Volleyball Splits with Duke and Ohio in Spring Action
CINCINNATI, Ohio – The Kentucky volleyball team split a pair of games each with Duke and Ohio in spring action Saturday in the Fifth Third Bank Arena. The Wildcats tied the Blue Devils in the opener 1-1 (16-25, 27-25) and also tied the Bobcats 1-1 (25-30, 30-28) in the second match of the day.
“I was very pleased to split two games with two quality opponents in Duke and Ohio,” UK head coach Craig Skinner said. “Our competitive level was pretty high today and it is evident that in the areas we have been working on, we did very well.”
Rising senior Melissa Popp (Indianapolis, Ind.) and sophomore Ashlee Fisher (West Bend, Wisc.) led the way for the Wildcats with 11 kills each during the two-match tournament. Rising sophomore setter Tess Edwards (Ottowa, Ontario) charted four service aces on the day.
In the opener, Popp charted a squad-best seven kills, while Fisher and fellow sophomore Queen Nzenwa (Baltimore) added five put-downs apiece.
Kentucky pulled ahead 2-0 to begin the first game, but Duke reeled off the game’s next four points to take a 4-2 advantage. A resounding block by Nzenwa and sophomore Erin Turner (Winnetka, Calif.) ended UK’s scoring drought, but the Blue Devils kept rolling to extend their advantage to 10-5 on an attack error by Julie Gagnon (Wheaton, Ill.) that forced Skinner to burn a timeout. Duke completed a 5-0 run by pulling ahead 13-5 before Popp drilled a kill down the middle to stop the Blue Devils’ streak. Duke stretched its lead to 20-13 and closed out the first game with a 25-16 win.
The Wildcats quickly fell behind in the second frame, 4-1, before the Cats scored three consecutive points, highlighted by a kill from Turner down the right side. With Kentucky trailing 5-4, Popp posted a kill off the block before serving an ace on the next play to knot the score at 5-5. Duke reclaimed the lead at 6-5 and led 9-7 before two consecutive kills, capped off by a kill by Popp on the angle to again tie the score.
After two more ties, a block by Edwards and Nzenwa put the Cats in front 12-11. Two consecutive lift violations against the Blue Devils extended UK’s advantage to 14-11. Back-to-back put-downs by Fisher gave the Cats an 18-14 lead. After the Wildcats reached match point at 24-21 on a kill by Nzenwa on the right side, Duke registered three consecutive points to tie the game at 24. Consecutive attack errors by the Blue Devils gave the Cats the 27-25 victory.
In the opening game of the finale, the Wildcats fell behind 15-12 after several early ties. The Cats capitalized on several Ohio errors to come within two, 18-16, on a kill by Popp. The Bobcats extended their lead out to 23-18 after an attack error by Fisher that forced Skinner to use a timeout. Two put-downs by Nzenwa brought Kentucky within four, 29-24, but the Cats were unable to regroup, falling 30-25.
In the second game, Ohio raced to a 13-9 advantage, but back-to-back crafty kills by Fisher moved the Cats to within two, 13-11. A heads-up dink on the right side by Turner brought Kentucky within one, 14-13, before Pierce drilled a kill down to knot the score at 14. Edwards followed with an ace to give the Wildcats their first lead since 6-5 at 15-14. The Cats kept rolling and went in front by four, 20-16, on an attack error by the Wildcats. Ohio, however, tied the score at 20 and after ties at the next eight points, Kentucky got a block from Nzenwa and Popp to take it to game point and then closed out the game on an attack error by the Bobcats to win 30-28.
Fisher had six kills to lead UK in the second match.
Kentucky returns to action Saturday, April 15, when it travels to West Lafayette, Ind., to compete in the Purdue Tournament. The Wildcats will face Miami (Ohio) at 1 p.m. EST and Purdue at 4 p.m. ET.
The Cats conclude their spring schedule April 21 when they host Morehead State in Memorial Coliseum. Opening serve is set for 7 p.m. ET.