No. 15 Kentucky Upsets No. 5 Florida in Gainesville
Oct. 2, 2009
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - Nearly 20 years to the day the Kentucky volleyball team came away with a win from Gainesville, Fla., as the 15th-ranked Kentucky Wildcats upset the fifth-ranked Florida Gators in five gut-wrenching sets (9-25, 25-19, 23-25, 25-20, 15-11). It is the first win for Kentucky at Florida since Oct. 1, 1989.
After suffering a humiliating 25-9 loss in the opening set, Kentucky (14-1, 4-0) pulled through to tally its second straight win over Florida (10-2, 4-1) after earning a five-set victory in Lexington a season ago. It was a total team effort for the Blue and White who have now hit over .200 in all 14 matches this season. With the victory, Kentucky is the only remaining unbeaten team in Southeastern Conference action.
"I obviously thought this was a really great win tonight," said Kentucky coach Craig Skinner. "It is really hard to come into Florida and get a win because they hardly ever lose at home. To be able to pull out a win after getting crushed 25-9 in the opening set really is outstanding.
"I think it showed a lot of toughness to be able to come out and perform. Florida is a great, great team and there are a lot of tremendous athletes out there. For us to be able to perform under pressure like that is just another stepping stone for this program and for this team."
Kentucky was led offensively by junior Sarah Mendoza who posted her third career match of 20 or more kills with a 20-kill performance tonight. Sophomore Gretchen Giesler set a career-high with 11 kills on the night. Juniors Blaire Hiler (9) and Lauren Rapp (6) contributed nicely to the offensive effort.
Senior Sarah Rumely directed the offense to the tune of 46 assists on a .206 hitting clip, while adding five kills of her own. Defensively, Giesler led the way with five blocks as the Blue and White came up with 10 rejections on the evening. Sophomore Becky Pavan added four to the front wall effort. Senior BriAnne Sauer continued her hot start to conference action by posting her second straight match with 20 or more digs with 22 scoops tonight. Junior Laura Stokowski added eight scoops with freshman Stephanie Klefot contributing seven.
In the deciding fifth set Florida was able to take the early lead at 4-1, but Kentucky quickly answered with three straight points to knot the score at four apiece. In that stretch Giesler put down her career-high 11 th kill of the night. From that point on the teams exchanged points throughout the early portion of the set. Hiler gave Kentucky the one-point advantage with a kill during the bench change at 8-7.
After the exchange of sides Florida took the first two points to grab a lead of its own. Rapp responded with a kill to once again knot the score at nine. Neither team could shake the other as the teams continued to trade points. Kentucky rattled off two straight points after a Mendoza kill and a Florida error to take an 11-10 advantage and Florida took the first timeout of the fifth frame.
Out of the break Florida committed another hitting error sailing it high attempting to avoid the Big Blue wall of defenders at the net. Rumely's crafty placement allowed UK to take a 13-10 advantage and Florida burned its final timeout.
The home team benefited from a Kentucky hitting error inching closer at 13-11, but Kentucky came up with a huge kill from the hand of the Florida native Mendoza. With match point on the line, Kentucky's defense once again came up with a match-changing play forcing Florida to hit the ball high which eventually sailed deep past the line giving Kentucky its monumental victory.
In the final set Mendoza posted five kills with UK hitting a blistering .400. Rumely tallied seven assists and Sauer picked up five digs. UK limited Florida to just .167 hitting in the set and forced the Gators into four hitting errors.
To begin the first set Florida jumped out to a quick lead. Right out of the gate the Gators tossed down a kill. Kentucky tied it up at one apiece after a Florida ball control error. However, Florida would score the next four points before Mendoza laced a ball along the line for Kentucky's first kill. Giesler had a pair of kills in the early going, but Florida was able to keep the Wildcats on their heels with their serving taking a 10-4 advantage and forcing Kentucky into an early timeout.
Out of the break, Hiler drilled one off the Florida blocker's hands which slipped in for a kill. Kentucky's defense then forced Florida into a hitting error as they brought the score closer at 10-6. The teams traded points before the Gators rattled off three straight points to stretch its lead to seven points at 14-7, and Kentucky opted to use its second timeout of the first set. From that point on Florida rolled to a 25-9 opening set victory.
Florida hit a blistering .520 in the first stanza and held Kentucky to a -.059 percentage and just six kills. UK suffered eight hitting errors and a serving error. Florida tallied four blocks and the Wildcats were unable to turn back any Florida attempts.
