No. 16 Wildcats Suffer Set Back at Louisville
Sept. 16, 2009
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Despite a career-high 26 kill performance from junior Sarah Mendoza the 16 th -ranked Kentucky volleyball team dropped a heartbreaking five-set (25-19, 23-25, 25-18, 22-25, 16-14) loss to Louisville Wednesday evening. Cardinal Arena was a packed environment with a record-breaking crowd of 1,270 fans as the teams renewed the series rivalry after a three-year hiatus.
The two teams displayed a high-energy offensive attack as the teams combined for 138 kills in the match. Mendoza led all scorers with a career-best 26 on the night. Four UK players reached double-figures in the kill column with junior Lauren Rapp (13), junior Blaire Hiler (12) and sophomore Becky Pavan (10) all reaching double-digits.
The difference in the match came down to the blocking of Louisville which posted an astounding 21 blocks on the night compared to just six from Kentucky.
“Louisville played a great match and made plays when they need to,” said Kentucky coach Craig Skinner. “We had opportunities down the stretch and we just could not come up with the plays when it counted. I really was surprised we forced it into the fifth set. Our blocking needs to improve in order for us to continue to be successful.”
Other bright spots for the Wildcats were the second-career 20 dig performance from freshman Stephanie Klefot. Senior libero BriAnne Sauer tallied six digs in the match moving her into second place all-time on the UK career digs list passing UK great Katie Eiserman.
Senior Sarah Rumely totaled a season-high 59 assists on the night while leading UK to a .256 attacking percentage. Louisville, however, used a .324 clip to get past the Blue and White taking the edge in the series history at 24-23.
In the deciding fifth frame, Rapp gave the Wildcats the first point with a termination off the bat. Kentucky would take three of the first four points for an early 3-1 advantage after Mendoza struck for her career-best deciding kill. Louisville would eventually climb back into things and knot the score at six apiece. The home team stretched its lead to 12-9 and forced the Wildcats into a timeout. UK brought the score to within one at 12-11 after Louisville was whistled for a blocking error.
Hiler tied the score at 13 a piece with a kill along the line sending the packed arena into a hushed silence. Louisville responded with a kill of its own to once again rejuvenate the packed arena. The Cardinals earned match-point at 14-13, but Rumely responded with a crafty kill that found a hole in the defense. Hiler then suffered a hitting error when a well-struck ball grazed the antenna on the left side of the net. Louisville converted on the final Wildcat miscue by laying down its third ace of the match to seal the victory at 16-14.
With UK trailing in sets by a margin of 2-1, the Cardinals opened the fourth set with three straight points. Kentucky rattled off three in a row in response and the teams continued to trade points from there on out. Louisville managed to go ahead by three at 15-12 and Kentucky used its first timeout of the set.
The break seemed to help Kentucky calm down as they promptly scored the next five points to grab a 17-15 edge and forced Louisville into a timeout. Rapp had two kills in the run and Louisville had a pair of erroneous attacks. Louisville used the timeout to refresh and eventually took a lead at 18-17. After Rapp evened the score once again the teams traded points until UK broke free for a two-point advantage at 24-22 behind a huge block. The Cardinals opted for their second timeout with UK sitting on the edge of set point.
With Rumely serving Louisville had one shot, but the tag-team of Pavan and Rapp ended the set with a block making the score 25-22 and sending the match into a deciding fifth frame.
The Wildcats surged to the set victory behind 18 kills while holding Louisville's high-octane offense to a mere 10 hammers and a match-low .091 hitting clip. Kentucky also forced seven Louisville hitting errors while turning back three attacks with blocks.
Kentucky opened the match on fire. After Louisville opened the match with a service ace, UK outscored the Cardinals 8-2 in the opening portions of the set. Kentucky tallied five kills in the run and benefited from two Louisville errors. UK's defense was tremendous in helping give Kentucky the comfortable lead as both Klefot and Sauer came up with outstanding plays to keep rallies alive eventually resulting in Wildcat points.
After falling behind by five points Louisville called a much-needed timeout. Out of the break, the Cardinals rattled off a 4-0 stretch to pull within one at 8-7. With the score going back-and-forth until a 10-8 mark, Louisville then used another 4-0 run to pull away with a 12-10 advantage. Kentucky promptly used a timeout and returned to tie the score at 13-13. From that point the teams would trade points until Louisville once again used a run of three straight points to take a 19-16 advantage forcing Kentucky into another timeout.
Mendoza fired back with a kill out of the break to make the score 20-17, but that is all the closer UK would get down the stretch. Two service errors in the late stretches of the set proved costly for the Wildcats as they dropped the opening frame, 25-19.
Kentucky managed just a .176 hitting percentage in the opening stanza, while Louisville attacked with a .310 clip. Mendoza totaled five kills in the frame, but UK had seven attacking errors and three service errors that aided the Louisville cause.
Louisville opened the second set by capturing the first two points. Kentucky quickly responded with kills on the next two possessions to even the score. From that point the teams traded points back and forth until UK was able to take a 10-7 edge after consecutive kills from Pavan. Of UK's first 10 points, eight resulted from kills. Rumely's serving tested the Cardinal defense as her low line drives were tough to return and both of Pavan's kills were from low-flying returns off of Rumely's serves.
Kentucky opened up a 16-10 lead on a Mendoza kill midway through the set and maintained control for a period of the stanza. With the Blue and White leading by a 19-13 margin, Louisville opted for a timeout to try and calm the storm. Out of the break, Louisville earned a 4-2 run to pull within 21-18. The Wildcats called for their first timeout and then could only muster two points before Louisville pulled to within 23-22 and Skinner took another timeout.
Mendoza came up with a huge kill to give the Wildcats set point, however Louisville responded with a kill of its own. Once again Rumely went back to the team's kill-leader and the sure-handed Mendoza came up with another shot in the back row to give the Wildcats a 25-23 second set victory to even the match.
Both teams used a tremendous hitting percentage to keep the set close. UK used a .481 clip and threw down 17 kills, while Louisville used a .440 hitting percentage and 15 kills. Both squads had four hitting errors, but the difference was Louisville's four service errors.
For the first time in the match Kentucky took the opening point of the set when they earned a 1-0 lead off of a Pavan kill in the third stanza. From that point the teams once again swapped points throughout much of the start of the set. Louisville at one point held an early three-point edge at 6-3, but Kentucky quickly erased that deficit. Louisville finally opened the lead once again at 16-13 after a solo block in the middle prompting a timeout from the Wildcats.
Out of the break the Blue and White were able to pull to within 18-16 after consecutive Mendoza kills. However, Louisville's offense caught the Wildcats scrambling and the home team was able to stretch its lead to 21-16. After Kentucky pulled to within 21-17 on another Mendoza kill, Louisville put the set away with three straight kills and a 25-18 set victory and a 2-1 edge on the Blue and White.
Louisville's offense was once again hot as they totaled a .424 hitting percentage in the stanza. Kentucky only tallied a .250 percentage and 14 kills. Louisville posted 17 hammers and benefited from five UK hitting errors and three service errors.
Kentucky will hit the floor next with the Southeastern Conference opener in Baton Rouge on Sunday. The match will begin at 3 p.m. ET and will be aired live on ESPNU. It will mark the first-ever regular-season live telecast of an SEC volleyball match on the ESPN family of networks.