Western Michigan Hands UK First Loss
CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The Kentucky volleyball team dropped a hard-fought three-game match to Western Michigan today, Aug. 25, in its second of a three-game tournament at Northern Iowa. The Cats evened their record at 1-1, while WMU also moves to 1-1 on the year after taking the close match by scores of 30-27, 30-28, 30-26.
Senior middle blocker Nicole Britenriker led the Wildcats with 11 kills to go along with four digs and four total blocks. Sophomore BriAnne Sauer was tops on the team with 13 digs, while setter Sarah Rumely and libero Alisa Pierce each added 11 scoops in the loss. Rumely also dished out 40 assists and recorded one of four UK service aces. Freshmen Blaire Hiler and Lauren Rapp added nine and seven kills, respectively, while sophomore transfer Brooke Bartek had seven kills, seven digs and an ace.
The Cats posted a hitting percentage of .162 and had 48 kills, while Western Michigan hit .252 with 56 kills.
The opening game of the match was tight throughout. The Wildcats’ largest lead was four at 11-7 after a WMU hitting error. The Broncos battled back and were within one at 13-12 after scoring three straight points. The match remained close and the squads were tied at 20-all when the Cats scored two straight on back-to-back kills by Bartek and Rumely to go on top by two, 22-20. UK pushed the lead to three after a pair of powerful put-downs by Blaire Hiler made it a 25-22 advantage. However, the Broncos scored three straight with the aid of Kentucky errors to tie the match at 25 and force a UK timeout.
WMU took its first lead of the game with a kill out of the break, but Britenriker answered with a put-down of her own to knot the score again at 26. A kill by the Broncos and an attack that sailed wide for Britenriker gave WMU a two-point cushion at 28-26 causing the Cats to burn their final timeout. UK went right back to Britenriker who connected for a kill to pull within one at 28-27. That was as close as the Cats would come as Western Michigan scored the final two points on a kill and a block assist to take the opening set by a final of 30-27.
The close play continued in game two which saw 10 ties and seven lead changes. The score was 9-9 when the Cats made a 7-2 run to go on top by five, 16-11, and force a WMU timeout. The Wildcats continued to lead by five after a sharp kill by Queen Nzenwa made it a 22-17 advantage.
Western Michigan chipped away at the Wildcat lead behind the strength of a 5-2 run to pull within two at 24-22. Britenriker and Rumely teamed up for a big block assist and Bartek added a powerful kill to make it 26-22, but WMU would not back down. A 3-1 run made it a two-point game at 27-25 and following another kill by Bartek, WMU scored on three straight kills to tie the score at 28 which resulted in a Kentucky timeout. The Broncos made it five straight points, scoring on a kill and a UK hitting error as they completed the comeback and took game two, 30-28.
Game three proved to be more of the same. Despite trailing 7-3 early, the Wildcats battled back and used a 6-2 run to tie the game at nine. Britenriker had two kills during the run, while freshman Sarah Mendoza added her first collegiate kill and a block assist by Rapp and Britenriker capped the scoring drive. WMU scored four of the next five to go on top by three at 13-10, but Kentucky answered with a 6-3 run to take the lead at 16-15 on a block assist by Nzenwa and Rapp.
The Broncos tied the score at 16 but back-to-back kills by Nzenwa and Bartek put UK up by two, 18-16, and forced WMU to use a timeout. A put-down by Rapp made it a three-point edge for the Cats at 21-18, but the Broncos used a 5-2 run to tie the score at 23-all. Three more ties would follow and the teams were in a deadlock at 26 apiece until WMU used two straight kills to take a 28-26 lead and force the Cats to use a timeout. The Broncos scored the next two points to take the third and final game by a final of 30-26 to hand the Wildcats their first loss of the season.
The Wildcats wrap up action tonight when they face host-team UNI at 8:30 p.m.