Electrifying Crowd Propels No. 16 UK to Victory
Sept. 1, 2010
LEXINGTON, Ky. - Behind the support of 2,178 electrifying members of the Big Blue Nation the 16th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team earned a dramatic 3-2 come-from-behind win (14-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-27, 15-10) over intrastate rival Louisville on Wednesday night at Memorial Coliseum. The victory snapped a nine-match winning streak by the Cardinals in the series with UK's last win coming in the 1999 season.
"The atmosphere was amazing tonight," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "I think whoever watches us play better not leave their seat because they are going to miss something. Something exciting is going to happen when we play."
Kentucky trailed twice in the match and clawed its way back to a victory - it's first of the season to improve to 1-2 on the season. The most remarkable climb was in the decisive fifth set when UK trailed 6-1 in the early portion of the frame. Three consecutive errors by the Cardinals and a kill from senior Lauren Rapp brought the score to within 6-5. UK knotted the score at eight apiece behind another Cardinal miscue. On the following play, junior Becky Pavan's powerful jump-serve caught the Louisville defense off guard for an ace. The momentum swung into the Wildcats' favor and UK never looked back. Senior Blaire Hiler finished the run for the Wildcats with three kills in the final five points of the stanza to bring the crowd to its feet for a final time with a 15-10 win.
"I love coaching this team because they compete," Skinner said. "They never give up and they are not afraid to make mistakes. You have to have that type of mentality to beat good teams and win five-game matches."
UK's senior duo of Rapp and Hiler delivered in a big way down the stretch for the Wildcats. Rapp led the offensive output with a season-high 15 kills while adding four blocks and eight digs. Hiler charted 10 hammers to reach double-figures for the second consecutive match. She chipped in a block and five scoops. Freshman Whitney Billings continues to impress as she was the third member of UK's team to notch double-figure scoring with 11 kills and a pair of solo blocks. The freshman registered her first career double-double when she added 13 digs to her stat line.
Sophomore setter Christine Hartmann also set a career best in the digs column with 11 scoops to go along with 36 assists and a double-double effort as well. The difference maker was freshman Alexandra Morgan who made her first career start in her first collegiate appearance. UK's middle blocker struck for eight blocks to ignite UK's defensive effort. Stephanie Klefot anchored the back-line with a match-high 14 digs.
Kentucky's defensive prowess was the difference-maker as UK charted a combined 15 blocks and 64 digs. UK limited Louisville's offense to just a .080 hitting clip and 39 assists.
Louisville opened the match with a dominating 25-14 set one victory behind .300 hitting and 10 kills in the stanza.
Kentucky roared back for a 25-19 set two win following four kills from Rapp and three more from Hiler. UK's defense was at its best with nine blocks in the stanza and forcing Louisville into a negative hitting percentage. The Wildcats grabbed a lead at 3-2 and would never relinquish its hold the rest of the set. UK had its largest lead at 18-9 after a solo block from Billings. Morgan and Rapp combined for a block and then forced the Cardinals into an erroneous shot to conclude the second set.
UK went ahead 2-1 with a 25-22 set three victory. In a back-and-forth battle between the squads, UK finally broke loose for an 18-17 edge after consecutive kills from Pavan. Once again UK's defense won the set as Louisville had another mishit which essentially gave the Blue and White the winning point of the set.
The Wildcats forced Louisville into 10 hitting errors and benefited from four service errors.
Louisville stormed back in the fourth frame to force the deciding fifth set. With UK appearing in control and ready to claim victory in four sets, the Cardinals rallied from a 24-22 deficit to capture the set by a 27-25 margin. This time it was a pair of UK misfires that enabled the Cardinals to earn a set-point win.
Kentucky's offense was smooth in the fourth frame with a match-high 19 kills with Billings and Rapp each accounting for seven hammers. Louisville charted just 14 kills, but the difference was seven blocks off of the defensive arms of the front row of the visitors.
The Wildcats will return to action when they host the Kentucky Classic this weekend. Miami (Ohio), Ohio State and South Florida will join UK and form the four-team round robin tournament. Two matches will be played Friday beginning at 5 p.m. Four more matches will occur on Saturday.
Follow along with the Wildcats all season long at UKathletics.com.
Alexandra Morgan made her first career start and led the Wildcats with eight block assists.
Whitney Billings (15 kills, 13 digs) and Christine Hartmann (36 assists, 11 digs) each notched their first career double-double.
Lauren Rapp had a season-high 15 kills and led the team in the offensive column for the first time this season.
Stephanie Klefot has reached double-figures in digs in each of UK's three matches in 2010. Tonight she had a match-high 14 scoops.
Jessi Greenberg had a career-best five digs as a defensive specialist.
UK had a season-high 15 blocks after registering 11 against No. 9 Iowa State earlier in its last match of the season.
This marks the first win over Louisville under coach Craig Skinner.
Kentucky and Louisville have played in consecutive five-set matches.
The series with Louisville is now even at 24-24.
The win over the Cardinals snaps a nine-game losing streak to the intrastate rival.