The Wildcats put a wacky spin on the young Southeastern Conference season by going into Gainesville on Wednesday and sweeping the only ranked team the league has.
No. 5 Florida, which had won 12 in a row since opening the season with a loss to No. 1 Nebraska, was no match for Kentucky 25-17, 25-18, 25-23 during just another day in an NCAA volleyball season where obviously anything can and will happen.
For example, No. 9 Stanford went to No. 7 Washington and came away with a five-set victory, its first win in Seattle in four years.
Nebraska showed no signs of road fatigue as the Huskers went to Champaign and demolished Illinois.
Iowa notched its first Big Ten win of the season, Oklahoma took a set off visiting Texas and Pitt won to move to the top of the ACC standings.
There are 29 more matches on the NCAA Division I schedule Thursday, including:
— A quick turnaround for Washington, which plays host to Cal in the only match of the night featuring power-five conference teams.
— There are full slates in the Big Sky, where Northern Arizona (12-3, 2-0) plays host to Idaho State, and Western Athletic Conference, where the league leaders New Mexico State (11-4, 2-0) goes to CSU Bakersfield and UT Rio Grande Valley (11-5, 2-0) goes to Grand Canyon.
Back to Gainesville, where Kentucky improved to 10-4, 3-0, and finds itself atop the SEC standings. Kentucky has won at Florida in back-to-back trips for the first time since the 1987 and 1989 seasons.
“Our players were focused and determined to follow the game plan,” Kentucky coach Craig Skinner said. “Offensively, we were very good on the left and as the match went on we got a lot of production out of the middle as well. We had a very balanced night.”
UK freshman Leah Edmond had a match-high 19 kills, on off her career best. Juniors Kaz Brown and Darian Mack had nine kills each, Emily Franklin seven and Brooke Morgan had five kills and six blocks.
Alex Holston had 15 of Florida’s 30 kills and hit .400 efficiency. Rhamat Alhassan posted five blocks, but Kentucky out-blocked the Gators 11-6.
“Our opponent played very, very well tonight. It was a really tough match for us where things just really didn’t go our way,” Florida coach Mary Wise said.
Also in the SEC on Wednesday, South Carolina improved to 13-1, 1-1 by escaping with a 24-26, 25-12, 23-25, 25-22, 15-13 victory over visiting Tennessee (10-5, 1-2). The Gamecocks rallied from being down 9-6 in the fifth. Kentucky visits USC on Sunday.
Stanford freshman Kathryn Plummer had a career-high 18 kills in the Cardinal’s 21-25, 25-20, 25-21, 17-25, 15-9 victory.
Stanford is 9-2, 3-0 in the Pac-12, while Washington lost for the second time in three matches to fall to 11-2, 1-2.
Plummer hit .268 and had five kills. Senior Inky Ajanaku totaled 13 kills and six blocks, while freshman middle blocker Audriana Fitzmorris had nine kills, seven blocks and a career-best four digs.
Freshman setter Jenna Gray recorded a career-high 35 assists and 11 digs, while senior setter Kelsey Humphreys also had a double-double with 23 assists and 11 digs. Freshman libero Morgan Hentz had a match-best 25 digs.
Freshman outside hitter Michaela Keefe finished with seven kills and a career-high 17 digs, while junior Ivana Vanjak added eight kills, seven digs and two blocks as Stanford never trailed in the fifth set and improved to 3-2 in five-set matches.
UW junior Crissy Jones had a career-high 24 kills.
Senior Courtney Schwan had 15 kills and 13 digs, hitting .240. Junior Bailey Tanner served up a career-high four aces to go with 46 assists, and freshman Avie Niece had the best blocking night of her young career with a solo and 10 block assists. Freshman libero Shayne McPherson had a season-high 24 digs and Tia Scambray also had 22 digs to go with eight kills.
“Proud but not satisfied is how I would sum it up to everyone in our program,” Washington coach Keegan Cook said. “I thought we represented ourselves incredibly well, but certainly not satisfied with some of the things that we’re doing and how we’re executing. We’re just missing a few plays here and there, that we’re not comfortable with yet, so we’ve got to grow a little bit. We tried some things to create different match-ups, and it worked in the fourth set running the 6-2, but we’re just missing a few plays we need to be able to run our offense.”
Nebraska (12-0, 3-0) rolled past No. 24 Illinois 25-18, 25-22, 25-21 as the defending NCAA-champion Huskers won for the 28th consecutive time and 11th time in a row on the road.
Kadie Rolfzen had 12 kills, nine digs and three blocks and hit .391. Mikaela Foecke had nine kills and Briana Holman and Andie Malloy each had eight. Amber Rolfzen had six kills and a match-high six blocks and Kelly Hunter had 38 assists, seven digs and four kills.
Justine Wong-Orantes led the Huskers with 11 digs, while Annika Albrecht had 10.
Freshman Jacqueline Quade led Illinois (9-5, 2-1) with a match-high 14 kills on 30 swings and hit .367.
“I thought at times we played well,”,” said Illinois coach Kevin Hambly, whose team saw its seven-match win streak come to an end.
