Top-Ranked Nebraska Survives Kentucky in Four
LINCOLN, Neb. - In perhaps top-ranked Nebraska's stiffest competition since facing UCLA in the opening weekend of action, the Huskers survived a scare from No. 19 Kentucky with a 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-22, 25-22) win on Saturday afternoon in the final night of the Ameritas Players Challenge in Lincoln, Neb. UK's senior Ashley Frazier was simply terrific in the loss for the Wildcats with 20 kills on a sizzling .459 hitting percentage. It is just her second 20-kill performance in the Blue and White.
With the loss, Kentucky falls to 6-4 on the season and the No. 1 Huskers move to an unblemished 8-0 mark. Tonight's match concludes non-conference action for Kentucky this season as UK will next be in action on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 1 p.m. vs. Southeastern Conference rival Florida.
"I was pleased with the way our team responded tonight after last night's match against Oklahoma," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "Nebraska had a knack for making big-time plays at the ends of sets tonight.
"We have some good players on this team and it has taken a little while during preconference to smooth some things out with some new people in the lineup," Skinner said. "I saw some fire tonight that we need to sustain going into SEC play."Freshman Morgan Bergren contributed her first career double-double effort with 47 assists and 10 digs in a hostile environment. She added four kills and a team-high five blocks as well.
Junior Whitney Billings was the other UK attacker to reach double-figures with 12 kills while adding four blocks and five digs. Junior Alexandra Morgan had four kills and a team-high matching five blocks. Freshman Sara Schwarzwalder also had a team-best five blocks while also adding eight kills on .333 hitting. Sophomore Lauren O'Conner had seven kills and a pair of blocks for UK.
The match was evenly contested with all four sets determined over the final stretches of the stanzas. Both teams topped 55 kills for the match, while both squads had 13 blocks.
Nebraska opened the match by claiming a 25-19 set win. Both teams laid down 16 kills apiece with the teams logging above .300 hitting clips. Frazier led the way for the Wildcats with six hammers on .600 hitting.
Kentucky earned an early three-point edge, but the Huskers fired back to knot the score at 11. The home squad immediately took the lead on the next point and never trailed again the rest of the way.
UK answered the call with a 25-23 second set win to tie the match at one set each going into the break. UK had 11 kills on .250 hitting, but had six blocks to separate from the Huskers. Schwarzwalder had four rejections in the frame.
Nebraska took a turn grabbing the early lead in the second stanza and maintained that edge until UK knotted the score at 21 on a mishit from the Huskers. After Nebraska reclaimed the lead on the next point, Kentucky scored the next two on kills from Billings and Frazier. The score became tied again at 23 before the Wildcats scored the final two points of the set. Billings and Frazier again teamed up for back-to-back hammers to give the Wildcats the win.
The squads again provided 4,163 fans with quite a performance in the third set as the teams had near identical stats. UK laid down 16 kills on .406 hitting with two blocks. Nebraska conversely had 17 kills on .405 hitting and one block.Kentucky had an early advantage in the set, but the Huskers fired back to tie the score at 19. The home team would then score six of the final nine points for the win.
Nebraska again outlasted the Wildcats in another wild finish in the fourth frame. The Huskers posted 15 kills on .265 hitting with six blocks. UK, however, had 12 kills on .111 hitting with just three blocks in the fourth.
Kentucky for the third time in the match surged ahead in the early stages of the set. Nebraska tied the match at six and then earned a four-point lead at 15-11 following a Husker block to take the largest lead of the set. Kentucky clawed its way back and tied the set at 17 with an ace from Bergren. The Huskers responded with a three-point swing to take a lead it would never again relinquish for the fourth-set win and the match.
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