise Goetzinger closed out the match with another kill, bringing the final set three score to 25-16.
    Comments 9 Comments
    1. CitizenBBN's Avatar
      CitizenBBN -
      Thanks.

      FWIW you said Tealer announced she is returning. They did have Bell in the seniors group Friday, she's a redshirt junior, so I assume she is leaving.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Quote Originally Posted by CitizenBBN View Post
      Thanks.

      FWIW you said Tealer announced she is returning. They did have Bell in the seniors group Friday, she's a redshirt junior, so I assume she is leaving.
      I did not know that. I actually glossed over her when I looked at the other seniors, not realizing that she went through Senior Day as a redshirt junior.

      I would think you are right.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      I know it's too early to begin to look to next year, and Kentucky may visit the Portal, like they did this year with Adonna Rollins. But just a quick peek at who will be returning/entering (with the new signees) for next year, assuming we do not lose any additional players through the portal, and assuming we do not gain any, either. These are the players I show, in the classification for next season:

      Setter: Emma Grome, Junior; Lane Jenkins, Junior; Ava Sarafa/Freshman
      Middle Blocker: Jordan Williams, RS Sophomore; Elise Goetzinger, Senior; Azhani Tealer, Super Senior; Brooke Bultema/Freshman
      Libero/DS: Eleanor Beavan, Junior; Riah Walker, Senior; Audrey Whitworth, Sophomore; Molly Tuozzo/Freshman
      Outside Hitter: Haley Melby, Sophomore; Aaron Lam, Junior; Jordyn Dailey/Freshman (also MB); Brooklyn DeLeye/Freshman
      Opposite: Reagan Rutherford, Senior

      The recruiting class looks solid. Kentucky's signing class bios for them did not do them justice. Kentucky has the most amount of ABC a Under Armor first-team All Americans of any school with three, including Setter Ava Sarafa, Outside Hitter Brooklyn (Brooke) Bultema, and Middle Blocker Molly Tuozzo.

      Sarafa is the real deal, they say. I have seen some of the people that really know high school and college soccer say that Craig Skinner may choose to run a 6-2 with Grome and Sarafa for next year because she is just too good not to see the court. Edited to add that Ava Sarafa is 6'0 tall, about the same height or a little taller than Madison Lilley. Grome does a really good job, but there's a big difference at the net between 5'9 and 6'0 (unless your name is Azhani Tealer), and having a 6'0 Setter at the net provides additional block opportunities and occasional attacks.

      They are also speculating that Tealer, as good as she has been at Middle Blocker, may move back to the right side because we are going to be loaded at the Middle Blocker position.

      DeLeye also stands a good chance of getting playing time early at the left side, and possibly even starting before the season concludes.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      And while I'm looking ahead to next year, anyway, how about that $80 million Memorial Coliseum renovation? It will be interesting to see where volleyball, women's basketball and gymnastics compete next year.

      As I understand it, it's going to be well worth it with the installation of air conditioning, fixing the roof, replacing seats, new bathrooms, providing a lounge area/event space, upgrading the academic/tutoring facility, providing lighting and sound upgrades, providing specific upgrades for each of the 4 different teams (including STUNT), etc. Should be a great fan experience year after next.
    1. CitizenBBN's Avatar
      CitizenBBN -
      Very curious where we play next year. Rupp is my vote but doubt that is too doable for a number of reasons. it's my vote selfishly b/c I'm close lol.

      The renovation is desperately needed. I can post pics I took of the water damage. It's extensive. There are real structural issues there beyond just making it nicer with seats and such.

      I will say they came up with an interesting use for the old style urinals. Memorial still has the big circular, well, trough for lack of a better word, where you used to all just stand around in a circle and take care of things. That's a bit 1950s for people these days, so they converted those into big hand wash stations. So they are now a sink, and the urinals are on the walls to either side. I just can't use that as a sink, gives me flashbacks of going to Rupp when I was a little boy and using that as a urinal. lol.

      But for those sports and for CATS and really just to not lose the building that also houses a lot of UKAA offices, they need some work done. The water leaks are pretty obvious, and of course a lack of AC is a real kicker for a lot of the year.
    1. CitizenBBN's Avatar
      CitizenBBN -
      If anyone hears where they will play for a year please put it up.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Quote Originally Posted by CitizenBBN View Post

      I will say they came up with an interesting use for the old style urinals. Memorial still has the big circular, well, trough for lack of a better word, where you used to all just stand around in a circle and take care of things. That's a bit 1950s for people these days, so they converted those into big hand wash stations. So they are now a sink, and the urinals are on the walls to either side. I just can't use that as a sink, gives me flashbacks of going to Rupp when I was a little boy and using that as a urinal. lol.
      I have been somewhere else where they did the same thing. I can't recall now where that was, but the thing that really got me was that for a short time I was the only person in the bathroom and I was totally confused. I can easily see someone going back to the "old way" standing right next to someone using it to wash their hands.
    1. Darrell KSR's Avatar
      Darrell KSR -
      Quote Originally Posted by CitizenBBN View Post
      If anyone hears where they will play for a year please put it up.
      I would ask UK, but the only person that would answer questions like that for me off the record no longer is at Kentucky, and everyone else is too afraid to say something until it is official when they say it to everyone at the same time.
    1. CitizenBBN's Avatar
      CitizenBBN -
      Quote Originally Posted by Darrell KSR View Post
      I have been somewhere else where they did the same thing. I can't recall now where that was, but the thing that really got me was that for a short time I was the only person in the bathroom and I was totally confused. I can easily see someone going back to the "old way" standing right next to someone using it to wash their hands.
      It was very confusing. Anyone our age range knows what they are really for, and I can see someone not knowing it has changed.

      Not sure how I get past the concept of washing my hands in the urinal, lol.
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