Wildcats Down Florida Behind Dominating Fifth Set
Oct. 30, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. - The No. 24 ranked Kentucky volleyball team used a dominating fifth set to take down its second top-20 ranked opponent at home this season in No. 13 Florida Sunday afternoon in front of 1,725 fans. UK captured a 3-2 (25-23, 19-25, 25-21, 17-25, 15-9) victory over the visiting Gators to keep the Southeastern Conference title within reach.
With the win, Kentucky improves to 21-4 overall on the year and 12-2 in league play. Florida falls to 17-5 overall and 10-3 in league action. Kentucky's other win over a top-20 ranked foe in the friendly confines of Memorial Coliseum came over then ranked No. 18 Tennessee in mid-October.
Kentucky's offense put together its best performance of the day during the most critical of times with 10 kills on a sizzling .444 hitting clips in the final frame for a 15-9 win. UK's defense limited the nation's leading attacking team to a mere six kills and just a .130 hitting clip in the decisive set.
Freshman Lauren O'Conner began the scoring with a kill, but the Gators would respond with consecutive points. Junior Christine Hartmannthen notched her seventh kill of the match to tie the score at two apiece. UK stretched its lead to two at 5-3 following consecutive hitting errors by the visitors. Florida once again fought back and tied the score at seven, but it would be all UK from there. O'Conner tossed down her second kill of the stanza to give UK the 8-7 edge going into the switch.
The trio of O'Conner, sophomore Whitney Billings and senior Becky Pavanteamed up for a block to give UK a two-point edge at 9-7. Florida would respond with a kill, but Billings answered with a kill of her own. With the score at 10-9, the Gators served the ball long to give the Wildcats another two-point advantage. O'Conner stepped to the service line and led the final charge. UK rattled off the final four points with kills from Hartmann and Pavan and then an ace from O'Conner gave UK match-point. Pavan brought the crowd to its feet with a final kill to lift the Wildcats to its third victory over a ranked foe this season.
"Florida puts a lot of pressure on you with their serve, and you have to weather the storm," UK coach Craig Skinnersaid. "I thought we really did a nice job of passing the ball in the fifth game. It was a huge reason why we were successful. Our defense was awfully good. It broke down a little bit at times, but it was there when we needed it."
Billings totaled a season-high 17 kills and added 12 digs in her third double-double of the season. Hartmann missed on a near triple-double with 46 assists, 11 digs and eight kills. She led a UK offense to 65 kills on .227 hitting with five players notching eight or more kills in the match.
Junior Ashley Frazierposted 16 kills on an impressive .342 hitting clip. She has reached double-figure kill efforts in all but two SEC matches this season.
"(Florida) schemes a lot," Skinner said. "They put two blockers where the ball is going quite often. We knew that. We weren't as successful getting the ball to the people we needed to at times, but the nice thing about what (Ashley) Frazier and (Whitney) Billings did was they had a lot of kills, but they didn't error very much."
Pavan totaled nine kills and added a team-high seven blocks for the Blue and White. O'Conner totaled eight kills, with two coming in the final set. Senior Gretchen Gieslerchipped in with five kills to aid the offensive output.
Kentucky opened the match by earning a 25-23 opening set victory. With the first set win and a final outcome in favor of the Wildcats, it marks the 19th time this season that UK has won when winning the opening stanza.
Kentucky struck for 18 kills on .250 hitting in the opening frame with Billings and Pavan both striking for five kills to begin the match. An erroneous attack by the visitors marked the first point of the set, followed by a kill from Pavan to give the Wildcats an early 2-0 edge. The Gators stormed back and opened up a five-point lead at 10-5.
UK was unfazed however, and clawed its way back to eventually knot the score at 11 following three straight kills from the hand of Billings. The final tied score came at 21 before Billings, Pavan and Hartmann combined for three straight kills. Florida fended off the home team for back-to-back set points, but a kill from Pavan ended the late rally to lift UK to the first frame win.
Florida responded with a 25-17 second set win the even the match at one set apiece going into the locker room. The Gators charted 17 kills on a match-high .341 clip with UK managing just 11 hammers on .143 hitting.
Out of the break, the Wildcats opened up an early 4-0 lead and never looked back. UK rolled to a 25-21 third set win behind five kills from Frazier in the frame as UK totaled 14 on .231 hitting. Florida managed just 12 kills on a .184 hitting clip.
Florida forced the decisive fifth frame with a 25-17 fourth set win. The Gators forced the Wildcats into six hitting errors in the set.
Kentucky's Memorial Coliseum will play host to the NCAA Regionals Dec. 9-10. UK is one of four sites selected for Sweet 16 and Elite Eight matchups with one team advancing to the Final Four in San Antonio, Texas, from the Lexington Region.
Opening night matches are scheduled for 5 and 7 p.m. ET. Saturday's final is set for a 4:30 p.m. ET first serve.
Tickets are now on sale through the UK Ticket Office. All-Session Tickets are reserved for all ages at $14. General Admission tickets for adults are priced at $12 and students or seniors' general admission is slated for $8.
Single session tickets are priced at $8 for reserved for all ages. General admission for adults is priced at $7, with students and seniors priced at $5. Youth single session tickets are $4.
For tickets or more information feel free to call, 1-800-928-CATS.
Visit UKathletics.com for the most up-to-date information on the UK volleyball team and all of Kentucky's 22 teams.