Aug 30, 2013
LONG BEACH, Calif. – Despite the 31st double-double effort of senior Whitney Billings’ career, the 17th-ranked Kentucky volleyball team dropped its season-opener to No. 18 Florida State, 3-0 (27-25, 25-23, 25-20), in Long Beach, Calif., on Friday night.
Billings led the way for the Cats with 10 kills and 10 digs, while also contributing a team-high four blocks in the loss. Kentucky falls to 0-1 on the year, while Florida State improves to 1-1 after a 3-0 loss to Illinois earlier in the day. Billings will need just three kills in her next outing to become the 14th player in school history to amass 1,000 career kills.
Kentucky returns to the floor on Saturday. UK will take on Illinois at 7:30 p.m. ET in the second match of its West Coast journey before wrapping up the tournament with the host Long Beach State 49ers on Sunday at 8 p.m. ET.
“It certainly wasn’t smooth for a first match,” ninth-year head coach Craig Skinner said. “We had chances to score in each of the first and second sets but we didn’t close it out. That made it tough for us to comeback. Florida State was in system most of the night, so we need to be better with our serve to create more scoring options.”
Junior Lauren O’Connner notched nine kills, with sophomore Shelby Workman posting eight in her first career start. Senior Alexandra Morgan logged seven on a team-high .417 hitting percentage. Sophomore Sara Schwarzwalder posted four blocks, while six Wildcats had five or more digs on the night. Junior Jackie Napper tallied nine, sophomore setter Morgan Bergren chipped in with eight. Workman had seven, Morgan six and freshman Anni Thomasson rounded out the defensive effort with five digs. Bergren had 34 assists in the match to pave the way offensively.
The Seminoles claimed the opening set by a 27-25 score benefiting from 11 Wildcat hitting errors. Kentucky trailed the majority of the set, but fought back to tie the score at 19 with a solo block from Morgan. Kentucky then utilized a 3-1 run to claim a 22-20 edge before the Noles fought back to tie the score at 24 apiece. UK had a pair of set points, but could not finish the frame and Florida State earned the 27-25 victory. Billings led the way with four kills in the set.
In another back-and-forth battle in the second set with neither team earning more than a two-point advantage, the Noles prevailed by a 25-23 score. Billings once again led the way with four hammers in the stanza.
Florida State jumped out to a 4-0 edge to begin the third set, but Kentucky clawed back to knot the score at 10 apiece on a kill from O’Conner. O’Conner kept the heat on and torched the field for consecutive kills and a 13-12 lead for the Blue and White. However, the Noles would take a timeout and fire back with kills of their own to tie the score and eventually take a lead it would not relinquish. O’Conner had three kills in the set to lead the Wildcats.
Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 13-14. UK is one of four sites selected for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in Seattle, Wash., from the Lexington Region. This marks the second time in three seasons Memorial Coliseum will host this premier volleyball event.
Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the Kentucky volleyball team and all 22 varsity sports.