Sauer's Defensive Effort Not Enough For No. 7 UK

Oct. 21, 2009

Box Score | Photo Gallery 

LEXINGTON, Ky. - Senior libero BriAnne Sauer's career-best 35 dig performance was not enough to help the seventh-ranked Kentucky volleyball team overcome Tennessee in a 3-1 (25-23, 23-25, 25-23, 25-22) loss on Wednesday night.

Sauer became the first UK player to amass over 30 scoops in a match since 2006 when Jenni Casper had 36 against LSU.

Kentucky (19-2, 9-1) dropped its first match in league action this season in front of 2,291 raucous fans at Memorial Coliseum there to witness the first-ever home match aired on ESPNU in school history.

"It's about executing and we did not do that tonight," Kentucky coach Craig Skinner said. "I thought Tennessee did that better than us which was the difference in the match."

For just the second time this season the UK offense was held under a .200 hitting clip. Tennessee limited the Southeastern Conference's best offensive team to just a .184 hitting percentage for the match and forced 29 UK hitting errors.

Sauer's defensive play enabled the Wildcats to stay in every set, with Tennessee only winning the match by seven total points. It was a battle from start to finish for the two squads - who split their two meetings a season ago.

Senior setter Sarah Rumely notched her 36th career double-double effort with 51 assists and a season-best 17 digs. With an ace in tonight's match, Rumely tied Krista Robinson for a school-best 159 aces in her career.

Junior outside hitter Sarah Mendoza posted her fifth career match with 20 or more kills when she led all scorers with 22 hammers. Junior Blaire Hiler struck for 12 kills, the 11th time in her career and fourth time this season she has tallied 10 or more kills. Junior Lauren Rapp and sophomore Gretchen Giesler chipped in with nine kills apiece, and Giesler led the squad with five blocks. Sophomore Becky Pavan added six kills and four blocks, while freshman Stephanie Klefot added a kill and 12 digs. Junior Laura Stokowski chipped in with eight scoops for the Blue and White.

In a match that featured 24 ties and 12 lead changes it was a back-and-forth battle all night.

The Lady Vols (15-5, 8-2) jumped out to an early 8-3 lead in the opening stanza. Kentucky quickly closed the gap and knotted the score at 10 apiece behind a kill from Pavan. The visitors then used a 5-0 run to take a 17-12 advantage and UK would only get to within one at 17-16 the rest of the way. UK forced an attack error by the Volunteers to save one set point, but Tennessee was able to prevail on the next possession with a kill and take the first set 25-23.

Neither team struck for a high percentage in the opening frame with Tennessee out-hitting the Wildcats by a .184 to .167 margin. Mendoza led all scorers in the first set with six kills.

The second set was a back-and-forth battle from start to finish. Neither team stretched its lead to more than four points at a time. With Tennessee taking an edge at 17-13 midway through the set, UK would finish the frame on a 14-6 run to even the match at two sets apiece to enter intermission. Kentucky claimed the set by the same 25-23 margin that Tennessee took in the opening set.

Mendoza once again led the way with seven kills. Kentucky totaled a .216 attack percentage in the frame and six Wildcats registered a kill in the set-victory. Sauer posted 12 digs to aid the offensive cause.

Kentucky began the third set with an invigorated effort and immediately ran out to a 10-5 advantage highlighted by a pair of Mendoza aces. Tennessee then used a 6-1 run to knot the score at 11. From that point on the teams would once again trade points back and forth until back-to-back scores from the visitors gave them a 20-18 edge. It was all the breathing room they would need to shake the Wildcats who fell 25-23 in the third set.

The Blue and White hit a match-low .087 in the third stanza and registered just 13 kills.

"When you get a 10-5 lead in game three and you don't capitalize on that, you need to take advantage of that," said Skinner. "You don't get those very often against good teams."

In what ended up being the decisive fourth set, Tennessee used a match-high .304 hitting clip and posted 17 digs. This time Tennessee jumped out to a 10-5 lead and it was Kentucky's turn to inch back into things. The Wildcats eventually tied the score at 13 after using multiple 2-0 runs. The teams traded points back and forth, until Tennessee broke free with two consecutive points to make the score 20-18. UK would never get closer than one point, as the Volunteers were able to side out to close out the match and take the victory behind a 25-22 set four win.

Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date news, highlights and features from the Kentucky volleyball team.