The Gators opened the second set with a kill to take the early lead, however Kentucky struck back immediately and would trade points back and forth for the opening six points. UK would grab its first lead of the match at 4-3 behind an incredible solo block from Giesler. The Blue and White began to find its rhythm and contributed the early set success behind four dominating blocks. After back-to-back kills from Rapp and Mendoza UK stretched its lead to 13-8 and forced Florida into its first timeout.
Out of the break Kentucky continued its block party by turning back consecutive Florida attempts. Giesler finished off the run with a powerful kill that found a hole in the back row as the Blue and White pushed its lead to 16-8. Florida once again was forced to take a timeout.
Florida responded with back-to-back kills, before Rapp answered with one from the back row for UK. After three more points for the Gators as they inched closer to 17-13, Kentucky used its first timeout of the stanza. Giesler slammed one home for UK and the Blue and White then benefited from an error from the home team. A kill from Hiler followed by another Florida error gave UK a 21-14 lead before Florida came up with consecutive kills. Florida saved set point twice before the Gators sailed one too deep allowing UK to even the score at one set apiece behind a 25-19 set two victory.
In the second set for Kentucky the Wildcats were the once with the impressive defense. The Blue and White struck for six blocks and limited Florida to a negative hitting percentage at -.027. Kentucky came up with 11 kills on .206 hitting led by four from Mendoza. Giesler led the way at the net with four blocks total to aid the UK cause.
Kentucky struck first in the third set as the Blue and White came out firing posting three thundering kills to open the frame to take the early 3-0 lead. Florida's first point came on a Kentucky service error and UK responded with a kill from Giesler. What appeared to be another kill from Giesler was called an error when she ran into the net giving some momentum to the Gators. Florida used the break and tied the score at five apiece. From that point the teams continued to trade points until the Wildcats once again opened up a two-point advantage behind a block from Pavan and Rapp making the score 11-9.
The Wildcats maintained a two-point lead until Florida was able to shake through and score consecutive points and tie the score at 13. Kentucky wasted little time with a response as they answered with three straight points of its own. The highlight of the run was an incredible effort by both squads resulting in the longest rally of the match with UK eventually coming up with a kill that found the back corner from the hand of Giesler to take the lead 16-13. Florida decided on a timeout to attempt to cool off the hot-hitting Wildcats.
Florida did respond with a kill out of the timeout, but Giesler came up with an ace to answer. The home squad then put together back-to-back points to inch closer at 18-17 and Kentucky chose to use its first timeout of the session. The Gators came out of the break and eventually took a one-point advantage at 19-18.
From that point the teams continued to trade points back and forth until Florida was able to take a two-point edge at 23-21 after coming up with a block that grazed off of the out-stretched arms of one of UK's defenders. After the Florida rejection, Kentucky opted to use its second timeout of the stanza. Mendoza answered out of the break to bring Kentucky to within one. After Florida earned set point, Kentucky was able to save one set point behind a kill from Giesler. However, the home team came up with a set-ending kill to finish the set at 25-23.
Both squads posted 14 kills with Florida holding a slightly more efficient rate at .256 compared to UK's .200. Florida edged out UK with one more block at 3-2 in the set. Kentucky totaled six hitting errors and three service errors limiting their opportunities.
In the fourth set the teams exchanged kills to open the action. Florida was able to take a two-point edge at 3-1, but Kentucky quickly responded by taking the next three points to grab the lead. The home team took the next point to even the score once again. A kill from Mendoza and then the team of Giesler and Hiler combined for a block to once again give UK the lead. Florida rattled off two points of their own to yet again knot the score at six.
It continued to be a back and forth battle between the league's top offenses. Neither team could shake loose for more than a two-point advantage. However, UK posted four straight points behind three kills and a Florida error to grab a 14-12 advantage which forced Florida to use a timeout.
Florida came out of the timeout by taking the next three points and grabbed a one-point edge. UK did not falter though, firing back with consecutive kills from Mendoza to keep the score close. The Wildcats were able to shake loose for three points after Hiler laced a sizzler down the line for a 20-17 UK lead. Florida once again opted for a timeout after the Wildcat point.
A Gator miscue followed by a block off of the tandem of Pavan and Rumely gave the Wildcats a five point edge out of the break at 22-17. Florida saved set point once, but Rapp finished the set with a kill giving UK a 25-20 set four win and forcing a deciding stanza.
Kentucky hit at a.375 rate with 15 kills in the third set. Mendoza exploded for six kills in the frame. Florida was limited to a .272 hitting clip while committing seven hitting errors. Kentucky came up with two huge blocks, while Florida was unable to register a rejection.
The Blue and White return to action on Sunday in Columbia, S.C., with a match-up against South Carolina. Match time is set for 1:30 p.m. ET.
Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date news, highlights and features from the Kentucky volleyball team.