Cats Sweep Wright State in Opener

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa ? The Kentucky volleyball team opened the 2007 season with a 3-0 sweep of Wright State (0-1) in the opening match of the Northern Iowa Invitational. The Wildcats improve to 23-8 in season openers with the victory and have won now four straight, including the past three with head coach Craig Skinner at the helm.

Senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker led the Wildcats with a double-double effort, recording 16 kills to go along with 13 digs and six blocks. Freshman Blaire Hiler added 10 kills and three total blocks, while junior Alisa Pierce had 13 digs and three service aces in the win. Sophomore Sarah Rumely had a match-high 37 assists, four digs and three blocks, while freshman Lauren Rapp had seven kills, six digs and two service aces in her collegiate debut.

The Cats outhit Wright State .293 to .072 and had 50 digs to just 28 for the Raiders. UK recorded 51 digs and 42 assists, while WSU managed 24 digs and 27 assists in the match. The Wildcats had eight service aces in the win and recorded 14 total blocks.

?After a 17-hour trip to get here, we?re happy with the win,? said Skinner whose team was delayed by storms in Chicago on Thursday and had to make an eight-hour bus ride from Ft. Wayne. ?This is a good way to start the season and our players did well. We hit a pretty good percentage for our first match and we will continue to cut down our errors which will help us have success.?

The Cats started the season with a service ace by sophomore BriAnne Sauer. Britenriker added back-to-back kills to put the Wildcats on top 3-1. WSU answered with four straight points to go on top 5-3, but Hiler snapped that streak with her first collegiate kill to come within a point at 5-4. UK scored five of the next seven points of the game to go on top 9-7 on a Raider hitting error. WSU pulled to within one at 10-9, but the Wildcats responded with a 4-1 run capped by two powerful kills by Britenriker and a block assist by the senior captain and Hiler to force Wright State to burn its first timeout of the match.

The Cats continued to build their lead out of the timeout and increased its advantage to seven at 19-12 before a kill by Alisha Kimbro to make it 19-13. Rumely quickly put the Cats on the board again with a crafty kill over her head off a dig by Pierce. The Wildcats recorded two straight kills and a service ace by Brooke Bartek resulted in another WSU timeout with UK leading 23-14. The Cats pushed their lead to 10 on a kill by junior Queen Nzenwa and continued to lead by that margin at 27-17. A put-down by Britenriker and a net violation by WSU gave UK a 29-18 lead. Britenriker ended the first set with a powerful cross-court kill as the Cats won the opening game by a score of 30-18.

After trailing early in game two, the Cats put together a 7-2 run to take an 8-4 lead after Sauer?s first collegiate kill. Following a timeout, Wright State scored two straight to make it a two-point Wildcat lead at 8-6. The Raiders shaved the lead to one, 9-8, but Nzenwa came through with two kills that found the back line as the Wildcats pushed the lead back to three at 12-9. UK went up by five, 15-10, on a block assist by Britenriker and Rapp but the Raiders scored five unanswered to knot the score at 15-all. UK used a timeout and the pep talk worked as Skinner?s Cats scored five straight points on a kill and an ace by Rapp, kills by Britenriker and Nzenwa and a block assist to take a 20-15 advantage.

UK led by seven, 28-21, when the Raiders tallied four straight to pull within three and force a Wildcat timeout. Hiler recorded a kill to snap the WSU scoring streak and make it a 29-25 affair. A Wright State hitting error ended the game and sent the Wildcats to the locker room leading two games to none with the 30-25 game two victory.

In game three, the Wildcats roared out to an early 6-2 lead. UK continued to lead by four after a kill by Lauren Rapp made it a 10-6 score. A 5-3 Kentucky run which included back-to-back service aces by Alisa Pierce gave the Cats a 15-9 edge. A Pierce service error followed by two straight kills by Nzenwa and Britenriker made it a 17-10 Wildcat lead and resulted in a Raider timeout.

WSU scored four unanswered out of the break to make it a three-point game, 17-14, and cause the Cats to call for time. The Raiders continued to mount their comeback and pulled to within two at 20-18. The Cats responded to the pressure and rolled off five in a row to lead 24-18. WSU called its final timeout of the game to attempt to cool off the Cats, but the strategy didn?t work. UK scored the first two points out of the break to take its largest lead of the game at 26-18. WSU would not go away, however, as the Raiders used three hills and a UK hitting error to pull to within five at 27-22. A kill by Hiler, a block solo by Britenriker and a put-down at the net by Nzenwa gave the Wildcats the 30-23 win and their first sweep of the season.

The Wildcats return to action on Saturday when they play a pair of matches. UK and Western Michigan tip off at 11 a.m. before the Cats wrap up play in the two-day tournament against host-team Northern Iowa at 8:30 p.m.