“We just couldn’t sustain a level with them yet. We hit .257 in the third set and at one point we were both hitting .324. I thought offensively we did some nice things; it was just defensively we didn’t execute. The first thing is service-wise. They are a very good passing team. It was tough for us to get through their system and they really got going in the middle of the court and that put a lot of pressure on us.
“We tried to get out of it, kind of had a little bit of a scramble, but I thought we played really well at times, but at times couldn’t sustain it with them, not at the level that they can play.”
Also in the Big Ten on Thursday, Iowa swept visiting Maryland 25-22, 25-21, 25-16. Iowa is 11-4, 1-2; Maryland 8-7, 0-3.
“Being able to get a Big Ten win at this point in the season is significant for us,” Iowa coach Bond Shymansky said. “A win is a win in Big Ten play. You take any Big Ten win that you can get, but we know that we still have tons of work to do.
“I’m proud of the group for the investment they keep putting in each other, and for their true mental toughness. It’s really been fantastic to watch this group get better and better. It’s really no surprise that we got a Big Ten win this early in the season, and we are going to get more.”
No. 19 Ohio State improved to 11-4, 1-2 by working hard to sweep visiting Northwestern (7-8, 0-3) 25-21, 25-12, 28-26.
In the only ACC match of the night, Pitt improved to 12-3, 3-0, by grinding past visiting Virginia Tech 25-12, 18-25, 29-27, 25-26.
Redshirt-freshman Stephanie Williams led the Panthers with 19 kills and 16 digs. Freshman Layne Van Buskirk added 12 kills and hit .421. Pitt posted this interview with coach Dan Fisher:
No. 4 Texas got past Oklahoma 22-25, 25-23, 25-20, 25-22 to improve to 11-2, 3-0 in the Big 12.
Freshman Micaya White posted a career-high 26 kills on 60 swings, hitting .333. She also recorded her second double-double of the season, adding 12 digs and finishing with two blocks and one ace.
Junior Ebony Nwanebu had 17 kills and hit .444 and senior Paulina Prieto Cerame had 16 kills and .256.
Senior Chloe Collins 54 assists to go with six digs and two blocks, while junior Cat McCoy led with 13 digs and sophomore Morgan Johnson had four blocks.
Oklahoma (9-6, 0-2) got a career-high 19 kills from junior middle blocker Marion Hazelwood, who hit .500.
“We planned to run everything through the middle,” Oklahoma coach Santiago Restrepo said. “It worked for some (of the match). At some points, we couldn’t pass the ball well enough to set the middles.”
Baylor won for the 10th time in a row with a 25-17, 26-24, 25-19 victory that gave the Bears their first 2-0 start in league play since 2008. Baylor is 14-4, 2-0, while Texas Tech is 10-8, 0-3.
Also in the Big 12, West Virginia got all it could handle from TCU before winning in five 25-18, 24-26, 21-25 25-18, 15-10.
West Virginia did not record a Big 12 win last season and has now posted back-to-back victories in conference matches. The loss was the first conference defeat for TCU, who is coached by former WVU coach Jill Kramer.
“It was a hell of a win by us,” second-year West Virginia coach Reed Sunahara said. “I’m proud of our players. They were resilient; they never gave up even after losing the second set. I thought in the third set we were a little flat, but we came out strong in the fourth and finished strong. I’m proud of them.”
West Virginia is 10-6, 2-1, while TCU is 9-4, 2-1.
Mia Swanegan, who spent her freshman season at TCU before transferring to WVU in 2015, led with eight total blocks and added 12 kills and a pair of aces. She hit .400 on 25 swings.
Payton Caffrey had 21 kills and a career-best 20 digs in addition to six assists and three blocks. Morgan Montgomery had 12 kills and nine digs, while Katelyn Evans had 11 kills and seven digs.
“This was a really hard fought battle by both teams. West Virginia played great and that is the best defensive effort we have seen all year from a team,” TCU coach Jill Kramer said. “They dug a lot of balls and we had a really hard time getting any production from the outside, with the exception of Anna Walsh (14 kills) on the right side pin. I thought our middles did great and the block was pretty good, but West Virginia was tooling like crazy. They are a good team that is playing hard and Reed is doing a really good job with them.”
Temple came away with a big American Athletic Conference victory at Connecticut 5-18, 26-24, 19-25, 23-25, 19-17. It left Temple 9-1, 2-1 and UConn 11-3, 2-1.
Irem Asci had a career-best 28 kills, including the 1,000th of her career, for Temple.
“This is a huge win for us,” Temple coach Bakeer Ganesharatnam said. “We knew it would be a dogfight, and just because we won the first two sets, it didn’t mean it would be easy for us to finish them out. I thought we did really great mentally, we were really strong and we barely made any mental mistakes. UConn played really well and I’m so proud of how we worked tonight.”
And in a battle of teams that were previously unbeaten in Metro Atlantic Athletic play, Fairfield won at Marist 25-17, 25-21, 20-25, 25-21 in its first meeting with the Red Foxes since the 2015 MAAC Championship Match.