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VOLLEYBALL: Kentucky Claims 4th Straight SEC Title

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The No. 3 Kentucky Volleyball team won its fourth-straight Southeastern Conference championship on Thursday night in Memorial Coliseum, sweeping Alabama 3-0 (25-16, 25-9, 25-14) to take the title.


Azhani Tealer of Kentucky (UK Athletics Photo by Grant Lee)

The four SEC titles is the first time since 2010 that an SEC team has won the volleyball championship in four-consecutive seasons. Additionally, this adds to a program-record streak for Kentucky, which prior to 2017-2021, the team’s current run, had never won more than two SEC titles consecutively.

Kentucky finishes the 2020-2021 season with a 19-1 record in an all-SEC schedule. The series against Texas A&M and South Carolina that were postponed will not be made up.

With the regular season concluded, Kentucky has clinched the SEC’s automatic qualifying spot into the 2020-21 NCAA D1 Volleyball Tournament. The 48-team field will be bubbled in Omaha, Nebraska for the duration of the tournament beginning on April 14 with the national champion crowned on April 24 at the CHI Health Center in downtown Omaha.

The field of 48 teams will be exclusively announced and brackets will be unveiled on Sunday, April 4, at 4 p.m. ET during the NCAA Volleyball Selection Show on ESPNU. Fans can also watch the show on the ESPN app and ESPN3.

On Thursday night, UK’s high-powered offense was the story, hitting .469 as a team for the match, and hitting over .440 in all three sets. Kentucky had three players reach double-figure scoring with Avery Skinner and Azhani Tealer co-leading UK with 11 kills on the night and junior Alli Stumler clubbing 10 kills. Tealer hit a mammoth .714 in the match, recording 11 kills on just 14 swings.

Just as much of a storyline on Thursday night was UK’s defense which held Alabama to a .045 hitting percentage for the match. Tealer had a team-high six blocks on the night with A. Skinner adding in five stuffs. Overall for the match, UK outblocked Alabama 9.0-2.0. Additionally, Kentucky got another terrific effort from Gabby Curry, who had 12 digs and two assists.

Senior setter Madison Lilley had 29 assists on the 43 UK kills to go along with four kills and a pair of blocks for her own.

Set One

Kentucky opened the first bit of separation in the first set by going on a 7-0 run to take a 7-1 lead through the first eight points. Alabama responded to pull to within two at 10-8, but the Wildcats rattled off eight of the next 10 points to re-gain its wide lead. Alabama called its final timeout trailing 19-12 and Alli Stumler’s fifth kill of the set ended the set. In the first set, Tealer lead all Wildcats with seven kills and UK hit .464.

Set Two

Kentucky had four separate 4-0 runs in the second set, and UK’s biggest lead was growing throughout the set as Alabama called timeouts trailing 20-8 and 22-8. Sophomore defensive specialist Maddie Berezowitz ended the set on an ace from the service line as UK closed out the set, 25-9.

Set Three

Kentucky started the third set on a 4-0 run and ballooned the lead to 10 points by the time the media timeout came with UK leading, 15-5. Kentucky would run away and hide in the second half of the set, not allowing the Tide more than five points in a row to protect the lead. A Reagan Rutherford kill from the right pin ended the match and Kentucky celebrated a 25-14 third-set win, and fourth-straight SEC championship with a dogpile at midcourt.

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