Volleyball Off to Best SEC Start Since 1988
Oct. 1, 2008
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - With their fifth straight win in the SEC, a 3-1 victory over Tennessee Wednesday night, the Kentucky volleyball team is off to the best start in SEC play since 1988. Kentucky's (14-2, 5-0) winning streak has now reached 11 consecutive matches.
Junior Sarah Rumely tallied the 23rd double-double effort of her career to pace the Wildcats. She charted 40 assists and a career-high 23 digs on the night. Freshman Becky Pavan became the first player since teammate Queen Nzenwa in November of last season to tally 10 or more blocks. The first-year player accounted for 10 of UK's 15 blocks on the night.
"I'm really excited that we've been able to come out and win three straight road matches in league play," Head Coach Craig Skinner said. "I really think we mentally won this match tonight."
Leading the way offensively were three players who reached double-figure kill efforts. Nzenwa and sophomore Sarah Mendoza led the way with 13 kills a piece. Sophomore Lauren Rapp added 11, with freshman Ann Armes adding eight. Pavan and Rumely each accounted for four each.
Defensively, six players tallied a block. Pavan led the way with nine, and Rapp was one shy of tying a career-high with seven. Rumely led three players with double-figure digs. Junior BriAnne Sauer notched 12, and sophomore Laura Stokowski pitched in with a career-high 11.
Kentucky's winning streak over Tennessee now moves to five straight, dating back to an upset victory in 2006.
Tennessee jumped out to an early 2-0 lead to begin the third set. Kentucky tied it up at 5-5 on a Mendoza kill, and then the Wildcats took their first lead on a Tennessee ball handling error at 7-6--and never looked back. UK claimed its largest lead of the early going with three straight blocks. Pavan and Armes teamed up for the first rejection, and then Rapp and Pavan combined for the second. Pavan teamed back up with Armes for the third block, forcing the Lady Vols into a timeout. UK returned from the break and took the next two points as well, earning a 14-7 advantage. With the momentum beginning to shift back to the home team behind a rowdy crowd, Kentucky once again came up with some huge blocks to silence the comeback. Rumely and Nzenwa teamed up for a powerful rejection, followed by another well-timed put-back from Nzenwa and Mendoza giving UK a comfortable 19-14 lead. Fitting, the set ended on back-to-back blocks from the duo of Rapp and Pavan giving UK the 25-17 set victory.
Once again UK's defense was the difference maker in the third set, tallying nine blocks in that frame alone. Pavan registered six, with Rapp in on four. UK's presence at the net held Tennessee to a -.029 hitting percentage. Offensively, Mendoza led the way with four kills.
"I thought the third set and our blocking was the key to the match," Skinner added. "Nine blocks is huge difference maker in the momentum of matches and that carried us through to the win."
Opening the first set was Rapp with a kill giving UK the early 1-0 lead. The two teams traded points until the visitors broke away with a 4-3 edge on a Tennessee attacking error. Then a pair of kills from Mendoza gave Kentucky a 6-3 lead. The Wildcats took their largest lead of the early going at 15-10 after an Armes' hammer. The Lady Volunteers pulled back within two, making the score 19-17 off a kill. But, Pavan came back with a block followed by another Mendoza kill to give UK the 21-17 lead. A block by Pavan and Rapp made the score 24-18, and then Tennessee saved match point, but the fourth service error of the set by the Lady Vols gave UK the first set with the score 25-19.
UK hit .300 in the first frame, while holding Tennessee to just .085. Mendoza led the way with five kills, with Nzenwa and Pavan adding three each. Pavan also paced the defense with two blocks, and Rumely accounted for a double-double in the first set with 12 assists and 10 digs.
Tennessee evened the score at one set a piece with a 25-20 win in the second frame. Kentucky controlled most of the action to start the set, taking its largest lead of four points at 8-4 on a Rapp kill. However, Tennessee kept it close never trailing by more than four. A Lady Vol kill tied the score at 17-17, which forced Kentucky into a timeout. Tennessee took its first lead of the entire match returning from the timeout with a kill and then a Mendoza attack went long giving the home squad a two-point lead at 19-17. The Lady Vols would score six of the next nine points to claim the stanza.
Trailing by two at 15-13, UK accounted for the next six points to claim a 19-15 advantage in the fourth and deciding set. Three straight kills from Rumely, Mendoza and Rapp gave Kentucky the lead. A block by Pavan and Rapp and then kills from Rapp and Mendoza gave UK its largest lead. The set and match win came off an Armes' kill.
Kentucky returns to action on Sunday, when they play host to Auburn. First serve is slated for a 1:38 p.m. start. A delayed broadcast of the match will be available on FSN South beginning at approximately 3 p.m. Dick Gabriel and Kathy DeBoer will be on the call.