#17 Kentucky Drops Heartbreaker to UT

Nov. 28, 2008

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - Trailing 10-4 in the fifth and deciding set the 17th-ranked Wildcats stormed back to knot the score at 14 a piece, but the Tennessee Lady Vols scored the final two points to upset the Wildcats on Senior Day at Memorial Coliseum. Tennessee claimed the match with scores of 21-25, 26-24, 22-25, 25-21, and 16-14.

Kentucky (26-5, 17-3) finishes out an incredible regular season run and will now wait for NCAA Tournament seeding which is announced Sunday night on ESPNU at 10 p.m. The Blue and White finish the regular season with the seventh most wins in school history and the most SEC victories in the school's allure. With tonight's crowd of 3,021 fans the team has set two of the biggest attendances in Kentucky history.

The Wildcats honored seniors Queen Nzenwa and Alisa Pierce in their final home contest in the Blue and White following the conclusion of the match.

"Our program has come a long way in four years," said Head Coach Craig Skinner. "The leadership and competitiveness of Queen and Alisa will last a long a time in our program. We loved coaching them, and they will both be very successful people."

Nzenwa was sensational in front of the seventh largest crowd in school history. The senior from Baltimore tallied 11 kills on a .409 hitting percentage and powered her way to eight blocks to lead the squad for the 70th time in her career. With the seven block assists she now has 554 for her career and is two shy from moving into fourth all-time on the Southeastern Conference list.

With the Lady Vols having captured the fourth set to force a fifth set, the visitors jumped out to an early 9-3 lead before Kentucky used its second timeout. Out of the break Nzenwa hammered home an electrifying kill. Back-to-back blocks from Nzenwa and sophomore Blaire Hiler and then Nzenwa and junior Sarah Rumely made the score 10-6 in favor of the Vols.

Tennessee increased its lead to 13-8 off a block, but a kill from sophomore Sarah Mendoza followed by an attacking error by Tennessee brought the score to 13-10. Freshman Becky Pavan followed with a heads-up play returning a UT attack into the deep corner to bring the score to 13-11.

The Lady Vols would then take the next point to earn match point behind a kill. Kentucky brought the crowd to its feet with three match-saving points as Pavan and sophomore Lauren Rapp laid down a pair of kills and then the duo hooked up for a block to tie the score at 14.

With the crowd behind the Wildcats, Tennessee was able to get a point after sending the ball deep into UK territory. Kentucky appeared to be able to save the long shot, however the ball sailed to the roof of the Coliseum giving Tennessee match point once again. The Lady Vols were able to capitalize this time, and Alyssa Hilby registered the winning kill, preventing UK from winning a share of the SEC crown.

Mendoza, Rapp and Rumely all recorded double-double efforts in the loss. Mendoza and Rapp led the way with 13 kills apiece. Mendoza tallied 15 digs with Rapp recording 12. Rumely dished out 51 assists and picked up 16 scoops, and nearly missed a triple-double effort with a season-high eight kills. Pavan was the other UK player to reach double-digit kills with 11. Hiler contributed eight kills on the night to aid the Wildcat cause. Junior libero BriAnne Sauer paced the back-line defense with 24 digs on the night.

Kentucky opened the match with a 25-21 first set victory. Kentucky used a .256 hitting percentage and got five opening kills from Mendoza. Tennessee hit just .128 and recorded just 12 kills in the frame.

In set two Kentucky had a chance at set point with a 24-22 edge and a 24-23 lead, but Tennessee rattled off four straight points to overcome the Wildcats and claim the second set 26-24.

Out of the break, the Wildcats fired back with a dominating third set win. The Blue and White got three blocks in the frame, two off the arms of Nzenwa who also paced the attack with four kills. The Blue and White jumped out in front with an early 2-0 lead and never looked back. Hiler ended the set for Kentucky with a kill.

Despite an early UK lead in the fourth set, Tennessee was able to take the lead at 16-15 and pull out the fourth set win with the score 25-21 to force the fifth and deciding set.

Kentucky concludes the regular season with tonight's match. They will wait for NCAA tournament seeding for positioning and location of their next match. Stay tuned to UKathletics.com for complete coverage and updates on the UK Volleyball team.