Wildcats Outlast Lady Vols in an Exhilarating Five-Set Finish

Oct. 12, 2011

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - In a match that featured two top-25 ranked teams, a pair of conference leaders and two dynamic offenses, 1,959 fans at Memorial Coliseum were not disappointed in an exhilarating five-set match in which Kentucky outlasted Tennessee 3-2 (26-24, 24-26, 25-20, 24-26, 15-13).

The back-and-forth battled featured a total of 37 tie scores and 19 lead changes in five sets of action with none closer than the final fifth frame. The two teams battled through seven knotted scores and four lead swaps before Kentucky finally prevailed with the 15-13 final margin.

"Statistically before the match, you think it's going to be a great match," UK coach Craig Skinnersaid. "It was because statistically we do the same thing. When you look at it, it was (even), 65 kills to 63 kills, 34 errors to 33 errors. Defense is what made a big difference for us. With eight serving aces compared to zero, five more digs and five more blocks, you've got to play good defense against very good teams, which Tennessee is. I think that was a big difference in the game."

With the victory, No. 25 Kentucky improves to 17-3 overall on the season and 8-1 in conference action. No. 18 Tennessee drops to 15-3 and 8-1 in league play. With UK's victory, the Lady Vols and Wildcats are tied for first place atop the Southeastern Conference standings.

"It's really important (earning the win)," Skinner said. "There are three teams now that each has one loss in the conference. You just really have to take care of business. The most important thing for us now is getting focused on Mississippi State because it's a long, 20-match conference season and we're going to have to be ready to go. You have to win big matches against good teams and especially have to take care of business at home."

Consecutive kills from senior Becky Pavan and sophomore Whitney Billingslifted the Wildcats to an early 2-0 lead in the fifth stanza. Tennessee responded with consecutive points of its own. The teams exchanged points back and forth with UK earning a one-point edge at 8-7 following two more kills from Billings into the swapping of sides. UK stretched that lead to three at 12-9 before Tennessee responded with three straight points to even the match at 12.

The Wildcats forced the Lady Vols into an erroneous attack to recapture the lead and an ace from freshman Lauren O'Connerlifted UK to match-point. Tennessee picked up a kill to save the match, but the Lady Vols made the final mistake with a serve going long to lift UK to the victory.

"I got goosebumps when we were up 14-13 and the `Go Big Blue' chant started," Skinners said. "That was pretty impressive. When your crowd does that, and gives you that type of motivation, it makes a major difference and it changed the outlook of our team. Our team could have very easily went the other way at the end of game four, and we put it on in game five and the crowd was a major part of that."

UK's defensive effort once again proved the difference in the match as the Wildcats totaled 13 blocks led by six from Billings. Kentucky limited Tennessee's high-octane offense to a .164 hitting clip and forced the Lady Vols into 33 attacking errors. Junior libero Stephanie Klefot anchored the back line with 21 scoops as three players reached double-figures. O'Conner posted a career-high 12 scoops and junior setter Christine Hartmann added a career-best 16. Freshman Jackie Napper posted eight digs and sophomore Jessi Greenbergcontributed six to the Wildcat cause.

Hartmann led the offense by dishing out 53 assists to post her second double-double effort of the season. Four different Wildcats posted 10 or more hammers in the match for the second time this season. Pavan led the way with 16 kills on .306 hitting. Billings was next with 15, followed by 11 each from senior Ann Armes and junior Ashley Frazier.

UK's serving was also spectacular in the match with the Blue and White posting eight points off of serves. Frazier notched a career-high five aces.

Kentucky captured the opening frame by a 26-24 margin. UK totaled 14 kills on .267 hitting while limiting Tennessee to 13 on a .171 clip. Armes jump-started things with four kills in the frame.

Tennessee scored the opening points and took a 7-4 edge early. The Wildcats responded with four straight points of its own and took a 9-8 edge on the first ace from Frazier. Kentucky would maintain its advantage through much of the set before Tennessee jumped out in front 21-20 late in the frame. UK responded immediately with a kill from Pavan. A block from the duo of Pavan and O'Conner lifted UK to a 23-21 lead. The Lady Vols staved off set point twice to force the stanza into extra points, but UK rallied for two straight points to finish off the opening set.

The visitors evened things at one set apiece going into the locker room with a 26-24 set victory of its own. Tennessee notched 15 kills on .200 hitting and forced the Wildcats into nine attacking errors in the win.

Following the break, UK earned a 2-1 advantage with its most dominating performance of the match in a 25-20 third set win. Kentucky four blocks were the difference in the stanza.

UK quickly jumped out to a 4-0 edge to capture a lead it would never relinquish. The home squad stretched its lead to as many as six at 14-9 following a kill from Armes. The Wildcats would continue to roll until a Hartmann put-down capped the set.

The Lady Vols forced a fifth frame with another 26-24 set victory in the fourth. It marked the first two sets this season the Wildcats fell in extra points.

Kentucky returns to action with a date at Mississippi State on Friday night. First serve is set for 8 p.m. ET.

Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 9-10. UK is one of four sites selected for Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, from the Lexington Region. Opening night matches are scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. ET. Saturday's finals is set for a 4:30 p.m. ET first serve.

Tickets are now on sale through the UK Ticket Office. All-Session Tickets are reserved for all ages at $14. General Admission tickets for adults are priced at $12 and students or seniors' general admission is slated for $8.

Single session tickets are priced at $8 for reserved for all ages. General admission for adults is priced at $7, with students and seniors priced at $5. Youth single session tickets are $4.

For tickets or more information feel free to call, 1-800-928-CATS.

Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the UK volleyball team and all of Kentucky's 22 teams.