No. 16 Wildcats Fall at No. 17 UNC in Five
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - The 16th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team fell in an exhilarating five-set match 3-2 (25-23, 15-25, 15-25, 25-13, 16-14) at 17th-ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill, N.C., on the opening night of the Carolina Classic in front of 2,109 fans in Carmichael Arena. UK trailed 14-10 in the fifth set and clawed back to even the match at 14 apiece before the Tar Heels came away with the win.
Kentucky drops to 5-2 on the season, while North Carolina improves to 5-1. It marked the first five set match of the season for the Blue and White who will return to action on Saturday at 10 a.m. ET. UK will play two matches Saturday first vs. VCU.
"We need to make more plays," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "In the fourth and fifth set North Carolina started making plays. Statistically the match belonged to us, but at the end of the day we need to make plays in the fifth set to make the score go our way. We didn't get it done today."
Sophomore Anni Thomasson had 16 kills and nine digs, while junior Shelby Workman reached double-figures for the sixth-consecutive match with 15 kills and nine digs. Junior setter Morgan Bergren dished out 47 assists and added six blocks. Junior Sara Schwarzwalder had eight kills and a match-high eight blocks. Senior Lauren O'Conner had eight kills, two aces and four blocks. Freshman Emily Franklin had five kills and five blocks in four sets of action. Freshman Ashley Dusek registered her first career kill, while adding five digs.
In the decisive fifth frame, Kentucky got off to a great start by scoring the first point for the first time in the entire match. UK kept the pressure on after a cross-court shot from O'Conner following a spectacular dig from Napper. Bergren gave UK a 3-0 lead with an ace before the Tar Heels scored their first tally.
After UNC scored two-straight, Franklin came up with a kill to the back row to maintain a 4-2 Wildcat edge. Thomasson then tooled the block to lift UK back to its original three-point spread. The Tar Heels would not go away, however, fighting back to tie things at five apiece.
From there the teams would trade points back-and-forth until the Tar Heels shook loose for three-straight to earn a 10-8 lead. The home team capitalized on consecutive blocks, forcing UK into a timeout. Following the timeout, UNC took the largest lead of the frame at 11-8 before Schwarzwalder ended the run with a kill to the back row. Bergren and Schwarzwalder teamed up for a block to pull back to within one at 11-10.
UNC responded by scoring the match's next two points for a 13-10 edge. Out of the break, the Tar Heels earned match point after an erroneous attack from the Cats. UK saved the match with a kill from Schwarzwalder. Two bad attacks by the Tar Heels kept the match alive as UK trailed 14-13 and the home team opted for another timeout. A back-row kill from Thomasson gave new life to the match as she tied things at 14 apiece.
UK then gave the home team match point yet again with a service error. A Tar Heel block ended up as the difference make for a 16-14 fifth set win after UK stormed back to score four-straight and even the match at 14 all.
North Carolina posted six kills on .045 hitting, but limited the Wildcats to a .000 clip and eight kills. The Tar Heels' four blocks proved to be the difference.
After the Tar Heels took a two-point lead, O'Conner laced a ball along the line for UK's first point of the second set. Workman tooled the block to tie and Franklin followed with a sweet touch shot into the donut for a 3-2 Wildcats' edge. UNC scored the next three points and maintained a lead until UK fought back to tie the score at 12 apiece. UK kept the pressure on and scored the next three points for a 15-12 lead. Thomasson started the rally by taking advantage of an overpass and then Workman and Franklin teamed up for a block to force UNC into a timeout.
Out of the timeout, Franklin came up with a solo block to continue Kentucky's run. After the home team pulled to within two at 17-15, UK opted for a timeout of its own. Thomasson swung the momentum back into UK's favor with a kill to the back row, which was followed by a ball handling error by the Tar Heels. That was all the more breathing room UK would need as it evened the match into the locker room with a 25-15 second set victory.
Kentucky ended the frame on an 8-0 run as UK posted 12 kills on .379 hitting. North Carolina was limited to a .100 attacking clip as the Wildcats generated four blocks in the set. Thomasson had five kills and Workman three. Franklin notched three of UK's four blocks in the set.
UNC earned the third set's first point before O'Conner utilized the block to her advantage to jump-start a 3-0 run for Kentucky. The Wildcats kept the pressure on thanks to terrific defense and extended the lead to as many as four at 8-4. The lead stretched to five at 11-6 following a Workman kill. Following a UNC timeout, Thomasson serves up an ace, and the Tar Heels are forced into three consecutive erroneous attacks, resulting in two UK blocks, for a 20-11 Kentucky lead - its largest of the set. Workman's kill off the block gave the visitors a 25-15 third set win for a 2-1 edge in the match.
UK posted 13 kills on .364 hitting, while the Tar Heels managed just 11 on a .024 hitting percentage. The Blue and White were aided by six blocks in the frame to fluster the home team into 10 hitting errors in the stanza.
North Carolina opened to a three-point lead to begin the first set before UK finally tallied a point off a kill from Workman. The lead increased to as many as five in the early stages with UNC taking a 7-2 lead. Kentucky continued to fight back and eventually knotted the score at 15 apiece following a Schwarzwalder kill forcing the Tar Heels to take a timeout. Following the timeout, UK took its first lead of the match with a Schwarzwalder-Bergren rejection. The teams would exchange points until the home team struck for two-straight to recapture a two-point lead at 19-17.
A lengthy rally which featured two spectacular digs from Napper tied the match at 21. The home team scored two-straight to take set point at 24-22. Thomasson saved the set with a kill to the back-right corner, but UNC would take the set on a crafty kill over the block on the very next play.
Kentucky logged 15 kills on .297 hitting with Thomasson leading the way with six. The Tar Heels, however, posted 19 kills with a .289 percentage to pull away. Napper had eight digs and Wolf five, while Schwarzwalder and Bergren teamed up for two of UK's three blocks.
For the fourth-consecutive set the Tar Heels opened the scoring and quickly took a 2-0 lead before Franklin found a spot in the middle of the floor. North Carolina would extend the lead to as many as six at 10-4. UNC won decisively to force a fifth set with a 25-13 fourth set win.
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