Despite the increased attention on the Kentucky volleyball program after winning a national championship earlier this year, the Wildcats have just kept on winning.
With the result, Kentucky not only caused the Memorial Coliseum floor to be littered with blue and white confetti, but it also finished the 2021 regular season with an overall record of 24-4 and a 17-1 mark in SEC play.
FINAL: No. 8 Kentucky volleyball is the outright SEC champion after a 3-set win over No. 20 Florida (25-18, 25-20, 25-23).
2nd straight sets win in as many days for UK over UF to win the outright SEC crown.
UK has now won the outright SEC title in 3 of last 4 seasons. pic.twitter.com/HqFxW9gQ3E
— Cameron Drummond (@cdrummond97) November 27, 2021
It was UK’s second win in as many days against Florida. Friday afternoon’s win by the Wildcats over the Gators secured at least a share of the SEC title for Kentucky for the fifth straight season.
But after Mississippi State defeated Auburn on Friday evening to finish the season with a 16-2 mark in conference play, Kentucky still needed to defeat Florida again Saturday to turn that share of the conference title into an outright championship.
The Wildcats did just that, holding the Gators to a hitting percentage of .224 while UK registered seven blocks as a team. UK, which won by scores of 25-18, 25-20 and 25-23, was led in Saturday’s match by senior Alli Stumler who had 11 kills, while freshman Eleanor Beavin had 15 digs.
Kentucky has now won the outright SEC volleyball championship in three of the last four seasons: In 2018, last season on its way to winning the first national championship in program history and now this season.
UK also shared the conference title with Florida in 2017 and 2019.
The Wildcats’ SEC-clinching wins this weekend came in front of large crowds inside Memorial Coliseum as well, with Friday’s victory taking place in front of a then season-high crowd of 3,149. That season best was then topped on Saturday when 3,431 spectators packed Memorial Coliseum for the outright SEC-clinching win.
There was also a historic element to Friday’s win, as it was the 400th career victory as a head coach for UK’s Craig Skinner, which was quickly followed by No. 401 on Saturday.
By winning the SEC title, Kentucky will be the conference’s automatic qualifier into the 64-team NCAA Tournament.
The 64-team field will be comprised of 32 teams that automatically qualify and 32 teams selected on an at-large basis by the NCAA Division I women’s volleyball committee.
The top 16 teams will host first and second-round matches on campus sites next weekend.
The NCAA Tournament Selection Show, which will reveal Kentucky’s seed for the NCAA Tournament and the bracket for the Wildcats to navigate in search of a second straight national title, will take place Sunday at 8:30 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPNU.
Among the key pieces of Kentucky’s resume ahead of the bracket reveal are wins against No. 16 Stanford in September, No. 21 Tennessee in October and this weekend’s triumphs over Florida.
The NCAA Tournament will begin Dec. 2 and conclude Dec. 18 with the national championship match at Nationwide Arena in Columbus, Ohio.