Volleyball Cats Drop Close Battle with Crimson Tide, 3-1
Oct. 20, 2002
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. - The University of Kentucky volleyball team dropped an extremely close battle with Alabama, 3-1, on Sunday, Oct. 20, in Tuscaloosa, Ala. The four-game match saw 32 ties, including sixteen in UK's game-two win. Kentucky outblocked the Tide 12-3 in the match, led by Amy Kaplan's seven.
Kentucky (8-11, 2-6 SEC) was led by senior Kristen Batt with 12 kills and 16 digs. Her 16 digs moved her career total to 967, tying her for sixth on UK's top-10 list. Toni Lee had 10 digs on the day, setting a season high for the junior. Also performing well was setter Leigh Marcum, who put down two kills for a .667 hitting percentage while recording three aces, five digs and one block. The Crimson Tide (14-8, 5-3 SEC) was paced by Erin Heffner with 27 kills and eight digs, while Jennifer Bibber recorded 17 kills. Kory Tull led the UA defense with 15 digs.
"We put pressure on them with our blocking schemes, which improved from the last time we played them," Coach Jona Braden said. "We just didn't take care of the ball offensively when we needed to do so."
After opening the match with a 2-0 lead, UK fell prey to a 7-1 Alabama run to putting the team behind 7-3, forcing at timeout. Kentucky cut the lead to three on three different occasions but allowed an 8-3 UA run to put it down 17-9. The Tide ripped off four straight points to push the lead to 12 at 21-9. Scrappy defensive play helped the Wildcats pinch the deficit to four at 27-23, forcing an Alabama timeout before the Tide closed out the game, 30-24.
The second game stayed close with the teams fighting through 12 ties early. UK was finally able to break the seesaw action after reeling off back-to-back kills by Batt and Spinner to take a 19-17 lead. The squads would see four more ties before UK was able to maintain its distance and win the game 30-27, tying the match at halftime. The game saw Kentucky hit .357 as UK switched setters from Kristi Kelley to Marcum midway through.
Both squads carried over the intensity from the previous game to start the third stanza as a quick 2-1 Wildcat lead was trumped by a 9-3 Crimson Tide run. Alabama was able to keep UK at bay for much of the game, leading by as many as seven at 23-16, before a 4-0 Wildcat run cut the lead to three at 23-20. The Cats would come within two at 25-23 before three consecutive miscues gave UA a 27-23 advantage. UK rebounded and held the Tide at match point as they cut the lead to one at 29-28, but a UK touch on an over-serve gave Alabama the go-ahead game, 30-28.
Tension remained high at the start of game three with eight early ties. Kentucky was able to take a three-point lead at 12-9 before the Tide tied the game for the 10th time at 14. UA took ownership of the game for a stretch, leading by three several times before a Kaplan solo block in the middle tied the game at 19. After another tie at 20, the Crimson Tide ripped off five consecutive points, leaving the UK defense frazzled. With Alabama leading 26-21, Kentucky took a timeout but couldn't find a way to rebound, dropping the game, 30-21, giving the Tide the 3-1 win.
The Wildcats return home on Friday, Oct. 25, to play host to third-ranked Florida at 7 p.m. in Memorial Coliseum. The match kicks off UK's Volleyball Alumni Weekend and the university's Homecoming 2002. Over 39 former Cats are expected to attend the program's weekend festivities and will be recognized at both Friday's match with the Gators and Sunday's 2 p.m. battle with Georgia.