Volleyball Cats Shine in Comeback Win Over Charlotte, 3-2
Sept. 7, 2002
RALEIGH, N.C. - The University of Kentucky volleyball team fought back from a 2-1 match deficit and a 21-16 disadvantage in game four to defeat the Charlotte 49ers, 3-2, at the Outback Steakhouse Wolfpack Classic in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday, Sept. 7.
Junior setter Kristi Kelley shined in the match, collecting a career-high 11 kills, while hitting .786, grabbing 45 assists and eight digs. Aleisha Craven was a force for UK defensively, recording 14 digs and eight assists. Kentucky (3-2) suffered from poor hitting overall, posting a mere .188 team percentage to Charlotte's .224. The Cats dominated the blocking game, 13-9, over the 49ers (2-3).
"This was a complete team effort that came from inner fight," Coach Jona Braden said. "The things we were struggling with in games two, three and part of four, we cleaned up. Kristi (Kelley) kept a real clear head and worked with everyone to fix problems, including stepping up her offensive game. And again, Aleisha Craven was so solid for us defensively."
After tying the match at one early, miscues would keep Kentucky at a disadvantage for much of the first game with Charlotte advancing as much as four points at 19-15 to force a UK timeout. The Cats had a spark out of the break, taking their first lead at 20-19 after a Kristen Batt kill, a block assist by Katie Bright and Anne Koester, an ace by Kelley and two miscues by the 49ers.
Kentucky capitalized on service errors by Charlotte and made smart offensive choices to take a 27-23 advantage, causing a 49er timeout. After a Sissy Canfield kill, the Cats dropped three quick points to retain a small 28-26 lead. After a timeout for adjustment, UK closed up with a kill by Batt and a strong block by Bright and Batt for the 30-27 win.
Game two provided several early lead changes before two unreturned Charlotte serves put UK at an 11-8 disadvantage. The teams continued to seesaw before the 49ers jutted out to a five-point lead at 21-16 pushing the Cats to talk it over. Charlotte extended the edge to as many as eight before closing out the game with a 30-23 win.
UK couldn't put plays together to start the third game, falling behind 5-0 early. The Wildcats continued to struggle, with each small run dampened by a larger streak on the 49er side. The Kentucky side seemed flustered, losing the game and the match advantage by a score of 30-17.
The Wildcats seemed to find their step early in the fourth game, leading by two at several points. Charlotte, however, kept things close, forcing five ties before pulling out to a 21-16 advantage. After a timeout, Kentucky took three quick points to close the lead to two at 21-19, forcing the 49ers to take a break. A Koester kill tied it at 21, before a solo block by Bright gave UK the lead again at 23-22. Canfield played a role in two huge blocks down the stretch before Sarah Spinner sealed the game at 30-26, forcing a fifth game.
Both teams played scrappy defense to start game five, seeing five early ties before the Wildcats gained a two-point lead on a Spinner kill to retain an 8-6 edge at the switchover. A Koester ace gave the Cats another point to force a Charlotte timeout. After a 49er point on a Canfield error, Kentucky took two quick with put-downs by Spinner and Kelley. Charlotte was able to take the next three points to cut the UK lead to one before the Cats closed out the comeback with a block assist by Kelley and Amy Kaplan for the 15-11 decision.
Kentucky returns to action at 4:30 p.m. when it faces Wichita State in the championship match of the tournament.