Billings' Career Night Powers UK to Sweep of Louisville

Sept. 7, 2011

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Led by the inspired play of sophomore Whitney Billings the Kentucky volleyball team rolled to its fourth consecutive sweep this time a 25-22, 26-24, 25-11 victory over in-state rival Louisville, Wednesday evening in front of 1,617 fans in Memorial Coliseum.

Billings had a career performance in helping lead the charge for the Blue and White. She totaled her second consecutive double-double effort with a team-high 11 kills on a career-best .450 hitting clip. She added a season-best 15 digs and joined in on four blocks for the match.

With the victory, Kentucky improves its record to 6-2 overall while Louisville drops to 5-2 on the young season. The win tonight over the Cardinals marked the first sweep for UK in the series since 1988. Coupling tonight's victory with a five-set win in 2010, UK has now posted consecutive victories over Louisville for the first time since 1993 when the squads met twice in the same season.

"Louisville is a very good team," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "We have stressed since the first day of practice that we are going to have to have balance to beat all of the good teams that we are going to face this year. Offensively and defensively, we had a lot of people play well tonight."

Billings led the way, but the Wildcats received outstanding performances by a slew of players. Senior Ann Armes totaled 10 kills and notched a team-high five blocks. Freshman Lauren O'Conner scored 10 times by way of a kill and has now posted 10 or more hammers in a match in four straight UK victories.

Junior setter Christine Hartmann dished out 36 assists and added four kills of her own. Junior libero Stephanie Klefot posted a match-high 21 digs and has now topped 10 or more scoops in a match in all eight matches this season. Freshman Jackie Napper recorded 13 digs and has totaled 10 or more digs on four occasions this season. Sophomore Jessi Greenberg added a season-high six digs and made several terrific plays off of blocks.

Junior Ashley Frazier chipped in with nine kills and was a threat at the service line with a pair of aces. Senior Becky Pavan came in and sparked a defensive charge with four blocks in two sets of action.

Kentucky's defensive effort was once again the difference maker in the victory. UK held Louisville's high-octane offense to a season-low .051 hitting percentage and just 28 kills on the night. UK registered 11 blocks and picked up 65 digs on the night while constantly flustering the Cardinal attack. Consequently, UK's offense charted 49 kills behind a .207 hitting clip.

Billings opened the scoring in the first frame with consecutive kills and O'Conner lifted the Wildcats to a 3-0 edge with the third straight kill to begin the match. Louisville responded and knotted the score at four. In a back-and-forth battle, Kentucky finally broke a 12-12 tie with a 6-3 run capped off by another kill from Billings for an 18-15 edge. Louisville pulled back to within one at 22-21, but the Wildcats strung together a 3-1 run to close out the frame and the set ended with a solo block from the arms of Hartmann.

Kentucky charted 16 kills on .156 hitting and Billings paced the attack with five kills in the opening set. Klefot was at her best with seven scoops in the stanza.

Louisville reversed the order and began the second set by scoring the first three points. Three straight kills from Frazier and Armes gave the Wildcats a 7-5 lead. Kentucky maintained a comfortable advantage throughout much of the set, but Louisville made a charge late. The Cardinals eventually tied the score at 20 and then earned set point at 24-23. That is when O'Conner stepped up with three consecutive momentum-changing plays.

The freshman closed out the set by charting the home team's final three points. The first two came by way of a kill and she brought the excited crowd to its feet with a solo rejection to give the Wildcats a 2-0 edge into the locker room.

"It was a big point," Skinner said. "You need big individual plays in close matches, and we had a couple (in that set). Jackie (Napper) had a few big digs at the end of the second game and Lauren (O'Conner) played well. Most importantly, they followed the game plan to a `T', and the things we wanted to execute, they did."

UK matched its kill output with 16 more kills in the set this time on a .163 clip. Once again, Kentucky's defensive prowess was the difference with five blocks and 27 digs in the set. Louisville managed just 10 kills on .065 hitting.

