Volleyball Falls in Five to LSU

BATON ROUGE, La. ? Senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker (Cincinnati, Ohio) notched her 17th double-double of the season with 19 kills and a season-high 22 digs, but Kentucky couldn?t complete its comeback on Friday in a 3-2 (20-30, 30-26, 26-30, 30-27, 10-15) loss to LSU in the Pete Maravich Assembly Center.

Britenriker was one of three Wildcats (19-7, 10-5 Southeastern Conference) in double-digit kills as freshman outside hitter Sarah Mendoza (Winter Park, Fla.) continued her strong offensive output with 12 put-downs, while junior middle blocker Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore, Md.) had 11 kills. Britenriker added six blocks to complement her double-dip, while freshman right-side hitter Lauren Rapp (Indianapolis, Ind.) added six blocks to complement six kills and six digs.

LSU (19-6, 10-5) used a powerful blocking game that out-blocked the Wildcats 20.5-11. It was Kentucky?s eighth consecutive match with double-digit blocks and the first time in five matches that the Cats were out-blocked.

?We didn?t come out strong in game one and it felt like we were having to play catch up for most of the match,? UK head coach Craig Skinner said. ?We competed hard, but LSU out-executed us down the stretch.?

Sophomore setter Sarah Rumely (New Palestine, Ind.) dished out a squad-best 54 assists to complement 16 digs for her ninth double-double of the season, while sophomore libero BriAnne Sauer added 15 digs.

LSU raced out to a quick 4-0 advantage in the opening game and extended its lead to 6-1 before the Wildcats scored four in a row to come within one, 6-5, after three consecutive attack errors by the Tigers. A block by Britenriker and Rumely and an LSU attack error on consecutive plays knotted the score at 9-9. The Tigers were then called for being in the net to give UK its first lead of the game at 10-9. After three more ties, LSU moved in front 17-13 after back-to-back attack errors by Brooke Bartek (Lincoln, Neb.) and Nzenwa.

With the Wildcats down 19-13, Rumely recorded a crafty kill on second contact to stop the scoring drought, but the Tigers scored three straight points from there to extend their advantage to 22-14 and force Skinner to call his second timeout of the game. LSU kept rolling to reach game point at 29-17 before a Mendoza kill on the outside stopped the Tigers? scoring streak. The Wildcats hung tough, staving off three LSU attempts at game point, but fell 30-20 in the opening frame. UK hit -.182 in the first game and was out-blocked 6-2.

Kentucky opened game two on a 4-1 tear and widened its margin to 6-2 after back-to-back kills by Mendoza and Britenriker. The Wildcats went ahead 9-6 following a kill by Nzenwa, but LSU scored two in a row from there to cut within one, 9-8. With Kentucky ahead 10-9, the Wildcats scored four consecutive points, capped off by a powerful block on the right side by Britenriker and Rapp, to go ahead 14-9 heading into a Tiger timeout.

Out of the break, the Cats extended that run to 6-0 and their lead to 16-9 after a pair of errors by the Tigers. UK kept rolling to a 21-13 lead after a service ace by Rumely that forced LSU to call another timeout. A sharp put-down from Britenriker down the line and an attack error by LSU on consecutive plays gave the Cats a 25-16 advantage. With Kentucky ahead 28-19, the Tigers began clawing their way back into the match with five consecutive points to come within five, 28-23, and force a UK timeout. After the Tigers eluded three attempts at game point, Kentucky notched a 30-26 game-two win.

The Wildcats broke to a 5-1 advantage as Britenriker teamed for blocks with Hiler and Rumely on back-to-back plays. LSU began fighting its way back into the game with three consecutive points to come within one, 5-4, before Britenriker drilled a kill down the middle to silence the rally. Freshman outside hitter Blaire Hiler (New Washington, Ohio) notched a kill and Rumely followed with an ace to widen the Cats lead to 8-5. Four consecutive LSU errors gave UK an 11-6 advantage, but the Tigers worked their way back into the game with a 5-2 run to bring them within two at 13-11.

LSU cut as close as one, 15-14, after a UK blocking error, but Nzenwa drilled a kill down the middle to stop the scoring streak. The Tigers hung close and tied the score at 17-all after a Rapp attack error. After another tie at 18-all, Kentucky scored three of the next four points, including two kills from Britenriker, to go back ahead 21-19. Consecutive put-downs by LSU?s Lauren DeGirolamo allowed the Tigers to regain the advantage at 22-21 and force Skinner to burn a timeout. LSU extended its lead to 25-22 out of the break to cause another Kentucky timeout. The Cats scored two in a row to come within one, 25-24, but the Tigers used strong serving and defense to notch a 30-26 victory.

The two teams battled evenly to begin game four before the Tigers took an early 6-3 lead. Two kills by Bartek on three plays brought the Cats within two, 7-5, but LSU widened its advantage out to four, 9-5. The Wildcats knotted the score at 10-all after a blocking error on LSU and took the lead at 11-10 after a block by Britenriker and Rapp. That was the start of a 4-1 Kentucky run that was capped off with a Mendoza kill and put the Cats ahead 14-11 heading into an LSU timeout.

Out of the break, the Tigers began inching back into the game, coming as close as 17-15 before a Bartek kill off the block stopped the streak. Back-to-back put-downs by Mendoza and Britenriker put the Cats ahead 22-18, but LSU kept itself in the match and used a 3-0 run to cut within one, 22-21, and force a UK timeout. After the Tigers knotted the score at 22-22, Britenriker recorded back-to-back kills and Rapp served an ace to put the Wildcats back in front by three, 25-22. LSU scored three in a row to tie the score at 25-all. With the score deadlocked at 26, Bartek had two consecutive kills off the block to make it 28-26 UK. A put-down from Nzenwa brought the Cats to game point at 29-27 and Bartek finished off the game with a kill for the 30-27 win.

Britenriker posted a kill and Rapp served an ace to give UK an early 2-0 lead in game five, but the Tigers scored five points in a row to take a 5-2 advantage and force the Wildcats to use a timeout. With Kentucky down 5-3, Mendoza served an ace to bring the Cats within one, 5-4, but the Tigers extended their lead back out to three at 7-4. LSU kept rolling to a 10-6 advantage heading into a UK timeout. Kentucky got as close as two, 11-9, after a block by Britenriker and Rapp, but LSU closed out the 15-10 win.

Kentucky returns to action Sunday when it travels to Oxford, Miss., to take on Ole Miss. Opening serve in the Gillom Sports Center is set for 2:30 p.m. EST as the Wildcats will look to avenge a loss to the Rebels suffered at home earlier this season.

Complete results and a recap of Sunday?s match will be available at ukathletics.com.