Gritty Performance Propels Cats Over IU
Sept. 12, 2008
LEXINGTON, Ky. - A 25-13 run in the first set helped the University of Kentucky volleyball team use a gritty performance to propel past visiting Indiana on the first night of the UK Invitational Friday at Memorial Coliseum. Kentucky earned a 3-1 victory by the scores of 25-20, 26-28, 25-23, 25-20, to win their fourth consecutive match.
Sophomore Lauren Rapp led the Cats (7-2, 0-0) offensively with 20.5 points on a team-high 15 kills and seven blocks. Freshman Becky Pavan set a career-high with 11 kills, while freshman Ann Armes and senior Queen Nzenwa also reached double-digit kill efforts.
"I thought our team showed a lot of toughness in this match," said head coach Craig Skinner. "Indiana has a lot of offensive weapons and when they got on fire we closed them down when we needed to and pulled out this win."
Indiana got off to an incredibly quick start taking the first seven points of the match for a 7-0 advantage. UK got on the board on a sophomore Sarah Mendoza kill to jump-start the Wildcats. Junior Sarah Rumely put down a kill sandwiched between two of Armes' hammers to rally the Wildcats to pull within 12-9. Kentucky didn't knot the score until 18-a piece on a Rapp serving ace. UK took its first lead on an Indiana miscue and then rattled off six of the next eight points to claim the first set by a 25-20 margin.
"I can't say enough about the toughness of our team," Skinner said. "To have that slow start and then finish the way we did in that first set, it just goes to show everybody that our team never quits."
The Hoosiers fought back in the second stanza in what was the closest set of the match. Kentucky once again started behind 2-1, before an Armes kill tied the score at two. The two teams traded points until Indiana took a four-point edge at 18-14. A timely Nzenwa smack-down awakened the crowd and UK pulled back to 20-18. Indiana followed with a run of its own and made the score 24-22. The Wildcats saved two set points with an Armes kill and then an Nzenwa-Mendoza block to tie it back up. Kentucky took its first lead since the early-going on an Armes ace, but Indiana responded with back-to-back kills to reclaim the lead. Mendoza saved set point again for the Blue and White, but the Hoosiers closed out the set with a kill and a block to tie it up at one set a piece.
For the first time in the match, Kentucky started with the first point of the set on a Pavan kill to open up the third set. The duo of Rapp and Pavan laid down a block to give UK the 2-0 lead. Pavan earned three kills in the middle of the frame while the teams traded points back and forth. Kentucky fell behind at 20-17 and that's when they dug in their heels and willed their way back. The rally began with an Indiana service error followed by an Indiana attacking error. Rapp laid down a thunderous kill to tie the score, and then followed that with a nifty kill that found the back corner of the court. With Kentucky up by one at 22-21, Rumely's craftiness gave UK a two-point lead and ended on a Mendoza kill.
Pavan tallied nine of her 11 kills in the final two frames to ignite the Blue and White early, but it was Rapp who finished off the win. Kentucky jumped out to an early lead and controlled the tempo in their match-clinching set. The score stayed close through most of the set, until the Wildcats claimed an 18-13 lead on a Rumely kill. Indiana showed some poise and fought back to tie the score at 18, but Skinner called a timeout to calm his team and the Wildcats responded with a 7-2 run to close out the set. Rapp returned from the timeout with a kill and she would be involved in five of UK's final seven points. Rapp registered three kills and combined with Pavan for a block in the closing moments.
The Wildcats return to the court for two matches tomorrow. UK will first face Eastern Kentucky at noon. The Blue and White will close out non-conference play with a 7 p.m. match against Albany tomorrow night.
Complete coverage of the UK volleyball team's Invitational and live stats for all of the matches can be found at UKathletics.com.