Kentucky Earns 3-2 Win over Illinois
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Rising senior Queen Nzenwa and sophomore Sarah Mendoza combined for 23 kills to lead the Kentucky volleyball team to a spring-season opening day win over visiting Illinois 3-2, Saturday at Memorial Coliseum.
The duo combined for 23 of the team’s 47 kills on the day, but it was the UK defense that propelled them to a spring win over a formidable Illinois squad. Kentucky’s defense registered 30 blocks on the afternoon led by rising sophomore Lauren Rapp’s nine individual put-backs.
“We’re obviously happy to beat a very good Illinois team,” said Head Coach Craig Skinner. “We were a little inconsistent at times, but we really pulled through some tough situations especially in game five. This match gave us a good indication of where we are at this point and what we’ll need to work on to continue to improve. Our defense is further along than our offense right now, but we’ll just get back to practice and continue to work.”
In the fifth and deciding game the two teams traded points back and forth until the Illini took a four-point advantage 12-8. Illinois then stretched its lead to 14-9 and just one point shy of claiming the match, but UK rallied and scored seven consecutive points. Mendoza jump-started the rally with a kill to move the score to 14-10. The Illini then rattled off two straight attacking errors and the Blue and White pulled the score to 14-13 as Nzenwa and rising junior Sarah Rumely combined for a block to even the score. Rumely and Nzenwa combined for their second consecutive put-back to give UK the lead, and then returning All-American Nzenwa finished the game off with a solo block to secure the 16-14 Kentucky victory.
The home team took the first game 27-25 and Illinois responded with a 25-14 win in game two. Kentucky took the third game by the score of 25-20, with Illinois stretching the game with a 25-23 win in the fourth frame.
Rumely dished out 41 assists on the afternoon while also adding six digs and seven blocks. Nzenwa tallied 13 kills, two service aces and seven blocks. Rising junior BriAnne Sauer led the defense with 11 individual digs, but five UK players had five or more scoops on the day. Rising sophomore Ann Armes added nine kills and seven blocks to aide the Wildcat cause.
After the conclusion of UK’s victory over Illinois the Wildcats conducted a middle school clinic for young players in grades fifth-through-eighth.
This is the first of two matches this spring that the Wildcats will host. UK returns home and will welcome Morehead State on April 25. First serve is slated for 6 p.m. that Friday.
Complete coverage of the UK volleyball team can be found by visiting www.ukathletics.com.