Kentucky Captures Season-Opening Win Over EKU
LEXINGTON, Ky. — The University of Kentucky volleyball team used a great defensive effort to capture a 3-0 season-opening victory over visiting Eastern Kentucky on Wednesday, Sept. 1 in Memorial Coliseum. Junior middle blocker Amy Kaplan led the Wildcats to the win with a career-best 10 blocks to go with 11 kills on .348 hitting.
“This match was all about effort points – from blocking and digging to serving tough,” Coach Jona Braden said. “We fought every point and were led by a stellar performance from Amy Kaplan with the rest of the team following her lead. This was a total team effort and the defense really kept things going. We fought hard for points tonight and that’s what it’s all about.”
UK started the match off on the right foot, grabbing an early 7-2 lead in the first game. The run included two blocks and two kills by Kaplan, while freshman Alex Montefalco tallied her first collegiate kill early in the game as well. Eastern was able to pull within four points at 21-17 after three consecutive attack errors by the Cats, but UK came back strong and closed out the game on a 3-0 run. A putdown by Danielle Wallace sealed the first-game win, 30-23.
The Colonels bounced back quickly in the second game forcing five early ties. With the score knotted at nine all, UK used back to back service aces by Jenni Casper, the first of her career, to take an 11-9 lead. Play remained close throughout the middle of the game, with the final tie coming at 15. A Sarah Spinner kill sparked a 5-0 run for UK, which also included two Kaplan aces. Another Kaplan kill put the Wildcats on game point at 29-20 before EKU’s Kasha Brozek put down a point to hold of the victory. Kaplan, however, came back again and sealed the win with a kill down the middle.
Game three proved to be a battle for the Wildcats as Eastern Kentucky met them every step of the way. The teams fought through six ties before UK used a 3-0 run to earn a 17-14 lead. The Cats would never trail again, but got a scare from the Colonels as they tied the game again at 21. After a timeout, Kentucky dominated, using a 9-3 run to close out the game and take the match with a 30-24 win.
While Kaplan led the statistics for Kentucky, several other Wildcats turned in notable performances. In her Wildcat debut, Montefalco recorded her first double-double with 11 kills and 13 digs on .333 hitting. Junior setter Leigh Marcum had 46 assists, five digs and six blocks, which matched her career high, while sophomore Casper turned in another solid defensive performance with 21 digs. Junior Danielle Wallace continued to build on her solid sophomore season with 15 kills on .343 hitting, while Spinner added 13 kills, 10 digs and four blocks.
Overall, the Wildcats hit .275 on the night, while Eastern hit .144. The Cats’ 14.0 team blocks were the most since a 2-3 loss to Louisiana State on Sept. 28, 2003. Kentucky moves to 20-8 all-time in season openers, including a 4-3 mark in Jona Braden’s tenure in the Bluegrass. The Cats also own a 20-8 record all-time in home openers and have one their last three debuts in Memorial Coliseum.
UK will travel to Springfield, Mo., this weekend for the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational, hosted by Southwest Missouri State. The Wildcats take on Western Illinois on Friday, Sept. 3 at 1 p.m ET, before facing host SMSU at 8:30 p.m. ET. On Saturday, Sept. 4, UK plays Fresno State at 1 p.m. ET and then closes play at the tournament with Middle Tennessee State at 6 p.m.