Wildcats Fall to No. 2 Nebraska on Opening Night
Aug. 28, 2010
OMAHA, Neb. -- The 14th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team saw great potential from redshirt freshman Whitney Billings in her opening collegiate match as she led the squad in kills in a 3-0 (25-9, 25-14, 25-20) UK loss to No. 2 Nebraska Saturday night, in front of an electric crowd of 5,853 fans at the Runza/AVCA Showcase.
Billings led the Blue and White (0-1) offensively with nine kills and added a block and nine digs in UK's opening-night loss.
"Nebraska may be the best team we will face all season," UK coach Craig Skinner said. "They have six strong rotations and you never get a break. I thought our team improved each set and never quit. We will continue to get better, and I think that will start tomorrow morning in practice."
Nebraska played as if it was in mid-season form with a staggering 49 kills and nine blocks stifling UK's young squad. The Wildcats struggled to find its rhythm and totaled 18 kills, but outside hitters Billings and senior Blaire Hiler with five kills led the Wildcats. Setter Christine Hartmann had seven digs and dished out 14 assists. UK registered 4.5 blocks as middle blocker Gretchen Giesler totaled two block assists. Sophomore Stephanie Klefot picked up 11 digs in her libero debut and senior Lauren Rapp totaled six.
Play opened to an extended rally as both teams took strong swings and defensive play took precedence in the early going. Nebraska finished the rally with a back-court kill to earn the first point of the match. The Cornhuskers took the first three points of the opening set before a service error by the home team gave the Blue and White its first point of the night. A Hiler-Becky Pavan block followed by a kill from Hiler brought the Wildcats to within 4-3. Nebraska then charted 10 consecutive points to take a commanding 14-3 advantage and never looked back before closing to a 25-9 first set victory.
A Big Blue block by the UK trio of Giesler, Billings and Rapp opened the second set scoring. UK took a 4-1 advantage to begin the frame as Hiler tacked down another kill and the Wildcats benefited from a pair of Cornhusker miscues. Kentucky took an 8-4 advantage into the first media break after Pavan smacked down a kill to take the teams into the first break. Kentucky's defense picked up as the Wildcats forced the Huskers into four hitting errors in the early going.
Following the break the Husker defense sizzled to ignite an offensive rally as the home team put together an eight point run before Hiler laid down a kill to bring UK back to within three at 12-9. Nebraska benefited from a 3-1 run to take a 16-10 advantage into the second media break. With Nebraska leading by a 21-10 score the Wildcats went on a run of their one by rattling off four consecutive points highlighted by a pair of Billings' kills to pull to within 21-14. After the home team opted for a timeout to slow down the scoring the Huskers finished out the set with four straight points to take a 2-0 set lead by a 25-14 margin.
After the home team scored the first two points of the third set Kentucky charted four straight tallies of its own to take a 4-2 lead. Billings had a solo block and then Giesler and Hartmann teamed up for another to ignite the rally. Kentucky took an 8-6 lead into the first media break behind a pair of kills from Billings and Hartmann while also benefiting from a few Nebraska errors.
The teams traded points back and forth and Nebraska eventually knotted the score at 11 apiece. Nebraska's offense took over and charted a 6-0 run to take a 16-11 lead into the final media break of the set. Kentucky answered with consecutive points of its own behind stellar serving from Pavan to pull to within 16-13. After the home team took a 20-15 lead, the Wildcats fired back with three straight points to pull to within 20-18. Rapp led the charge with a kill and a solo block to force the Huskers into a timeout. Kentucky saved set point twice before the Huskers won the match on a kill into the back row.
The Wildcats will take on No. 9 Iowa State (0-1), Sunday at 3 p.m. ET. The Cyclones dropped a four-set match to No. 13 Florida in the opening match of the AVCA Showcase.
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