No. 17 Wildcats Fend Off Late Boilermaker Charge

Sept. 12, 2009

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MANHATTAN, Kan. - The 17th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team was able to fend off a late charge by Purdue and pick up its ninth straight win with a 3-1 (25-18, 25-18, 17-25, 25-23) victory at the Kansas State Invitational Saturday morning.

Junior Blaire Hiler had a career-high 14 kills in the victory for the Blue and White, while junior Sarah Mendoza reached double-figures in kills for the ninth consecutive match with a team-high 16. Junior Lauren Rapp added eight kills and sophomore Gretchen Giesler contributed with seven. Senior setter Sarah Rumely just missed out on a double-double with 42 assists and nine digs. Senior BriAnne Sauer led the back row effort with a match-high 15 digs. Giesler set a new career-high with seven blocks in the match--including a pair of solo rejections. Sophomore Becky Pavan totaled five kills and three blocks.

It was a total team effort on the defensive side of the match for the Wildcats. Seven Kentucky players registered two or more digs with five players totaling five or more in the win.

"We obviously started very well offensively in the first two sets," said Kentucky coach Craig Skinner. "After that Purdue really came on and showed some resiliency to keep us on our toes which took us to the fourth set. We really responded in the fourth set and made some great defensive plays down the stretch to win the match."

In the fourth set each team benefited from an early 3-0 run, but Purdue eventually pulled away for an 8-5 advantage. After Purdue grabbed a 14-7 lead, Kentucky charged back with a 5-1 run highlighted by a Rapp-Pavan block to bring Kentucky to within 15-12 and forcing Purdue to regroup with a timeout. With the Boilermakers holding a two-to-three point edge UK finally broke it with back-to-back kills from Mendoza and Giesler to pull within 19-18 and forced Purdue to use its final timeout.

Out of the break, Giesler was able to tie the score at 19 with a solo put-back. The Blue and White took its first lead since a 4-3 edge when a Purdue attacker sent a ball sailing wide. Kentucky grabbed a two-point edge when Rumely and Giesler teamed up for a block. The Boilermakers ended UK's run with a kill, but Rumely immediately found a gap in the defense for a creative touch shot and Hiler followed suit to give the Wildcats a 23-20 advantage. The Boilermakers were able to save match point twice making the score 24-23 after back-to-back blocks. However, Rapp ended the threat with a two-handed kill giving UK a 25-23 set four victory.

In the final set, UK only managed a .167 hitting percentage but Purdue was not any better as they hit .125 in the deciding set. Kentucky had a match-high five rejections in the stanza propelling them to the match victory.

The opening set began with the two squads trading points back and forth until the Wildcats claimed a 4-3 advantage after a Mendoza kill. UK would go on to score the next five points to take a comfortable 8-3 edge forcing Purdue into a timeout early. In that stretch UK had an authoritative block off the arms of Giesler and Rumely. UK stretched its lead to seven points at 14-7, but Purdue would score the next four points to pull within 14-10 after a solo block from the Boilermakers. After a Wildcat timeout the Blue and White put up four consecutive points to take another large lead, 18-11, midway through the set. Kentucky was never threatened once capturing the lead and UK rolled to a 25-18 opening set victory after Mendoza fired down her fifth kill of the frame.

UK hit a scorching .611 in the opening stanza behind kills from five different players. Kentucky also benefited from four Boilermaker service errors to help pull away.

The second set opened much like the first with the two teams trading points until Purdue took a two-point edge at 7-5. Kentucky would quickly respond to the deficit by firing away with five straight points highlighted be a laser of a kill down the line by Hiler. The Wildcats took control of the frame after back-to-back kills from Giesler and Hiler made the score 16-11 and forcing Purdue into its second timeout of the set. After the Boilermakers rattled off three consecutive points to pull within 17-14, UK called a timeout and Giesler hammered home a kill out of the break to halt the Purdue run. From that point on Kentucky rolled the rest of the way to take a two set advantage with a 25-18 second set victory.

The Wildcats continued to hit impressively with a .344 average in the second set with 15 kills led by Hiler's four. UK limited Purdue to just .056 hitting and forced the Boilermakers into 10 hitting miscues.

After a shortened intermission to just three minutes Purdue grabbed an early 6-2 advantage to begin the third set. Purdue took a lead as large as a six-point edge at 11-6 before UK slowly started chipping away at the advantage. Kentucky pulled to within 14-12 on an ace by Mendoza, but the Boilermakers fired back with a 4-1 run to stretch its lead to 18-13. Kentucky just could not come up with another run to withstand a Purdue attack which used an impressive .481 percentage in the set to grab a 25-17 win and make the score 2-1.

The Blue and White will wrap up the Kansas State Invitational with a match against Portland at 6:30 p.m. ET. Complete coverage of the Wildcats in Manhattan can be found at UKathletics.com.