Britenriker Helps Kentucky Top WKU, 3-1
BOWLING GREEN, Ky. – Senior Kentucky middle blocker Nicole Britenriker just missed notching a triple-double Wednesday, Aug. 29, as she finished with 14 kills, 12 blocks and nine digs in leading the Wildcats to a 3-1 (30-28, 32-34, 30-21, 30-22) victory against intra-state rival Western Kentucky at E.A. Diddle Arena.
Britenriker and fellow middle blocker Queen Nzenwa teamed up for 28 kills and 17 blocks, and Nzenwa hit .407 for the match to help the Wildcats improve to 3-1 on the season. Britenriker recorded her third double-double in four matches and has now recorded 18 double-doubles over the past two seasons. Freshman Brooke Bartek reached double-digit kills for the second consecutive match with 10 put-downs.
Blocking proved a key for the Cats, who out-blocked WKU 19-14. UK’s 19 rejections were a season high. Freshmen middle blockers Lauren Rapp and Blaire Hiler each recorded career-highs in blocks, finishing with eight and six rejections, respectively. The Hilltoppers fall to 3-1 on the season with the loss.
Junior libero Alisa Pierce recorded double-digit digs for the fourth consecutive match, finishing with a match-high 14 scoops, while sophomore setter Sarah Rumely dished out 45 assists.
“I was very impressed with our blocking in game three and four and it really changed the momentum of the match,” said UK head coach Craig Skinner. “Our players responded to a tough situation after losing game two. The adjustments we made because of our blocking were really the difference in the match.”
The two teams battled evenly to begin game one with Western taking an early 8-6 advantage after back-to-back kills. Kentucky rallied back with four consecutive points to go in front 10-8. The run was highlighted by an ace from Britenriker and a powerful block by Nzenwa and Rumely. The two teams continued to trade points for the majority of the first game.
With WKU ahead 25-24, Britenriker slammed down a kill on the right side and then teamed with Hiler for a powerful block down the middle to put UK ahead 26-25. After the score was tied at 26, Hiler and Britenriker recorded back-to-back kills gave the Wildcats a 28-26 advantage. A service error by Pierce ended the UK scoring streak, but Bartek registered kills on two of the game’s final three plays to give the Cats the 30-28 victory. Britenriker hit 1.000 in the opening frame, as she recorded seven kills on seven attacks without an error. Kentucky hit .303 as a team in the first game.
The Wildcats scored the first three points of game two, highlighted by a Rumely ace, and Kentucky streaked to a 4-1 advantage after a resounding kill by Nzenwa down the middle. From there, Western’s offense came to life, however, as the Hilltoppers registered four of the game’s next five points to take a 5-4 lead. With the Hilltoppers ahead 9-7, the Wildcats began chipping away at the deficit after an illegal rotation call against Western and a kill from Bartek. An attack error against the Toppers and an illegal contact call gave the Wildcats a 10-9 advantage. After knotting the score at 10, Western Kentucky ran off four of the game’s next five points to go ahead 14-11 and force Skinner to call a timeout.
A kill by Britenriker and two violations against the Hilltoppers allowed Kentucky to tie the score at 14. But back-to-back kills by Western allowed it to regain a 16-14 advantage. Trailing 17-15, Kentucky used successive kills from Hiler to knot the score at 17 before Britenriker drilled a put-down on the angle to give the Cats the lead at 18-17. After three ties, a kill from Nzenwa near the net put UK ahead 21-20. After six more ties, the Hilltoppers ran off three consecutive points to reach game point at 29-26, leading into a UK timeout. Out of the break, Britenriker tallied back-to-back kills before posting a block solo to tie the score at 29. After the teams went back and forth, the Hilltoppers took the 34-32 win after a service error by Rumely and an attack error by Bartek.
Kentucky opened game three by scoring the first three points of the frame before the Hilltoppers ran off three points of their own to tie the score. With the score tied at 4-all, the Wildcats scored four consecutive points, capped off by an ace from Britenriker, to put UK up 8-4 and force a Western Kentucky timeout. With Kentucky leading 10-6, Nzenwa recorded a kill down the middle before teaming with Rapp for a powerful block on the right side. That sparked a 4-0 run that put the Wildcats ahead 14-6 heading into another WKU break. The Cats kept rolling from there as a crafty kill by Rumely and a block solo by Britenriker on consecutive plays extended Kentucky’s advantage to 10, 19-9. Trailing 23-14, Western Kentucky scored three of the game’s next four points to come within seven, 24-17, after a kill and a block solo by All-American Megan Argabright to force a Kentucky timeout. Western scored a pair of points out of the break to cap its 5-1 run before an attack error against the Toppers ended the scoring streak. With UK ahead 26-20, the Wildcats scored four of the game’s final points to take a 30-21 game-three victory.
Kentucky stormed to a 6-0 lead to open the fourth game, capped off by three consecutive blocks. Britenriker was part of the blocking tandem on all three of the rejections that closed that run heading into a Western Kentucky timeout. The Hilltoppers scored three consecutive points before a kill by Lauren Rapp down the middle ended the WKU scoring streak with UK ahead 7-3. With the Wildcats leading 8-4, a pair of attack errors against UK brought Western as close as two, 8-6, before a service error by the Toppers ended the rally. The Cats kept rolling to take an 18-9 lead after a block by Britenriker and Rapp on the right side. Western Kentucky came as close as three points, 21-18, after a lift call against the Wildcats that caused Skinner to burn a timeout. Out of the break, Nzenwa posted a kill and then teamed with Bartek for a block that put the Cats back up by five, 23-18. Back-to-back put-downs by Hiler put Kentucky in front 26-20 and the Wildcats rolled to the 30-22 decisive-game victory.
Kentucky leads the all-time series between the two teams 12-4 and has won two consecutive matches in the series.
Kentucky returns to action this weekend when it hosts the annual Kentucky Classic. The Wildcats open with Georgetown University at 7 p.m. Friday in Memorial Coliseum.
Volleyball season tickets can now be purchased at the UK ticket office, located in the Joe Craft Center. All tickets are general admission and can be purchased for $20 by calling the ticket office at 1-800-928-2287. Tickets are also sold at the Joe Craft Center prior to each home match.
Single match tickets are $5 for adults, $2 for Seniors and Youth. Group tickets for 20 or more persons are available by calling the ticket office in advance of the event. Anyone wishing to purchase tickets can do so by visiting the UK ticket office, by phone, at (859) 257-1818, or online.