No. 14 Kentucky Begins Season at AVCA Showcase

Aug. 27, 2010

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LEXINGTON, Ky. - The 14th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team will begin its 2010 campaign at the Runza/AVCA Showcase against two nationally ranked top-10 squads in Omaha, Neb., this weekend. The Blue and White face No. 2 Nebraska on Saturday with a match against No. 9 Iowa State to follow on Sunday. Both matches can be seen on nationally televised broadcasts by CBS College Sports.

UK will take on Nebraska at 5:30 p.m. ET on Saturday. The match on Aug. 29 against Iowa State is slated for a 3 p.m. start.

Kentucky begins the season ranked No. 14 in the nation which marks the second highest preseason ranking in school history. The Wildcats have been among the top-25 rated teams in 26 consecutive American Volleyball Coaches Association polls.

The Wildcats return six players who appeared in 30 or more matches from a 29-5 team a season ago. Coming off its first NCAA Regional appearance in nearly 20 years, the Wildcats have reloaded with some new faces and seasoned veterans and expect to make a school-record sixth straight trip to the NCAA Tournament.

Senior Lauren Rapp and junior Becky Pavan earned preseason All-Southeastern Conference honors and headline the returning starters. Senior Blaire Hiler had a breakout junior campaign and finished the season with three consecutive matches of 10 or more kills including a career-best 15-kill performance against Florida State in the Sweet 16 matchup.

Newcomers Whitney Billings, Alexandra Morgan, Jessi Greenberg and Elizabeth Koberstein figure to emerge as new stars in Coach Craig Skinner's sixth season at the helm. Sophomore setter Christine Hartmann and sophomore libero Stephanie Klefot will step into spots vacated by All-America players Sarah Rumely and BriAnne Sauer, respectively. With several new faces team chemistry would seem to need polishing, however, the Wildcats enjoyed a two-week training and sight-seeing trip to Europe to help refine their skills.

Nebraska begins the season ranked No. 2 in the country and returns five starters and its starting libero from a 26-7 record a season ago. The two teams have faced off seven times in the history of the two programs with Nebraska leading the series 5-2. The last meeting took place in 2004.

Skinner was an assistant at Nebraska for five seasons before coming to Lexington. UK's head coach worked under John Cook at Wisconsin as well. Pavan's sister, Sarah, is a former All-America player for the Cornhuskers while junior Ann Armes is a native of Grand Island, Neb.

Iowa State is ranked preseason No. 9 in the nation. The Cyclones also return five starters and its libero from a 27-5 team a year ago.

The tournament field also includes fellow SEC member Florida, who UK will not face in Omaha. Each team at the 2010 Runza/AVCA Showcase enters the 2010 season ranked in the top 15 of the AVCA Coaches poll. The Huskers are the top-rated team at No. 2 in the country, while Iowa State sits ninth, Florida 13th and Kentucky 14th.

All four programs in Omaha this weekend are coming off solid 2009 seasons, as each advancedto an NCAA Regional. Each team finished in the top 15 of last season's final AVCA Poll, with both Iowa State and Nebraska finishing in the top 10.

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