Kentucky Wins Sixth Straight in Home Opener Against Syracuse
Sept. 12, 2003
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The University of Kentucky volleyball team won its sixth consecutive match of the season after defeating Syracuse, 3-1, in the home opener on Friday, Sept. 12. The Wildcat win followed a 3-0 Virginia victory over Wright State on the opening night of the Kentucky Conference Challenge at Lexington's Memorial Coliseum.
"I felt we stepped out tonight with the mindset of carrying forward what we learned last weekend," UK Coach Jona Braden said. "We wanted to play hard, but not press it tonight. I think we started pressing too much toward the finish, but we stayed in the battle and came out victorious, which is our ultimate goal."
Freshman Melissa Popp led a balanced Kentucky attack with 18 kills and 11 digs on .250 hitting. Also recording double-doubles in the win were senior Liz McCaslin, with 10 kills and 11 digs, and junior Sarah Spinner, who collected 17 kills and a team-high 20 defensive stoppers.
Before a crowd of nearly 600, Kentucky out-hit the Orangewomen, .206 to .126, while SU's Morgan Jones led her team with 14 kills and four blocks. Katie Allen also performed well for Syracuse with eight block assists on the night.
"We had an excellent crowd tonight," Braden said. "They were fantastic and our team was committed to bringing a great game to the fans. The crowd gave us so much this evening."
After close competition early in the first match, UK managed to tie the game at three before jumping out to a 10-6 lead. Syracuse was able to cut the advantage to two at 17-15 after an attack error by Popp. The Cats held steady however, marching on to a 30-22 sealed with a Spinner kill.
The Orangewomen jumped out to a 3-0 advantage to start the second contest, but UK got back in the game at 11-11 on a Popp putdown. Syracuse tied it up twice more before a 6-0 run gave the Wildcats enough distance down the stretch. The Cats headed to the locker room with a 2-0 advantage after the 30-27 game two victory.
After the halftime break, the teams fought through 12 ties in the third game. Syracuse was able to take the lead for good at 26-25 after an error by Popp. SU closed with a 5-1 run for the 30-26 win, pushing the match to a fourth game.
Kentucky seemed to bounce back early in the game, leading by 7-2 after two kills by Sissy Canfield and several Orangewomen miscues. However, Syracuse jumped back in the game after a 5-0 run and tied the game at seven all. The battle would see six more deadlocks before the Cats pulled out the 30-27 match-deciding win after a Jones attack error.
With the win, Kentucky moves to 19-8 all-time in home openers and 4-2 in Braden's tenure.
The Kentucky Conference Challenge continues Saturday morning at 10 a.m. with Virginia taking on Syracuse before the Wildcats face Wright State at 12:30 p.m. The 4:30 p.m. match features WSU and the Orangewomen, while the weekend closes out with Kentucky and UVA at 7 p.m.
Admission to UK volleyball matches is free and Saturday promotions include free miniature UK volleyballs, Go Big Blue water bottles and the chance to win video games and other prizes.