Wildcats Earn Thrilling 3-1 Victory over Middle Tennessee State

The University of Kentucky volleyball team rebounded from back-to-back losses to take a 3-1 decision over Middle Tennessee State in the Wildcats? final match at the T.J. Sales Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 4 in Springfield, Mo. Kentucky?s veteran trio of Amy Kaplan, Danielle Wallace and Sarah Spinner combined for 48 kills, 18 digs and 13 blocks in the match to lead the way for the Wildcats.

?It was a true collective team effort with high energy,? Coach Jona Braden said. ?We had to dig out of a few holes, but we didn?t feel a drop-off from point-to-point. There was a true belief in moving forward tonight.?

Kaplan tied her career high with 13 kills on .429 hitting to go with seven digs and four blocks, while Wallace continued to shine with 17 kills, three digs and five blocks. Sarah Spinner had her best match of the weekend with 18 kills on .387 hitting. The senior added eight digs and tied her career best with five blocks.

Freshman Kristen Cunningham had another excellent defensive game, adding nine blocks to her eight from the afternoon match with Fresno State. Fellow frosh Ki Eveland got her first start at setter and collected a career-best 56 assists, seven digs and four blocks to go with five kills. Sophomores Julie Gagnon and Jenni Casper were defensive stoppers as well, collecting 12 and 15 digs, respectively.

Kentucky (3-2) took control early in the first game, surging to a 6-2 lead with solid blocking. The Wildcats maintained a steady lead throughout the match, stretching the advantage to as much as eight points at 21-13 after a powerful kill by Kaplan. Middle Tennessee State wouldn?t threaten again in the game as UK closed out a 30-19 victory after a bad set from the Blue Raiders. The Wildcats hit .345 in the opening game and were led by Montefalco with four kills and two blocks.

The Cats fell behind 5-2 to begin the second game, but worked their way back into the mix, cutting the lead to one at 11-10 with a block assist from Danielle Wallace and Kristen Cunningham. The Blue Raiders regained a five-point lead after two big plays from KeKe Deckard and an attack error from Spinner. Kentucky used a timeout to regroup and began to chip away at the lead, eventually tying the game at 25 to force a MTSU timeout.

Ties ensued at 26 and 27 before a Wallace kill gave UK a 28-27 lead. Another kill by Wallace put the Cats on game point, but MTSU got a kill from Deckard to stay alive. A bad set from Wallace evened the score again at 29 and MTSU quickly put the advantage on its side of the net with a block assist from Quanshell Scott and Andressa Lyra. A wide cross-court shot from Wallace was all the Blue Raiders needed to take the win, 31-29, and even the match at one game apiece. The Wildcats hit .189 in the game to MTSU?s .191 and were paced by Montefalco with six kills.

The third game proved to be a fierce battle with 14 ties through the mid-point in the game. With the score tied at 17, Kentucky put together an 11-0 run to gain a 10-point lead, which included three huge blocks and two kills apiece from Spinner and Wallace, to lead 27-17. After back-to-back points by the Blue Raiders, Kentucky took the next two rallies to go on game point at 29-19. MTSU wouldn?t back down and took the next three points to force a Wildcat timeout. The Cats returned from the break and quickly ended the game with a Wallace kill for a final score of 30-22.

Kentucky fell behind 5-1 to open the fourth game and MTSU built the lead to five at 10-5 before UK called a timeout. The Cats slowly chipped away at the lead, finally tying the game at 17 on a kill by Wallace. The Blue Raiders tied the game again at 19 but Kentucky would take the next three points to pull out to a 22-19 lead. As the Cats seemed to be closing in on a win after an explosive kill by Kaplan moved the score to 27-22, MTSU used a 4-0 run to threaten again at 27-25.

Another timeout proved beneficial as Kaplan and Spinner combined for kills on two of the next three plays to move UK to match point at 29-27. After a kill by MTSU, a shot by Wallace on the outside gave UK the final game win and match victory at 30-28.

Kentucky returns to action on Friday, Sept. 10 when they play host to the 2004 Kentucky Conference Challenge. This year?s tournament features Indiana State, Valparaiso and Hofstra. The two-day, round-robin event will be played at Memorial Coliseum. The opening match between Indiana State and Hofstra gets underway at 4:30 p.m. Friday. UK and Valparaiso follow at 7 p.m.