The Wildcats returned from the break firing on cylinders and took total control of the final set rolling to a dominating 25-11 win. Kentucky charted 17 kills on a match-high .325 hitting with seven coming from Armes. Louisville managed just six kills on a negative .061 hitting percentage.

Pavan jump-started the run with a kill and then teamed up with Hartmann for a block. Three consecutive kills from Armes lifted Kentucky to a 6-5 lead and it was all Blue and White from there.

The Wildcats return to action when they host the UK Invitational Friday and Saturday. UK will welcome West Virginia, Loyola Marymount and Houston to Memorial Coliseum for a two-day round-robin tournament.

Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 9-10. UK is one of four sites selected for Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, from the Lexington Region. Tickets are on sale now through the UK Ticket Office.

Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the UK volleyball team and all of Kentucky's 22 teams.

Kentucky Notes

  • Kentucky improves to 6-2 on the season and has won four straight, all by way of a sweep.
  • UK has now won consecutive games in the series with Louisville for the first time since taking both meetings in 1993.
  • Tonight's sweep marks the first 3-0 victory for Kentucky over the Cardinals since 1988.
  • Whitney Billings had a career-high .450 hitting percentage.
  • Billings totaled a double-double with 11 kills and 15 digs. She has now posted a double-double in consecutive matches and has nine double-doubles in her career.
  • Billings' 15 digs is a season high.
  • Senior Ann Armes had 10 kills and a match-high five blocks. She has now led the Wildcats in blocking four times this season.
  • Junior libero Stephanie Klefot had a match-high 21 digs. Klefot has now registered 20 or more digs in a match three times this season and 15 times in her career.
  • Klefot has posted 10 or more digs in every match this season and 12 consecutively dating back to last season. She is 20 digs shy of posted 1,000 for her career.
  • Junior Christine Hartmann has a season-high three blocks.
  • Freshman Jackie Napper totaled 13 digs and has earned 10 or more digs in a match four times this season.
  • Freshman Lauren O'Conner had 10 kills. She has totaled 10 or more kills in four straight matches.
  • Sophomore Jessi Greenberg scooped up a season-high six digs.

Highlights

Kentucky Quotes

Head Coach Craig Skinner

On the balance of the team...
"Louisville is a very good team. We have stressed since the first day of practice that we are going to have to have balance to beat all of the good teams that we are going to face this year. Offensively and defensively, we had a lot of people play well tonight."

On Whitney Billings' performance ...
"Well she is a big block, and she has already proved herself as a great defensive player. Her attack percentage (tonight) was probably a career high. She is doing four or five facets in the match, and that is huge for your right-side player to be able to do that and she is playing with a lot of confidence."

On the importance of winning the second set while down set point ...
"It was a big point. You need big individual plays in close matches, and we had a couple. Jackie (Napper) had a few big digs at the end of the second game, and Lauren (O'Conner) played well. Most importantly, they followed the game plan to a `T', and the things we wanted to execute, they did. Our players really executed and bought in."

#32, Christine Hartmann

On comparing last years' match ...
"That was a huge game. I remember it going five games and it intense all the way through. It was great to come in here and win in three (sets). In the third game, we came on strong and put it away."

On how much momentum this gives UK ...
"It is great to come off a weekend that we came off of, and play like we did against a team like Louisville. They have great hitters and everything, and to be able to get a three-game win against a team like them is great for our team."

#12, Lauren O'Conner

On playing well at the end of the second set down set point ...
"We really did that well in the last part of the second set."

On how well the team played ...
"I think we played really good. We always fought back, and we knew that when we were down, we always felt that we were going to tie it back up, or get back the lead."

#1, Whitney Billings

On what the win means for the team ...
"It means a lot. We were at home, had the home crowd with us. (Louisville) always brings a lot of intensity. This game meant a lot."

On the importance of closing out the match in three sets rather than going to four or five sets ...
"We knew after winning the second set, we had to come out strong in the third set."

On being down set point in the second set ...
"They had set point. We just had to stay content in those situations to be able to close out the game."