Wildcats Save Tournament Hopes
Nov. 14, 1999
LEXINGTON, Kty. - The University of Kentucky volleyball team made a miraculous comeback after being down 2-0 to South Carolina to pull out a 3-2 win, earning a berth in the Southeastern Conference Tournament. The tournament will be held at the University of Tennessee’s Stokely Athletics Center in Knoxville, Tenn., Nov. 19-21. UK’s seed is yet to be determined.
The Cats were led against the Gamecocks by freshman Kristen Batt who had one of her best games of late with 15 kills, 11 digs and five blocks. Jaclyn Homan had her best match since returning to the lineup as she totaled 13 kills and team-highs of nine blocks and a .308 hitting percentage. With their backs to the wall, requiring a win against the Gamecocks to earn a place in the SEC tourney, the Wildcats’ tournament hopes also hinged on a Georgia loss at Tennessee. The Cats had to play the waiting game for nearly 30 minutes after the win, before finding out that the Vols won a tightly contested 3-2 decision over the Dawgs.
For Kentucky (14-13, 6-8 Southeastern), the match did not begin well as nine UK hitting errors helped the Gamecocks pull out a 15-12 game-one win. USC was not overpowering in the first game as their nine errors helped the Cats onto a run that saw the game tied at 10-10. Timely kills by Danika Taylor gave USC the game one edge.
While the Gamecocks improved their hitting in game two, the Cats got worse as the -.061 hitting percentage in game two by UK helped give USC a 15-9 win and a seemingly insurmountable 2-0 lead.
"We did not play too bad in the first two games, but we were not executing at all offensively," UK Coach Jona Braden said. "Our players really came together in between games (two and three) and made adjustments that allowed us to come back."
The adjustments were obvious as UK jumped out to a 9-1 game three lead. Batt started UK on the way to its 15-9 win with three kills that gave the Cats the first three points of the game. Making her first appearance of the match, April Barnhorst kept the Cats rolling with three kills and three blocks in the game. With Barnhorst working next to Homan and Stephenie Taylor, the trio combined for seven block assists in the game.
South Carolina (14-11, 8-6 SEC) was unable to devise a solution to the problems that UK’s blocking was giving them as the Gamecocks hit .000 in the game. Megan Weiskircher teamed with UK teammates for two big blocks early in the game on her way to seven blocks for the match. With the score tied at 9-9, Terri Crabb jostled the USC defense with four straight aces that sealed Carolina’s fate in the game. Crabb set a career best with six aces in the match. The momentum swing was complete when a pair of kills by Katie Eiserman, that sandwiched an ace by Batt, finished the game at 15-9.
With the momentum entirely on UK’s side, there was no slowing down in game five as six USC hitting errors gave the Cats points while Batt kept up her heavy hitting with three more kills. A euphoric celebration by the Wildcats was a result of the 15-6 final score that completed the UK comeback. The match marked the first time all season that UK had won a match after dropping the first two games.
"The one thing that we did to give us a chance to get back in the game was take care of the ball batter," Braden said. "We cut down on our errors in crucial situations after the second game and just fought extremely hard. You hate to see a team like Georgia eliminated from the tournament after putting up such an incredible fight today, but this is big win for our program and we are excited about going back to the tournament."
Just as Kentucky did today against Carolina, UGA fell behind Tennessee 2-0 before winning the next two to push the match to a deciding fifth game. But fortunately for UK’s tournament hopes, the Bulldogs fell short in Knoxville, losing game five, 15-12.
Kentucky has now qualified for the SEC Tournament a league-best 21 times. Along with Tennessee, which will also be competing in its 21st conference tourney, the Cats have been a part of every SEC tourney.
Sunday’s match was the final home match for UK’s four seniors, Crabb, Eiserman, Homan and Jennie Reed. Kentucky will play in the opening round of the SEC Tournament on Friday, Nov. 19 against an opponent to be determined. The Cats will find themselves in the No. 6 or No. 7 seed depending on how the tie-breakers work out.
1 2 3 4 5 HIT% South Carolina 15 15 9 9 6 .047 Kentucky 12 9 15 15 15 .123SEC Standings
SEC Overall Place-Team Rec. Pct. Rec. Pct. 1. Florida* 14-0 1.000 24-2 .923 2. Arkansas 14-1 .933 25-5 .833 3. South Carolina 8-6 .571 14-11 .560 3. Tennessee 8-6 .571 18-12 .600 3. Auburn 8-7 .533 18-10 .643 6. Alabama 7-8 .467 17-14 .548 6. LSU 7-8 .467 16-14 .533 6. Kentucky 6-8 .429 14-13 .519 Georgia 5-9 .357 9-15 .375 Mississippi St. * 2-12 .143 11-15 .423 Ole Miss * 0-14 .000 10-19 .345* Sunday match not included